Placer County eases rules on secondary dwelling units |

Placer County eases rules on secondary dwelling units

Kelsie Longerbeam
Special to The Union

Placer County has made it easier to build secondary dwelling units in hopes of increasing workforce housing.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 16 to support an update to the county’s ordinance for secondary dwelling units. These units, commonly known as in-law suites or granny flats, are permanent dwellings that are an accessory to a primary dwelling on the same site.

Officials say secondary dwelling units are an important source of housing since they can be built at a relatively inexpensive cost, have no associated land costs, and tend to be more affordable because of their smaller sizes.

“We are trying to incentivize additional workforce housing, what we’re not trying to incentivize is additional vacation rental housing,” said District 5 Supervisor and Board Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery. “We don’t want to turn residential neighborhoods into commercial operations.”

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Nevada County’s Board of Supervisors have addressed the same issue, approving changes to the county’s land use and development code that could create more affordable housing opportunities by loosening restrictions for homeowners building accessory dwelling units.

Nevada County supervisors in September directed staff to further research the idea — noting that more information was needed before action could be taken — along with other possible additions to the code changes suggested by the public which are not part of the new state laws. Those additions include reducing the maximum allowed size of the units to ensure affordability, prohibiting the units from being used as short-term vacation rentals and lowering development fees to encourage homeowners to build the units.

More affordable options?

Secondary dwelling units are typically used for homeowners to accommodate young adults attending college, college graduates returning to home, and those providing care for aging parents, all of which helps ease the pressure on a limited stock of rental housing.

Placer County’s updated ordinance will allow flexibility for either the primary or secondary dwelling on the property to be available for owner occupancy or long-term rental, which is defined as 31 consecutive calendar days or more.

The ordinance allows a maximum secondary unit size of 1,200 square feet on any lot size so long as it meets county height, setback and lot coverage requirements; allows attached secondary dwelling units sizes up to 50 percent of the existing structure’s living area; keeps secondary dwelling units consistent with existing zoning and the county General Plan; and requires only one on-site parking space per secondary dwelling, either as tandem parking on an existing driveway or in setback areas, among other parking requirement exemptions.

Additionally, the ordinance allows a property owner to voluntarily deed restrict a secondary dwelling unit for affordability in order to be exempt from building permit and other specified fees, including county road network fees and county parks and recreational facility fees.

The dwelling may either be attached or detached from the primary unit and must provide complete, independent living facilities for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. Guest and pool houses are not considered secondary dwelling units.

Placer County previously eased restrictions on secondary dwelling units in March 2016; this ordinance update brings the county’s ordinance into line with state law passed subsequently that eased them even further. The ordinance is set to go into effect Dec. 12.

Kelsie Longerbeam is reporter for the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union based in Truckee. Contact her . at or 530-550-2653.

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