Second-unit housing in Truckee controversial |

Second-unit housing in Truckee controversial

“Granny flats” won’t catch on as a way to add affordable rental units in Truckee unless local homeowner associations buy into the idea.

Although the Town of Truckee is encouraging the strategy of building second-housing units, the idea may not gain traction unless subdivision regulations are tweaked. Homeowners associations from Tahoe Donner to Glenshire either prevent second units from being built or prohibit them from being rented out.

And although officials from the neighborhoods are willing to explore changing their regulations, the threshold to vote a change in the governing documents of an association is so high that it may be impractical.

Tahoe Donner is willing to explore taking the issue to a vote, said Cheryl Genin, the association’s board president. But that doesn’t mean the association, which finds it hard to muster the votes of the majority of their homeowners who live outside of Truckee, will be able to get enough ballots to make the change.

“I think there is ample understanding on the board of Tahoe Donner that the need for affordable housing is being outpaced by any that can be supplied,” Genin said.

The association has formed a committee to discuss employee retention, which could be helped by affordable rental units, said Genin. The committee will report back to the board in the late fall, she said.

“I would think they would come out with suggestions to increase the affordable housing base within the association,” said Genin. “And my opinion is the only way to do that is through secondary units.”


But Genin knows the issue is not likely to pass without controversy. The increased traffic from adding second units may be a concern among the newer homeowners in Tahoe Donner, she said.

In Glenshire, association General Manager Geoff Stephens said that the issue would have to be presented to the membership to see what it decides. But any changes that add second units to the majority of homes in the 1,300-home subdivision may prove unpopular.

“If everyone has a second unit, that would double our density,” Stephens said. “And that’s not what anyone wants.”

Stephens said if Glenshire was not singled out and that all Truckee subdivisions changed their rules to allow second units, the subdivision’s residents might be more open to the idea.

“It would have to be everyone on the same page,” he said.

The Sierra Meadows subdivision regulations are similar to Glenshire’s stance on second units. Although a “servant’s quarters” is allowed on a single family lot, each parcel is restricted to single-family use.

In Nevada County the second units have drawn intense controversy. Some say allowing second units will spur growth and increase fire danger.

Nevada County currently has a pilot project that will allow 30 second units to be built outside of designated fire-danger areas in each of the program’s three years.

Truckee’s take

The Town of Truckee has extensive requirements for second housing units, ranging from size restrictions to parking requirements. But town guidelines are superseded by homeowners association bylaws, according to Truckee Town Planner Duane Hall.

“Under current state law the town doesn’t have much authority as far as changing (covenants, conditions and restrictions),” said Hall. “The best we can do is encourage homeowners associations to change their CC&Rs.”

Town staff plans to spend time convincing neighborhoods that allowing second units is a good thing, he said.

The California Legislature has tried to make second unit construction easier, passing legislation that keeps second unit projects from going to a full public hearing to streamline their approval.

Truckee’s second units

• A second unit may be built on a single-family parcel with one main building.

• A second unit may be attached to the main building or detached. If it is detached it must be more than 10 feet away from the main building but less than 100 feet away.

• The second unit must be served by the same driveway as the main building.

• The unit has to be less than half the size of the main house. On parcels less than one acre, second units have to be 800 square feet or less. On parcels of one acre or more units must be 1,200 square feet or less.

• A secondary unit shall be allowed at least 500 square feet of gross floor area in all cases.

• A secondary unit shall have a minimum gross floor area of 300 square feet.

Source: Town of Truckee Housing Element and Truckee Development Code

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