A simpler approval process for ADUs could come with future Long Beach program

Long Beach will look at creating a program that could provide pre-approved accessory dwelling unit layouts to interested property owners in an effort to speed up housing production in the city.

The City Council voted Tuesday night for a plan to be brought back in the coming months that outlines how the permitting process for ADUs, commonly referred to as “Granny Flats,” could be sped up, possibly by supplying pre-approved layouts to cut down the approval window from weeks to days.

Councilmembers Al Austin and Suely Saro, who proposed the idea, said it could be another tool in the toolbox for the city as it tries to meet its regional housing goal of producing over 26,500 by 2029.

“I think it’s important that in 2022 we come out with a really aggressive approach to solving our housing crisis,” Austin said Tuesday.

Other cities in the state have adopted similar programs, with some providing plans for ADUs to residents for free, and others, like Los Angeles, requiring residents looking to build units to buy pre-approved plans directly from contractors.

It’s unclear how the Long Beach program would work, but councilmembers weighed in Tuesday on what it should look like.

Councilwoman Stacy Mungo Flanigan asked to look at including a small fee to recoup costs if the city were to invest money in developing a program. She also said that any pre-approved floor plans should have a fee schedule attached that would let homeowners know what associated charges for things like sewer access, debris recycling and support for local school districts.

That would help people know what they’re getting into before they’ve already started the process, Mungo Flanigan said.

“We have a couple of projects that are just stuck because people ran out of money, and that’s also not good for the community,” Mungo Flanigan said.

While the program could speed up the permitting process and potentially eliminate the architect fees, something that generally cost a few thousand dollars, building ADUs is still likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the units.

City planners have said that permits for these types of backyard additions have jumped to hundreds per year and that production could reach 450-500 per year for a period of 10 years.

A city estimate said that there are about 59,800 lots in the city that could add an ADU, but just 47,244 are the ideal size to add one. A city ordinance caps the size of an ADU at 800 square feet but state law allows for the addition of a third “Jr. ADU” that can share bathroom facilities with the main house if kitchen efficiencies are met in the unit.

A fuller picture of what the city’s program could look like could come back to the city council as soon as March. Austin and Saro’s item asked for the report to be completed within 60 days.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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