Long Beach could make it easier to build pre-planned accessory units on existing lots

Long Beach is looking at creating a new program that could speed up the process for homeowners wanting to build extra residential units on their property by potentially creating a list of pre-approved layouts for them to choose from.

The City Council will vote on Tuesday night on whether to direct city staff to come up with a program similar to other cities, including Los Angeles, which has a list of over 40 pre-approved floorplans homeowners can choose from to streamline the process of building accessory dwelling units—sometimes called granny flats. The models not only ensure approval of their projects but can cut the approval time down to days, instead of weeks or longer.

The item is being proposed by Councilmembers Al Austin and Suely Saro, who said in their agenda item that a streamlined program could help generate housing production in the city.

“We just want to add an additional element and a tool in our toolbox to be able to produce quality housing in our city,” Austin said Wednesday. “If we could have a streamlined process with pre-approved plans and designs, that could help produce housing, and make it easier for people seeking to build ADUs.”

The city was recently tasked with creating 26,502 total units throughout the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, a state-mandated assessment handed down periodically from the Southern California Association of Governments.

City planners have projected that ADU construction could play a part in meeting that housing production mark. The city has already seen about 283 ADUs built per year and development officials say that these types of additions could peak at about 450-500 per year, and maintain those numbers for five to 10 years.

Long Beach’s ordinance caps the size of an ADU at 800 square feet, but state law allows for smaller “Jr. ADUs,” which can share a bathroom with the primary home if they meet certain kitchen standards in its unit.

Some programs in other cities already provide standardized options for their residents to shop from. A program in Chico provides the floorplans to property owners for free, while the program in Los Angeles allows residents to purchase pre-approved plans from individual firms.

The permitting and design process typically can cost thousands of dollars.

A vote on Tuesday could start a 60-day timeline for when the council could be presented options on how Long Beach could adopt a similar program as well as the timing and costs of implementing it.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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