Long Beach development officials are getting ready to update rules for how accessory dwelling units, duplexes, and lot splits now allowed under recent state law can be completed in the city, and they’re looking for the community’s input at a July 19 open house.
The city already has an ADU ordinance, but because of evolving state law, it is not completely up to date. But a new ordinance that city planners are looking to codify would apply to construction related to Senate Bill 9, a 2021 state law that allows property owners to build a duplex or split their property to build two duplexes.
“We want to make it more clear from the very beginning that if you meet these things, you could move forward,” Alison Spindler Ruiz, the city’s planning bureau manager, said of the upcoming ordinance for SB 9 construction.
The controversial law was said to be a death knell for single-family zoning because it allows for homes previously zoned for one unit to be converted into duplexes, or if the lot is large enough, to include four units on a single parcel.
Some members of the City Council opposed the law, but their request to send a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office did not receive support from enough of their fellow members to move forward.
While about 59,800 lots in Long Beach are zoned for single-family homes, because of setback requirements and a rule that forces lot splits be within a 60%/40% divide, city planners believe that only about 4,600 lots in the city that currently have one unit could potentially qualify for four.
Other obstacles remain, like the provision that no home can be converted to an SB 9 project if it’s been rented out in the previous three years, as well as limits on how much of a structure can be demolished if it’s been occupied during the past three years.
Under the new law, units would still have to comply with existing setback laws (typically 4 feet from the property line). And then there’s the cost of adding potentially more than one unit, which could run several hundred thousand dollars.
Scott Kinsey, a planner with the city, said that the forthcoming ordinance could lay out guidelines for future construction by detailing what type of building materials should be used to ensure quality units are being produced as well as which way the front door needs to face—toward the street—and how much parking is required.
“If the state ADU law is a little confusing, then the state SB 9 law is a lot confusing,” Kinsey said of the city’s efforts to create its own understandable guidelines for new construction.
Kinsey said that the city is still at the high-level portion of planning the ordinance, but it’s looking at what other cities have already included in theirs. While the city can’t say that new units can’t have stucco or need to be LEED certified, it can implement other rules to ensure the quality of the units, Kinsey said.
“We want these to be nice places for people to live at the end of the day,” Kinsey said.
Updates to the ADU ordinance will be more about clarifying the existing rules, Spindler-Ruiz said, and replacing portions that refer to state law with what the city actually requires.
ADUs are a part of the city’s plan to produce over 26,500 new units by 2029 in the city, and Long Beach saw over 500 applications for those types of builds last year. To encourage ADU production, Long Beach recently launched a pre-approved ADU program where property owners can purchase plans already approved by the city from individual architects.
Spindler-Ruiz said the July 19 meeting is intended to help the city understand any obstacles property owners might be facing in trying to add on new units, as well as educate attendees about rules already on the books and how they may or may not be changing.
For instance, current city rules allow for an ADU of up to 800 square feet, but California law allows for units as large as 1,200 square feet. Los Angeles County law allows for a “junior ADU” that can share facilities like a restroom with the primary home. While Long Beach does allow those to be built, they’re not currently part of the municipal code.
The new ordinances will first be referred to the city’s Planning Commission for approval before being sent to the City Council, something that could happen by the end of the year.
The July 19 meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Long Beach Utilities Auditorium located at 2400 E. Spring St. People interested in attending the meeting can RSVP here.