A plan to speed up the production of accessory dwelling units in Long Beach could include lowering city fees and looking to pre-approved designs and manufactured housing to reduce the time needed to complete construction.

A recent city memo outlined options that the City Council could consider to help increase the number of ADUs, commonly referred to as “Granny Flats,” as the city wrestles with a housing shortage that has contributed to the rising cost of rents in the city.

The council in January requested a program for ADUs as it was finalizing the city’s state-required plan for future housing production known as the Housing Element. The city’s production goal by 2029 is 26,500 and city planners have anticipated that ADUs could play a role in reaching that number.

City planning officials estimate that ADU production in the city could peak at around 500 per year in the next decade and remain that high for about five years. The city currently gets around 300 ADU applications per year.

To speed up the permitting process and reduce the costs, the council could consider allowing local designers to submit plans to the city for pre-approval, which could then be sold to homeowners who hope to build a unit in their backyard.

The city could also allow manufactured housing businesses to submit designs for pre-approval by the city to offer a potentially faster construction phase for homeowners.

However, the projected cost to build an 800-square-foot ADU, the largest allowed in Long Beach, could cost about $220,000 based on 2022 construction prices.

The program would not preclude people from hiring their own designers but would provide an option for people wanting to streamline the construction of a unit without having to potentially correct potential housing code issues that may exist in plans submitted by their architects.

Development Services Director Oscar Orci said in the memo that both options could offer advantages because local operators in the industry are familiar with Long Beach housing codes and in both instances would maintain ownership of their plans and the responsibility for the designs.

Some cities have opted to buy plans from designers and sell them directly to residents, but that option was identified in the memo as a potential legal issue for the city if there were design flaws with the purchased plans. It would also require the city to purchase the plans and likely pass those costs on to residents looking to build.

The City Council asked for a similar program to be developed earlier this year as it sought a more aggressive approach to producing more housing in the city by providing homeowners a less bureaucratic and cheaper path to adding to their properties.

The proposed program, which could be presented to the City Council in the coming months, would reduce some of the design and engineering fees typically paid by homeowners from 6% to 2%.

Plan review fees, which the city said would typically be thousands of dollars for an 800-square-foot ADU, would be cut in half.

Other savings would be seen if property owners seek to build a smaller unit because state law would exempt them from paying impact fees to support police, fire and park services. That could reduce a project’s cost by about $3,500.

There would still be unavoidable fees assessed by the Long Beach Unified School District, which collects about $4 per square foot of new construction, regardless of the size of an ADU, and a fee to connect the unit to a sewer line. For an 800-square-foot ADU, that could cost $4,564, according to the memo.

Once the City Council approves a program, it could take about six months for the city to sort through designs submitted for consideration by people looking to build an ADU with a design that’s pre-approved by the city.

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

Granny flats galore: Long Beach property owners seek to add hundreds of accessory dwelling units

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.