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Editor’s Note: This story, first published Monday afternoon, Feb. 14, has been updated to reflect the council’s vote on Tuesday night, Feb. 15, and to include comments from the councilmembers during their deliberation of the ordinance.

By Breeana Greenberg

The Dana Point City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, Feb. 15, to introduce a zoning code amendment intended to set regulations for homeowners looking to build a duplex or split their lot in a residentially zoned area.

The amendment conforms to new requirements under the controversial housing development measure, Senate Bill 9, while allowing the city to also assert local control through guidelines and standards.  

Councilmember Michael Villar commented during the meeting that he supports efforts to create affordable housing, adding that it’s necessary for property owners to go through the city’s process in order to create housing units.

“I would like to say that I think SB 9 is actually well-intended,” Villar said. “I think that the effort to try to make housing in a housing shortage state like ours is a good thing, and I also think that the language in SB 9 is so open that it also allows cities to kind of do what’s best for them, and I think that our ordinance does what’s best for Dana Point.”

Senate Bill 9, which went into effect on Jan. 1, aims to address California’s lack of housing stock by allowing homeowners to build a duplex or divide their single-family lot without a city’s discretionary review, as long as the project doesn’t require the demolition of affordable housing or more than 25% of the existing unit’s exterior walls.

Mayor Joe Muller added that the city has worked hard to create new housing in Dana Point through its new zoning areas in the Lantern District and Doheny Village. 

“We’re allowing for additional housing down in those areas, because we know we have a need,” Muller said. “When Sacramento comes out with laws—they hit us with the ADU (accessory dwelling unit) law not too long ago—SB 9, SB 10 are coming out, and they try to make a one-size-fits-all law, and that’s not how California works.”

Prior to the passage of the bill in August 2021, the City Council voted unanimously, with Mayor Joe Muller absent, to send a letter to the state opposing SB 9.

In the letter, the city argued that SB 9 mandates more housing in single-family zones without evidence that more housing stock would result in more affordable housing. The letter goes on to state that “this bill is particularly detrimental to local governments because it would override local land-use authority, resulting in a loss of local control and local decision-making.”

Following the passage of the bill, the Planning Commission voted to create an ad hoc committee to evaluate what local controls the city could apply within the constraints of the law. The ordinance, which is expected to be formally adopted at the next council meeting, will create regulations for applicants hoping to create a duplex in a single-family zone or split their lot.

Under the ordinance, no more than two units, including ADUs or junior accessory dwelling units, will be permitted on a single lot. Each unit can be no larger than 800 square feet with one bedroom and must be connected by a permanent wall, ceiling, or floor.

HOA approval will be required to build a single-family residential duplex, and condominiums would not be allowed. The owner of the property will be required to live in one of the units. The units will be required to be used for long-term housing, not short-term rentals. Applicants will be required to obtain a single-family residential duplex permit.

One off-street parking space will be required per unit. Also, a duplex cannot be built on a nonconforming structure.

Applicants hoping to split their lot will be under similar constraints as those hoping to build a duplex. Lots may only be split into two parcels and may not be further split in the future. The original lot must not have previously been created through a lot split.

Each lot may be no smaller than 1,200 square feet. One parcel cannot be smaller than 40% of the original lot. No more than two units may be built on each lot, including accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units.

As with the duplex regulations, condominiums are not allowed. Lots on coastal bluffs or in areas zoned for conservation will not be permitted to be split.

Applicants will be required to obtain an urban lot-split permit. All duplexes and lot splits will be required to adhere to the Dana Point Municipal Code.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Frost commended staff on a thorough job drafting the ordinance, adding that the city is committed to having good zoning and ensuring that property owners can be successful while also protecting neighbors.

“Gosh, it’s a delicate balancing act,” Frost said during the council meeting. “We certainly want homeowners, property owners to be successful when looking at their own property, but we also have a duty, a responsibility, to protect adjacent neighbors, protect the broader community and ensure that they have a quality of life that sort of meets their expectations.” 

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at bgreenberg@picketfencemedia.com

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