When Scott Skinner looked to convert a hobby room into an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in his Dana Point and San Clemente properties, he faced vastly different responses from the two cities.
After submitting an ADU permit application in July 2022, the City of San Clemente approved Skinner’s application within 60 days. Skinner is already renting out the ADU there, he said. However, Skinner’s efforts to permit an ADU in his Dana Point property have not been as successful.
In August 2021, the city revised its ADU ordinance to comply with state law. After the City of Dana Point passed its ADU ordinance, Skinner submitted plans in August 2022 to convert the 486-square-foot recreation room into a livable unit.
When Skinner approached the city, he was told that the hobby room was not ADU eligible because the city considered it a “livable space,” Skinner said.
Skinner’s duplex in Dana Point was originally permitted through Orange County before Dana Point was incorporated. After finding records that the hobby room was originally deemed an accessory space, he resubmitted the ADU plans with the hopes of getting the project ministerially approved.
Skinner believes that his property is eligible for by-right approval according to state ADU laws as “conversions of accessory structures are not subject to any additional development standards, such as unit size, height, and lot coverage requirements, and shall be from existing space that can be made safe under building and safety codes.”
After returning to the city for an ADU permit, he was told he’d first need to get a site development permit as his property has a legal non-conformity—his duplex has a two-car garage, but the city’s municipal code now requires a two-car garage for each unit.
A site development permit would entail an additional $7,200 application fee, which Skinner is unwilling to pay as he does not believe it is necessary.
“I have existing space,” Skinner said. “I’m not changing the footprint of the building. I’m not changing the site at all, so why I would need a development permit is beyond understanding.”
“Basically, I’m trying to put some appliances, a sink, maybe modify a window, put a washer, dryer in there,” Skinner continued. “I’m not moving walls.”
Skinner believed that the city’s ADU ordinance was stricter than the state law and reached out to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to review the city’s ordinance.
On Jan. 13, 2023, HCD sent the city a review letter stating that Dana Point’s ADU ordinance does not comply with state law and must be amended.
However, when Skinner reached back out to the city for his ADU permit application, he said the city then told him that he would still need to apply for a site development permit as the city had not yet updated its ADU ordinance.
After Skinner submitted a complaint against Dana Point with HCD, the agency sent another letter to the city stating that a denial of an ADU Application “due to the primary dwelling unit possessing a nonconforming zoning condition” would be a violation of state law.
To comply with HCD and new state laws passed in 2022, Dana Point looks to revise its ADU ordinance once again for developments outside of the coastal zone.
When asked for comment, the city cited its development update that’s expected to be presented to the City Council on Tuesday, May 16.
“To facilitate the review of required amendments to the ordinance, the City Council and the Planning Commission appointed Subcommittees comprised of Mayor Frost, Councilmember Gabbard, and Commissioners Nelson and Boughen,” the said in a report on the update.
The Planning Commission’s draft resolution states that as “the State of California has declared that a severe housing crisis exists in the State of California with the demand for housing greatly exceeding the supply,” ADUs and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units provide “potentially affordable housing opportunities.”
Proposed amendments to the city’s ADU Ordinance look to address HCD’s concerns, including changes to the maximum height, maximum number, parking, setback and location requirements, as well as changes to the discretionary process and deed restriction.
Among the proposed changes, a site development permit would no longer be required for legal nonconformities, except for non-conforming “parking, driveway length and density.”
The Planning Commission was set to consider an amendment to the ADU ordinance during its meeting Monday night, May 15.
Pending the commission’s recommendation to the City Council, an amendment to the ordinance would be considered during the council’s June 6 meeting.
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