CARLSBAD — The City Council on July 12 approved amendments to the city’s density bonus ordinance and accessory dwelling unit regulations in compliance with recent changes to state housing laws.
The city’s density bonus modification clarifies that a proposed density bonus development must comply with coastal resource protection and public access requirements outlined in the city’s certified Local Coastal Program, according to the staff report.
The city of Carlsbad also adopted state-level adjustments to regulations of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, requiring homeowners associations to allow granny flats or secondary residential units; incentivizing and promoting the creation of ADUs in the city’s Housing Element, and allowing nonprofits to convey title to ADUs separately from primary residences.
Since 2019, the California State Legislature has amended the state density bonus law and ADU regulations to promote more affordable housing production to meet the growing housing crisis. Local governments (counties, cities) are required to update their ordinances in response to new state legislation regarding changes to laws regulating ADUs and density bonus concessions.
Density bonus law allows developers to increase a project’s density (or the number of dwelling units on a parcel of land) above the limits outlined in a city’s general plan, but only if a minimum number of units are reserved for very low, low and moderate-income households or senior housing for 55 years.
Municipalities must grant a density bonus and other incentives to developers who meet the state’s guidelines, which have continued to evolve over the past several years.
The most significant state-level changes to California density bonus law include: increasing maximum density bonus for mixed income developments from 35% to 50%; housing projects with 100% affordable units may receive up to 80% density bonus; and 100% affordable housing developments located within a half mile of a major transit stop have no density restrictions or parking requirements and building height may be increased up to 33 feet or three stories above existing limits.
The council first approved both amendments in Sept. 2020, before submitting the proposed changes to the California Coastal Commission for review. The commission returned the amendments with recommendations consistent with state law, according to Jennifer Jesser, a senior planner for Carlsbad.
“Staff recommend approval of the suggested modifications because they will encourage affordable housing projects while requiring the developer of each project to still evaluate and avoid adverse impacts to coastal resources within the Coastal Zone, such as visual resources, public views, sensitive biological resources like wetlands or environmentally sensitive habitat areas, and public access to the coast,” the staff report reads. “State law overrules a city’s zoning ordinance but implementing density bonuses inside the coastal zone would be difficult and open to challenge from applicants if the city’s ordinance conflicts with state law.”
As for accessory dwelling units, the Coastal Commission proposed seven modifications, with staff and council’s discussion centering on parking requirements. However, staff said homeowner associations could not block the development of ADUs.
“I get calls from the public about the state regarding ADUs,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said. “They’re not happy about state overriding a city’s rules.”
Replacement parking must be provided when an ADU or junior ADU eliminates required off-street parking for an existing residence. This requirement applies to property west of the railroad tracks and west of Interstate 5 between Avenida Encinitas to the north and Batiquitos Lagoon to the south.
“The most significant relates to parking,” Jesser said. “If any accessory dwelling unit resulted in a loss of parking on a residential property … that parking need not be replaced on site.”