Last night I attended the Portola Valley Town Council meeting to listen to the discussion about revising the rules for building second units or guest houses (“ADUs”). Under pressure from recent state laws encouraging the building of ADUs and from local residents, the Town has begun the process of reviewing and revising its rules on ADUs. There seems to be a general consensus that it is in the interest of the Town and its residents to make it easier for more ADUs to be built for a variety of reasons including allowing residents to age in place, allow for multi-generational living, and increase the number of available affordable housing units.
To date there have been 2 community sessions where residents were able to discuss local housing issues and what changes they think should be made to the current rules governing ADUs. At the meeting last night, the Town Manager presented a list of ideas brainstormed by the Town Staff (although he clearly stated they were not recommendations) and a summary of issues raised at the community sessions. Insight was provided by building department staff. Local residents were also given a chance to speak at the meeting and express their frustrations with the current rules and what factors they would like to see taken into consideration when they are revised. Several residents indicated they would like to see flexibility to allow the Town to consider the special circumstances for each parcel, especially where current main residences are well below the maximum allowable floor area.
After listening to the discussion, the Town Council Members gave direction to the staff and a Planning Commission on the priorities for reform. The Town Manager hopes to have a proposal that has gone through the Planning Commission before the Town Council for its approval by the end of the year.
Top areas of concern were:
- increasing square footage allowances
- allowing detached ADUs on smaller parcels
- minimizing fees to encourage construction
- streamlining approval process -
- there was discussion of pre-approving certain designs/models
- removing/reducing ASCC review requirements
- alternative types of ADUs - tiny homes, yurts, mobile homes, etc.
- infrastructure issues, such as triggering upgrades to septic systems
- 2nd addresses for ADUs - primarily so there can be separate meters
- applicability of green building, health and safety, and other codes
- owner occupancy requirement