Petaluma crafts granny unit policy | Petaluma Argus Courier

As Petaluma’s housing market continues to constrict, the city council Monday unanimously voted to relax regulations on the construction of additional living spaces on residents’ land and in their homes.

The updates to the city’s zoning ordinance, driven by three state laws signed into effect last year, are intended to make it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling structures, or “granny units” that are attached to their residences or built separately on their properties. It also creates a new classification and associated rules for converting an existing bedroom in a single family home into independent living quarters, or a so-called “junior second unit.”

Accessory dwelling units are regarded as an economical way of providing housing for a wide range of family members, care providers or local employees inside the footprint of existing neighborhoods.

“Businesses and people in Petaluma are looking for ways to create more affordable housing and this is a brilliant strategy,” said Rachel Ginis, the founding director of Novato-based Lily Pad Homes, a nonprofit that supports education about the development of second units and sponsored the junior second unit legislation.

The new language bumps up the allowable size of a granny unit from 640 square feet to 720 square feet and reduces parking mandates if certain requirements, including proximity to public transportation or car sharing services are met.

Changes to state law require that accessory dwelling units are approved without discretionary review, but in the city’s designated historic districts or landmark sites, the creation of those units will be subject to additional review.

Junior second units are permitted inside any single-family home, but there can be only one junior second unit or granny unit on any residential lot. Junior second units can be no more than 500 square feet and must be developed within an existing bedroom. It is required to have a…

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