October 3, 2022 -- AB 2221 – CALIFORNIA’S NEW HOUSING LAW AIMS TO TURBOCHARGE ADU CONSTRUCTION
On September 28, 2022, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 2221, further streamlining the permitting process and construction regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. AB 2221 is part of a flurry of new state laws passed this legislative session aiming to increase housing production.
AB 2221 follows on the heels of recent reforms making it easier to build ADUs, which have contributed to a construction boom in this category of housing. Housing advocates have long argued that local governments misuse loopholes to block ADU projects. AB 2221 limits the ability of local jurisdictions to impose restrictions on ADUs by clarifying many of the existing rules and technical definitions.
The law prohibits local governments from requiring a zoning clearance or separate zoning review, prevents local governments from imposing front setbacks if they would prevent an ADU that is at least 800 square feet, restricts the ability of local governments to impose height limits, clarifies that a detached ADU can include a detached garage, allows developers to add ADUs to properties with proposed multifamily buildings, and confirms that only objective standards may be used for review.
Significantly, this law also clarifies that permitting agencies must “approve or deny” a proposed ADU within 60 days of receiving a complete application, whereas current law uses the more ambiguous term “act on.” Further, if the permitting agency denies the application, it must return in writing a full set of comments to the applicant with a list of items that are defective or deficient and a description of how the application can be remedied by the applicant, and may not add new items on re-application. The definition of “permit agency” bound by the 60-day deadline has been clarified to apply to all permitting authorities, such as public utilities and special districts, not just the planning counter.
In short, AB 2221 effectively makes it easier for property owners to get their ADUs approved and further restricts the ability of local governments to impose development standards on these units.
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