BERKELEY IN-LAW UNITS
The Berkeley City Council has made it easier to construct in-law units, in compliance with lenient state code that recognizes these tiny homes as a big solution to creating affordable option for increasing residential density.
In the crosshairs of a severe housing deficit, Accessory Dwelling Units, known more popularly as in-law units, granny flats, secondary units, backyard cottages among other terms, are a grassroots solution to the affordable housing dilemma.
Recognizing the value of these pint-sized units, Berkeley has taken meaningful steps to facilitate the construction of ADUs. Against the accusations of NIMBYism – the sentiment that says “Not in My Backyard” when new housing projects are proposed – Berkeley voted in 2015 to ease restrictions for homeowners to literally build housing in their own backyard.
Proponents of these structures got some air support when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law bills – AB2299 and SB1069 – that make it even easier and less expensive to build a second unit on their property or legalize an illegal in-law unit. The legislation eases or eliminates the off-street parking requirements of the past and gives owners breathing room with the often-enormous utility hookup fees that stare them down when they create a second dwelling, among other measures that nullify ordinances that do not meet the new standards of ADUs in the new era that applauds new housing innovation.
When city planners and councilmembers float around the idea of loosening rules that govern ADUs, one concern comes up more than any other – that these hybrid structures will harm parking conditions. But in alignment with State Law, Oakland and Berkeley have both recently provided flexibility in regulations surrounding parking controls. Berkeley does not require parking for ADUs within an existing structure, but if the ADU takes the place of the garage or parking space of the primary residence, the owner must accommodate additional parking.
The owner is required to call the primary dwelling unit of the ADU home, and the regulations prohibit short term rentals for any ADUs approved after April 2017.
Berkeley homeowners should not get false bravado from the relaxed rules. Building an ADU remains a herculean task with many legal pitfalls that can be avoided with the competent landlord lawyers at Bornstein Law.
“In-law units, or accessory dwelling units, are self-contained, smaller living units on the lot of a single-family home. They can be either attached to the primary house, such as an above-the-garage unit or a basement unit, or, as is more typical in Berkeley, an independent cottage or carriage-house. They are an easy way to provide homeowners with flexible space for a home office or an on-site caregiver, additional rental income, or a space for elderly family members to remain in a family environment. In short, they offer the kind of flexibility that has become imperative in today’s world to accommodate fluctuating work schedules and alternative family arrangements.”