Amendments to bring Santa Barbara County ordinances in line with new state laws on accessory dwelling units were unanimously adopted May 18 by the Board of Supervisors with a few questions but virtually no opposition.

“It’s not that we have a huge amount of discretion on this anyway,” commented 1st District Supervisor Das Williams.

New state laws that went into effect in January 2020 made the county’s regulations on accessory dwelling units, commonly referred to as ADUs, useless.

So the Planning and Development Department’s Long Range Planning Division had to come up with amendments to the Land Use Development Code and Coastal Zoning Ordinance that would conform to state laws.

Some changes to the proposed amendments were requested by the County Planning Commission and Montecito Planning Commission, which both recommended adoption of the amendments with those modifications.

The California Coastal Commission staff also weighed in with changes to the Coastal Zoning Ordinance amendments.

Planner Jessi Steele told supervisors the new state laws increased the number and type of ADUs allowed per lot, eliminated the need to replace parking spaces lost by creating ADUs, reduced floor area restrictions and fees, required the allowance of smaller junior accessory dwelling units and reduced the required application processing time from 120 to 60 days.

The Montecito Planning Commission asked to have replacement parking required when a junior ADU was developed in an attached garage and to clarify that duplexes are considered multifamily dwellings.

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The County Planning Commission requested clarification that farmstays are not allowed in ADUs and junior ADUs and that a standard be added for where ADUs could be located on a lot.

Coastal Commission staff said the definition of junior ADUs should be revised to include garages, the amendments should clarify that ADU conversions must be located within existing structures and that  junior ADUs should be removed from the Gaviota Overlay clustering requirement.

Williams asked if there were any restrictions on ADUs and junior ADUs in high-fire-risk areas, and Steele said no such restrictions were included.

But she noted applications had to go through the fire departments with jurisdiction over high-risk fire areas, and the departments could add conditions to keep the units from increasing the risk from wildfires.

County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni said the proposed amendments would make it easier for residents to determine what’s allowed and what is not.

“What you’re doing today is providing provisions consistent with state law that will be clearer and more easy to directly implement than state law, and really puts residents able to look at the Land Use Code and see everything in one spot rather than looking at the Land Use Code and determining what’s been pre-empted and then trying to directly implement state law,” Ghizzoni said.

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