Garage Conversion Restrictions Eased In California
This year has seen a substantial increase in garage conversion units, also known as “granny flats” or “Accessory Dwelling Units“, due to California’s new Senate Bill 1069. The bill, enacted in 2017, was designed to increase housing supply by easing restrictions on garage conversion units. The bill also presents an opportunity for homeowners to increase their home value by adding liveable space to their home without dealing with the previously stringent permitting process.
Prior to the enactment of SB 1069, a garage conversion, particularly in Los Angeles, was time consuming and expensive due to the permitting process. Among other things, in order to convert a garage to living space, many cities required the addition of replacement parking spaces, large pathways from the garage conversion to the street, a sprinkler system for the new unit, and fees and charges to connect local water and sewer systems even for existing structures. In fact, the permitting system in Los Angeles prior to SB 1069 was so complex that in 2016, the Los Angeles Superior Court had put a hold on garage conversion permits due to a conflict between state law and local rules.
Enacted in 2017, SB 1069 encourages garage conversion units by eliminating many of these requirements and simplifying the permitting process. Now, so long as a property is within 1.5 miles of a public transit system, a permit can more easily be obtained for a garage conversion of up to 1,200 square feet that starts within 5 feet of the property line. This streamlined procedure has significantly increased the popularity of garage conversions, and has provided a new avenue for homeowners to add value to their properties. It is unlikely that it will have a significant impact on the housing shortage in Los Angeles, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
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