Following the close of public testimony on Dec. 14, 2021, the Planning and Sustainability Commission exchanged ideas for possible changes to the proposals in the Residential Infill Project – Part 2 (RIP2) Proposed Draft.
At their January 11 work session, the Commission focused on possible revisions to the Constrained Sites (‘z’) Overlay Zone to address wildfire risk on larger lots with more vegetation and trees. The ‘z’ overlay zone limits the types housing on lots to duplexes to reduce the risk of harm to even more households during a wildfire.
On January 25, Commissioners discussed six other amendments. By way of a “straw poll,” they directed project staff to develop code language for consideration at their February 8 work session.
The potential amendments fall into seven categories, some of which have multiple components:
- Modify the Constrained Sites Overlay Zone (‘z’ Overlay) to remove or alter the wildfire hazard risk component of the overlay.
In the Proposed Draft, staff recommended a change to the ‘z’ overlay to include wildfire hazard risk areas. This would expand the overlay in parts of the R2.5, R5, and R7 zones and cover nearly two-thirds of the R10 and R20 zones, thereby limiting middle housing options to only duplexes in those residential areas. In response to testimony and concerns that including the wildfire risk areas was based on outdated data and painted with too broad a brush, the PSC recommended that the wildfire hazard risk component be removed from the R2.5, R5, and R7 zones and that the map be reviewed following completion of the State’s wildfire hazard mapping project.
- Create an option for two detached units that can be divided through the Middle Housing Land Division (MHLD) process.
Public testimony on the Proposed Draft included several requests to include a pathway for allowing ADUs to be split off on their own lot, as well as allowing smaller homes to have larger ADUs. Staff noted that ADUs are not eligible for the MHLD process. Consequently, staff met with a subgroup of the Commission to discuss other options before landing on the proposed “detached duplex” option. With this option, two separate units would be allowed on a single lot and still be called a duplex. Duplexes are permitted to be divided using the MHLD process. The Commission directed staff to develop a detached duplex option but restrict them to sites where an existing house was being retained, and to also limit the height of the new detached unit to 25 feet, similar what is allowed for cottage units.
- Make ADU rules more flexible.
While potential amendment #2 addressed public concern about existing limitations on ADU size for smaller houses, commissioners directed staff to make building coverage rules more flexible for all detached accessory structures.
Currently, there are three building coverage rules that apply to accessory structures to ensure they remain secondary in size and proportion to the primary building:
1) overall lot coverage for all structures;
2) a 15% combined coverage for accessory structures; and
3) a requirement that the footprint of any accessory building is not larger than that of a house.
These changes would increase the combined accessory structure coverage from 15% to 20% and allow the footprint of any single accessory building to be as large as the footprint of the house or up to 900 square feet, whichever was larger. These changes will help proposals for two detached ADUs, by allowing them each more area on the lot, while also limiting overall building coverage on the lot to what is allowed today.
- Modify cottage cluster rules.
The PSC proposed some minor amendments to the cottage cluster standards to increase flexibility for common outdoor area design by removing the requirement that one common area be provided for every eight units. The changes also permit sidewalks and pathways to be included in the required width and total area for the common outdoor area. Additionally, the changes allow a sidewalk in the adjacent right of way to function as a part of the required pedestrian system.
- Enable four-to-six-unit attached houses on fee-simple lots.
Testifiers requested a more flexible pathway for fee-simple ownership of affordable homes. So staff suggested a relatively simple tweak to the standards for attached houses in the R5 and R7 zones that would allow six attached units in a row. This would allow more attached, affordable houses on lots that meet the standard land division rules and be sold fee simple. Another approach would allow up to six attached units for affordable housing on smaller lots, which better align with the typical 5,000 sq ft R5 lot size. This approach entails more significant changes to minimum lot sizes, setbacks, FAR, building coverage, and outdoor area standards.
- Encourage more fourplexes.
Responding to testimony that additional FAR was needed to incentivize the construction of fourplexes, the PSC recommended a minor increase in allowed floor area for fourplexes.
- Reduce minimum lot sizes for three or more units.
RIP1 adopted slightly larger minimum lot sizes for middle housing consisting of three or more units. To increase the pool of eligible lots, the PSC proposed reducing the lot size to the equivalent size required for a house.
Other potential changes
In addition to the more substantive changes outlined above, staff have prepared several technical amendments to improve the clarity of the zoning code and resolve minor errors and omissions present in the Proposed Draft. Several process-related amendments specific to the middle housing land division regulations are also included.
On February 8 starting at 12:30 p.m., the PSC is expected to vote on the amendments and make a recommendation on the entire proposal to City Council. After voting on the amendments, the Commission will then vote on the entire RIP2 package and make their recommendation to City Council. A public hearing will be held on the PSC’s Recommended Draft at City Council in the Spring.