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SLO County removes hurdles for accessory dwelling units

Sightline Institute/Flickr
Whether you call them granny flats, in-law apartments, backyard cottages or another name, they will soon be a more common sight in SLO County.

It will soon be a lot easier for San Luis Obispo County property owners to build ADUs, or accessory dwelling units. What used to be commonly referred to as ‘mother-in-law’ units or ‘granny flats,’ these days they are particularly popular with adult children looking to move back home. Or, the units can provide extra income for homeowners. The San Luis Obispo County board of supervisors, in a unanimous vote, decreased regulations this week for ADUs.

“[The new ordinance passed Tuesday] takes all the rules away,” Supervisor Adam Hill told KCBX News Wednesday. “In the past there were minimum lot sizes, there were all sorts of things that had to be done. [Now] you can actually have one that's under 749 square feet, and it's exempt from almost all of the typical environmental rules and reviews.”

Hill said whether it’s a garage converted to a studio apartment or a one-bedroom unit built besides a main house, “we think that it allows us to allow for thousands of more units to be built in our community.”

Initially, the county's planning commission proposed that ADUs should not be built in areas of the county designated as "very high fire" risk zones, but that caveat was not adopted in the end. And in almost all cases, there is a limit on how big the units can be—up to 1200 square feet. But the county is going to make it as easy as possible for these types of units to be built.

“What we're going to do is work with some local architects to have already-approved plans available on our website,” Hill said. “And that way people can download and say, we can save a step and get these right to a contractor or build them ourselves.”

The new code amendments go into effect at the end of February.

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that the adopted rules included a prohibition against building ADUs in "very high fire hazard severity zones," but county planning staff and the board struck that from the final version of the ordinance.

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