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Santa Barbara to review city regulations on accessory dwelling units amid housing crisis

Santa Barbara County housing are costs some of the most expensive in the state, and they're rising every year.

With recent changes in state law and an ongoing regional housing crisis, the city of Santa Barbara is updating their zoning ordinances for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The city says the updates include requirements to ensure the ADUs are easier to build.

An ADU is an accessory unit to a primary residence that has facilities set up for independent living. They can be tiny homes, converted garages and other structures added on to an existing property.

The idea of building an ADU is becoming more popular for property owners in California. Not enough homes are being built to keep up with the state’s growing demands, which is affecting renters' affordability. With this in mind, local governments across California are loosening their regulations on ADUs.

That includes the city of Santa Barbara. Jillian Ferguson is a planner with the city’s Department of Community Development.

“According to State Housing and Community Development, ADUs are an innovative, affordable and effective option for adding much-needed housing in California," Ferguson said.

Beth Thornton
Santa Barbara County is in a housing crisis, forcing many residents to spend a large chunk of their income on housing alone.

Presenting to the city’s ordinance committee this month, Ferguson said the city is planning to allow property owners in Santa Barbara to build taller ADUs with more square footage. They’re also providing flexibility to build double ADUs, and permitting commercial building owners to convert their upstairs space into an ADU.

The updates were met with concern from committee member Mike Jordan, who called for more public engagement in ADU regulation.

“Why are we not taking that opportunity to do the typical Santa Barbara thing and do outreach, get stakeholders involved, get neighborhoods involved, get the development stakeholders involved and tweak it even better?"

Some opponents of ADUs argue they lead to overcrowding and can contribute to neighborhood issues around parking, traffic and noise.

The ordinance committee voted to bring the updates to city council, who will review it in January. If approved, it would go into effect in February.

Since 2017, the city has received about 900 applications to build ADUs.

Meanwhile, Central Coast Community Energy is creating incentives for local housing to go all-electric, including rebates specific to ADU’s.

Gabriela Fernandez is a general assignment reporter at KCBX News. She graduated from Sacramento State with a BA in Political Science. During her senior year, she interned at CapRadio in their podcast department, and later worked for them as an Associate Producer on the TahoeLand podcast.
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