Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 10, 2020

Planning Board housekeeping

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

The agenda for the Planning Board is really only housekeeping items to align Alameda’s rules with state law.   The first is sort of a boring sounding objective design review standards but this is actually a pretty important adoption for the city not only because it aligns with state law because it moves the city away from design review decisions based on how someone “feels” about the look of a project aka subjective standards.   Note these changes are to comply with AB 35.

The proposed objective design review standards are literally a checklist that relies on someone assessing if a project has, for example, for windows:

Windows are recessed at least four inches from surrounding exterior wall surfaces, measured from window frame to finished exterior wall.

There’s no, “I don’t like the placement of these windows” to hold up an entire design anymore.  I mean, I know Alameda has to adopt these, but it’s still nice to see Alameda move forward and not try to find a huge workaround.

The second agenda item to align with state law is around accessory dwelling units (ADUs).  From the staff report:

Since 2017, the City has approved 114 ADU applications with 32 ADUs actually constructed.  While the number of ADUs has grown in the past two years, Alameda’s existing ordinance has unnecessarily restricted Alameda property owners from adding small, affordable units on their properties.  In particular, the limitations on unit size, requirements for architectural detailing, and owner occupant requirements have deterred the creation of ADUs due to financially infeasibility.  Although not a result of City regulation, the high costs for construction in the Bay Area is also a major barrier on ADU construction.

2017 is when Alameda “fixed” its ADU ordinance last, but with only 114 permitted and 32 built, that’s not a significant number.  It will be interesting to see with the relaxation of the law what happens at the end of 2020.

These are the new regulations that need to be adopted:

  1. Allow both an ADU and Junior ADU (JADU) on a single-family lot with a proposed or existing single family dwelling.
  2. Allow ADUs on areas zoned to allow residential use (i.e., mixed-use and multi-family lots).
  3. On multi-family lots, allow at least one ADU in an existing multifamily dwelling units and up to 25% of the existing multifamily units or a maximum of two detached ADUs.
  4. Allow studio and one-bedroom ADUs to be at least 850 sf in size.
  5. Allow ADUs with two or more bedrooms to be at least 1,000 sf in size.
  6. Limit required side and rear yard setbacks to a maximum of 4-feet.
  7. Allow detached ADUs to have a minimum height of 16 feet.
  8. Allow pre-fabricated units or manufactured homes.
  9. Allow ADUs owned by a non-profit corporation to be sold to low-income buyers.
  10. Prohibit any regulation that would prevent the construction of an ADU that is at least 800 square feet in size and at least 16 feet tall with maximum 4-foot side and rear yard setbacks.

And the modifications to existing Alameda regulations:

  1. The “50% Rule” has been deleted to meet the new State-mandated ADU unit sizes. Previously, ADUs were limited to 50% of the floor area of the primary dwelling.
  2. The maximum height limit for detached ADUs was increased from 15 feet to 16 feet.
  3. Lots in flood zones must now be allowed to exceed the maximum height limit in order to meet federal safety regulations.
  4. The owner-occupancy requirements have been eliminated for ADUs. The owner-occupancy requirements for JADUs remain in place.
  5. The lot coverage requirements have been modified to exclude non-permeable surface area.
  6. The design standards have been expanded to allow prefabricated units and manufactured homes.
  7. Replacement parking spaces are no longer required if existing onsite parking was converted or displaced to create an ADU.
  8. The requirement for undergrounding utilities for a detached ADU has been clarified to apply only to water and sewer.
  9. ADU applications that do not comply with the regulations no longer have an option to seek Use Permit, Design Review, or any other discretionary approval.
  10. ADU applications must be acted on within 60 days after a complete application submittal.


It’s amazing how many regulations need to be added or modified to make building ADUs in Alameda easier.   Which just goes to show how restrictive the ordinance was in the first place, even with the 2017 modifications.

1 Comment »

  1. List #1, item #9: ?. How do you sell an ADU without subdividing a parcel? Is this more like a 99 year lease?

    How does Planning Div/Permit Center handle ADU applications arising from HOA areas? Would it tell an applicant to seek approval from the HOA first, before seeking a city permit (which someone might do anyway if one anticipates a drawn out process while permits expire)? Will Civil Code sec 4751 have any impact on on that, or is that new law something that regulates the relationship between HOAs and residents, but is totally separate from the city permitting process?

    SEC. 2. Section 4751 is added to the Civil Code, to read:
    4751. (a) Any covenant, restriction, or condition contained in any deed, contract, security instrument, or other instrument affecting the transfer or sale of any interest in a planned development, and any provision of a governing document, that either effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts the construction or use of an accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit on a lot zoned for single-family residential use that meets the requirements of Section 65852.2 or 65852.22 of the Government Code, is void and unenforceable.
    (b) This section does not apply to provisions that impose reasonable restrictions on accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units. For purposes of this subdivision, “reasonable restrictions” means restrictions that do not unreasonably increase the cost to construct, effectively prohibit the construction of, or extinguish the ability to otherwise construct, an accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit consistent with the provisions of Section 65852.2 or 65852.22 of the Government Code.

    Comment by MP — February 10, 2020 @ 7:59 am

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