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Los Angeles Allowing Granny (In-Law) Units

As of January 1, 2017, the City of Los Angeles is taking applications from owners that want to apply for permits of granny units as long as their proposed second dwellings meet the standards imposed by the state. Los Angeles city officials are working on a set of local requirements that promise to be a bit stricter than those imposed by the state. On December 15, the City Planning Commission recommended new regulations for accessory dwellings to the City Council.

The city requirements would limit the size of accessory dwellings to 640 square feet or 50 percent of the square footage of the main house, whichever is larger, but with a maximum size of up to 1,200 square feet. The state requirements simply set a blanket limitation on the size of such units at 1,200 square feet. The LA-specific rules would considerably limit the possible scale of second units for many homeowners.

There are potential regulations that would prevent construction of such units on most properties in designated Hillside Areas. It’s unclear at this point how many homeowners will elect to build new units, but many affordable housing scholars have argued the development of even small numbers of these units can have numerous positive benefits on an area’s housing market.

A ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant last year halted the issuance of second unit permits, forcing some homeowners to freeze plans for backyard units. Those homeowners can get permits again now that the state rules are in place. Once the city requirements take effect, homeowners will likely have stricter guidelines to follow.

Ken Bernstein, the city's principal planner, believes the city has to balance the need for more affordable housing while protecting "the character of single-family neighborhoods."

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