Several days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law making it easier and less expensive for California homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their properties, a first-of-its-kind example of such a structure was showcased in Richmond’s Iron Triangle.
The new unit located alongside a single-family home at 849 8th St. could be the first of many to pop up in Richmond backyards as policymakers search for new ways to add affordable housing to the city.
All photos attached to this story of this property — which features a bathroom, kitchen and laundry — were provided by Kieron Slaughter, a former city planner who had worked on this project and attended Friday’s tour.
The East Bay Revitalization Group (EBR) built both the single-family home and accessory dwelling unit on a previously blighted vacant lot, Slaughter said. The smaller unit was constructed to be energy efficient and greener than typical homes, the group says.
Last week, an effort to encourage more property owners to construct smaller, more affordable units gained a victory at the state level, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that reduces barriers and fees when building such units.
The biggest change, according to Slaughter, is that secondary and accessory dwelling units are no longer subject to a city design review process and will instead be reviewed and approved administratively, thus reducing “a substantial amount of time and money for the applicant.”
Richmond is in the process of implementing the new state rules into a comprehensive zoning update that is expected to be voted upon by the city’s council in November.
Alex Knox, director of policy and strategy for Mayor Tom Butt’s office, said the city is ahead of the game when it comes to affordable housing strategies such as accessory dwelling units. City staff, planning commissioners and community members have been working collaboratively on this and related issues for more than a year.
In August, city staff presented a proposal to allow “junior accessory dwelling units (JADU)” in existing homes, which would add affordable units while providing homeowners a new revenue stream. Such units would have to be between 150 and 500 square feet and include a small kitchen, or kitchenette, and a separate entrance. But they don’t require their own bathroom and are not subject to sewer and water connection fees or the requirement of additional parking. There are also fewer administrative steps in creating a JADU.
At Tuesday’s Richmond City Council meeting, accessory dwelling units, along with JADUs, will be among the topics addressed during a presentation by Richmond Mayor Tom Butt’s Office of Housing.
“We’re incorporating [accessory dwelling units] as an important element of our housing policy and addressing the city’s housing needs,” Knox said.
Doris Mason, incoming president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council, praised the efforts.
“The severe scarcity of moderately priced houses in the Bay Area has left limited options for working families,” she said. “The best way build community is to be the change we want to see, which embodies EBR’s efforts to work toward increasing the supply of affordable homes and bring economic vibrancy to the Iron Triangle.”