Council Expected to Set ADU Rules

Courtesy of City of Orinda

    The City Council could soon make some binding decisions on the hot-button issue of granny units after receiving the Planning Commission’s recommendations in March.
    Before the coronavirus outbreak, the city had set a public hearing on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) for April 7, with the council preparing to adopt rules.
    Last year, a detached unit could be built to a maximum 1,200 square feet and up to 27 feet high subject to existing setback zones. At the March 3 City Council meeting, residents voiced concerns about establishing smaller units, requiring discretionary review for larger units and not challenging the state with its attempt to rule the city’s land use.
    Effective Jan. 1, the state set new limits for the size, height and setbacks for ADUs. In advance of the new rules, the City Council adopted an Urgency Ordinance Dec. 19, allowing taller structures with larger setbacks than proposed by the state.
    The state allows cities to set the detached building size to a minimum 850 square feet for a one-bedroom unit and 1,000 square feet for a two-bedroom unit. The lowest maximum height is 16-feet for all units and requires cities to allow ADUs within 4 feet of side and rear property lines.
    Orinda’s urgency ordinance adopted identical size allowances but allowed for taller units – 27 feet if the building meets the 10/15-foot side and 15-foot rear setbacks. A structure built between the city and state setbacks is restricted to 16-feet in height.
    The Planning Commission recommends a 16-foot height limit for all ADUs.
    If the Planning Commission’s recommendations are adopted, Orinda homeowners could built a two-bedroom dwelling, with a maximum 1,000 square foot footprint and up to 16-feet high as close as four feet from a side or rear property line.
    If the council maintains the 27-foot height limit, a two-story detached structure with a maximum 1,000 square foot footprint may be built as long as it adheres to the 10- and 15-foot setbacks.
    An ADU could also be built atop an attached garage, subject only to the height and size limitations. A 27-foot detached ADU would not be allowed closer to a property line than the stated setbacks.
    For the latest on the scheduling of city meetings and agendas, go to

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