Del Mar Planning Commission votes to recommend new ADU ordinance with provision that requires them to be used for housing

Del Mar City Hall
(Karen Billing)

Del Mar Planning Commissioners said during their Sept. 13 meeting that they want a policy to require accessory dwelling units to be used for housing, as opposed to recreational, leisure and other reasons that some residents build them for.

“It would help us track to see if in fact we are creating new housing,” Planning Commissioner Claire Mcgreal said. “The whole purpose of all of this legislative scheme is to create lots of new housing so that it becomes affordable.”

The City Council will consider zoning code changes for the city’s ADU policy next month to align with changes to state housing law. Pending those changes, Del Mar Principal Planner Amanda Lee said the city’s current ADU ordinance is “null and void.”

“We don’t have that sense of predictability for people, so that is one of the needs in processing an ordinance,” Lee said to commissioners during the meeting. “The draft we have in process right now is probably the best example of how to harmonize these different laws.”

Once the City Council adopts an updated policy, it would still require approval from the California Coastal Commission.

Planning Commissioners, who can make recommendations to the City Council, wanted to see more assurances that newly constructed ADUs would have tenants living in them. The state counts ADUs as new housing, but sometimes property owners build them for other reasons.

In a 3-2 vote, the commission recommended an updated ordinance drafted by city staff, including provisions about deed restrictions that require ADUs to be used as housing units and to require them to be built on the first floor when possible.

The no votes were recorded by commissioners Jas Grewal and Claire Mcgreal, who agreed that new ADUs should be used for housing, but wanted more specifics about some of the other provisions of the ordinance and potential options to be considered.

State law has streamlined the process for building ADUs that are up to 800 square feet in size, among other new regulations in recent years to incentivize ADU construction.

“To me, if you’re going to have an ADU ordinance, then darn it, it ought to stand for something and it ought to be about dwelling units,” Planning Commissioner John Spelich said. “Don’t name it that then. Name it the Rich Guy Giveaway Pool Room Home Office that Defeats FAR, because that’s what it’s going to be otherwise.”

In recent years, Del Mar City Council members have also discussed the feasibility of requiring ADUs to be used for housing. Planning commissioners discussed a deed restriction that requires ADUs to be dwelling units. They are scheduled to consider the ADU ordinance and the Planning Commission’s recommendations next month.

Del Mar City Attorney Ralph Hicks told the Planning Commission that the city has “received pushback from HCD in requiring any wording of insisting that they’re housing units.”

“While that is aligned clearly with the legislative intent, you hear HCD strongly pushing back on that,” Hicks said.

Del Mar has to zone for 175 new housing units, including 113 that are affordable housing units, as part of the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation. City leaders are relying in part on ADUs to meet those goals.