Wednesday, April 3, 2019

4.2.19 Meeting Summary

As mentioned previously there were two substantive issues discussed at the meeting last night. A quick summary:
  • A first reading of a new sign ordinance regarding non-commercial signs following a previous discussion on 2.5.19 as well as discussion at the Planning Commission. I reiterated my opposition to restricting speech except in very rare and limited instances. I did note that the staff report from our City Attorney indicated that the current sign provisions being proposed did carry some risk, as does any restriction on speech. I also noted it was interesting that some members of the Council seemed comfortable with known risks restricting speech but were not okay with risks in other areas like restricting parolees. 
  • A discussion about the content and parameters of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in response to recent changes in state law that nullified Clayton’s rules around ADUs. There are a number of areas in which the state has legislated and eliminated local discretion. The discussion at this meeting concerned areas that the city did have discretion around and what direction to provide staff so that they may draft a new ordinance. Mostly there was agreement, but there were a couple key areas where I disagreed with others regarding setbacks and number of ADUs per property. Please see below for a more extensive discussion. 
For future agenda items, I requested a public hearing to discuss potential improvements to traffic and pedestrian safety around our middle and elementary schools. While myself and Mayor Catalano are members of the MDUSD sub-committee, safety on the roads including traffic and pedestrian safety are not within the purview of the school district, rather they are the responsibility of the city itself.

Our City Manager, Gary Napper also announced his upcoming retirement to be effective at the end of July.  In the short time I've worked with Gary I've really appreciated his knowledge, guidance, professionalism, and patience.  He's been with the city a long time and it will be very difficult to fill his shoes.


More detailed thoughts about ADUs below:

It’s important to remember that the reason we are addressing ADUs is because state law changed. If the city did nothing, then the new state law would control. In order to preserve some areas of local control, there are certain areas that the City has discretion to act in and the discussion tonight was to provide direction to staff in order for them to draft a new ADU ordinance. In general, the Council agreed in a number of areas. Those included: minimum and maximum ADU sqft, maximum ADU height, requirements for own occupancy and establishing a formal appeals process.

We did not come to consensus on the number of ADUs that should be allowable per lot and whether full kitchen and bathrooms should be required.  The area where there was most disagreement however, was regarding setbacks.

Setbacks are an area that the city has discretion in requiring. I advanced the idea that setbacks for detached units should follow the same rules as the primary residence. If an ADU were to be built, they shouldn’t get special treatment different than the primary residence. Other members of the Council disagreed. They thought that in order to encourage more building, reducing the interior setback to five (5’) was acceptable. 

In my view, a structure that is up to 16’ tall and only 5’ away from the side fence line is intrusive enough to reduce quiet enjoyment and quality of life. The setbacks were originally created for a reason and these ADUs are not in substance different than the primary residence. People and families can live in the main house and people and families can live in the ADU. Except one could have one required setback, and the ADU could have a much smaller setback. That inconsistency doesn’t seem right and it’s not what residents bought into when they got their homes.

Ultimately because these residences are serving the same purpose, in the same way, I think the setbacks should be consistent no matter what type of habitable dwelling is being considered. As long as the setbacks for ADUs are consistent with the primary residence, then we will limit the impact these structures may have on surrounding neighbors, while still providing an avenue for increased housing per state requirements.

Given the direction provided by the Council, staff will bring back a draft ordinance at a future date.  It will then be discussed, sent to the Planning Commission, and then return to the Council before any ordinance is enacted.