On Tuesday night, the Poway city council will go through their annual ritual of designating "inappropriate" areas for second dwelling units (commonly called "granny flats") in single family zones. The state of California encourages cities to include second dwelling units as part of their housing element.
Second-units (i.e., in-law apartments, granny flats, or accessory apartments) provide an important source of affordable housing. By promoting the development of second-units, a community may ease a rental housing deficit, maximize limited land resources and existing infrastructure and assist low and moderate-income homeowners with supplemental income. Second-units can increase the property tax base and contribute to the local affordable housing stock. Government Code Section 65852.2 (a.k.a. second-unit law) was enacted in 1982 and has been amended four times (1986, 1990, 1994 and 2002) to encourage the creation of second units while maintaining local flexibility for unique circumstances and conditions.
Second-unit law was created and amended within the context of providing “…a minimum of limitation…”, so localities “…may exercise the maximum degree of control over local zoning matters…” (Government Code 65800). Chapter 1062 requires localities to consider applications for the development of second-units ministerially with the intent to create second-units and not constrain their development.
Under limited circumstances, a locality may prohibit the development of second-units in single- family or multifamily zones (Government Code Section 65852.2(c)). This prohibition may only be enacted if a locality adopts formal written findings based on substantial evidence identifying the adverse impact of second-units on the public health, safety, and welfare and acknowledging such action may limit housing opportunities in the region (Section 65852.2(c)). Prior to making findings of specific adverse impact, the agency should explore feasible alternatives to mitigate and avoid the impact. Written findings should also acknowledge efforts to adopt an ordinance consistent with the intent of second-unit law.