Monday, Jan 29, 2018

    Last week, I was proud to co-host the Home for All Second Units Convening alongside my Home for All Co-Chair, Supervisor Don Horsley.

    It was a packed house for the event, called “Second Units: What, Why, and How.” We heard from experts on Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, which are small structures that typically range from 220 to 1,000 square feet and are built on the property of existing homeowners, either as a stand-alone or inside or attached to a house. Since 2011, the median home price in San Mateo County has doubled, and rent for a two-bedroom apartment has increased 55%. We held this even to spread awareness about ADUs, which are a great solution for cities or counties trying to boost density and provide more housing for residents. This event and the speakers shared important resources and tools for residents interested in building second units.

    Keynote speaker Kol Peterson, the owner of Accessory Dwelling Strategies and author of “Backdoor Revolution,” talked about the success that Portland, Oregon has had with building small units to add much-needed housing to the city’s housing stock. In 2010, Portland passed an SDC waiver to reduce development costs for building affordable residential housing. In 2016, the city issued 20 times the average number of permits issued each year before the waiver was passed -- paving the way for more homeowners to build ADUs on their property.

    66% of homes in San Mateo County are single family dwelling units, meaning there is great potential for ADUs. Matt Regan from the Bay Area Council discussed the policy framework for building second units, noting that common barriers include zoning and permitting issues such as setbacks, parking, and process fees. Currently, San Mateo County is exploring ways to encourage more residents to build second units, and has already eased some of the regulations around ADU size, height and setbacks in the unincorporated areas.  At the state level, the Governor has signed SB 1069 into law, which reduces barriers for homeowners looking to build ADUs.

    Finally, Joshua Abrams from Baird & Driskell led a discussion about demystifying the ADU building process. Attendees broke out into table discussions about taking the next step, and how to best utilize the shared tools and resources about building a second unit.

    ADUs are environmentally friendly, low cost, add invisible density, and can provide extra income to homeowners. I am excited that so many people came to share and collaborate at this Convening – we learned a lot to help us move this process forward to create more affordable housing!