Placer amends impact fee schedules for smaller accessory dwelling units

New state laws aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing are being implemented in Placer County, reducing the cost and regulatory requirements for residents to build accessory or junior accessory dwelling units on their property.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an update to its fee schedule for accessory and junior accessory dwelling units to align it with the state law changes, exempting certain development impact fees for secondary units smaller than 750 square feet.

That amounts to savings of about $15,000 per unit, though the fee range depends on a unit’s location.

“Hopefully this will help get some more affordable housing units built in our communities,” said Board Chair Bonnie Gore.

Accessory dwelling units are additional structures added to properties with a primary residence. Often called granny flats or in-law quarters, they include all the amenities of a traditional home like a bathroom, kitchen and sleeping area. A junior ADU is smaller unit built within an existing home (like a garage conversion), which can share facilities like a bathroom with the main home.

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law six bills intended to reduce local barriers to building accessory dwelling units.

Building more ADUs is widely considered to be part of the solution to California’s housing challenges. Because ADUs are smaller than many traditional single-family homes they’re generally more affordable by nature. And they’re often faster to build, since they usually don’t require additional utility infrastructure and have fewer permitting restrictions than primary homes.

Though Placer’s ordinance will not be in effect for 30 days and the fee schedule won’t be in effect for 60 days, Placer has already been complying with the new state law since it went into effect Jan. 1 and has been consistent with the ordinance and fee schedule for eligible projects.

Consistent with state law, Placer County imposes fees on development projects to offset the need for more infrastructure and services additional residences will create.

As of Jan. 1, California law exempts ADUs less than 750 square feet from local impact fees and requires that fees for an ADU of 750 square feet or more must be charged proportionately in relation to the square footage of the primary dwelling unit.

The new law does not alter connection fees or capacity charges for utilities, including water and sewer service, unless the accessory dwelling unit is built with a new single-family dwelling.

Placer planning staff expect to bring forward additional ordinance changes for the board’s consideration to fully align county regulations with the remaining state law changes.  

The county is also coordinating with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency about how the agencies can best cooperate to implement the new state laws in the Lake Tahoe Basin, where additional TRPA building restrictions apply.

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