On the heels of the state of California’s affordable housing legislation, including new laws that went into effect in January 2019 streamlining approval of accessory dwelling units, the city of Carpinteria faces a familiar challenge: how to follow statewide requirements without giving up local character. City Council took a cautious first step at Monday’s meeting, Sept. 23, voting unanimously to “harmonize” development fees and regulations with state law, while reserving their intention to prioritize Coastal Commission guidelines and “our own standards.”  

The city currently has strict regulations for ADUs (also called secondary dwelling units, granny flats and in-law cottages). To build a permitted ADU, a Carpinteria homeowner must receive Architectural Review Board approval, keep square footage below maximums proportional to the size of the lot and primary dwelling, and have one covered parking spot for each bedroom.

The state of California, however, seeks to alleviate the statewide housing crisis with new laws that fast-track ADU permits by requiring that all eligible applications be approved within 120 days; standardizing the size maximum at 1,200 sq. ft., and prohibiting parking requirements on properties within a half-mile of public transportation (which in Carpinteria, as Councilmember Fred Shaw remarked, is just about everywhere).  

Further affordable housing legislation continues to make its way through the state assembly, with a recently passed bill on ADUs currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

Councilmembers aired several concerns, including parking and over development of residential neighborhoods. Shaw noted that waiving the covered parking requirement would make for a public parking problem on already congested corridors including the beach neighborhood.

“I’m all for doing anything we can to provide ADUs, but at the same time respecting our local development standards,” said Vice Mayor Al Clark.

Disagreeing on principal and pragmatics, Councilmember Gregg Carty said, “I can see it working in some cases but it’s sad to me that it seems like its undermining what our community has fought for, for so long… And somebody else telling us what to do from somewhere else. I’m just not comfortable with that. I know that our current SDU regulations could use some updating, but to me this is extreme.”

A handful of residents spoke in support of city staff’s recommendation to streamline city codes with state laws, including Jim Taylor of the Carpinteria Valley Association who stated: “I think this is entirely in line with the goals of Carpinteria and Carpinteria’s housing element. Secondary units represent an important source of affordable housing in cities with high housing costs at no additional land cost… They represent an affordable option for seniors, college students, local service workers and extended family members… (It’s also) affordable housing that meets the needs of the local workforce.”

The city must take action to comply with state law, but it can potentially make a case to prioritize Coastal Commission development guidelines, explained Community Development Director Steve Goggia. “We might be able to carve things out, like prohibiting coastal access,” said Goggia, “We might be able to take variation from what the state is requiring.”

A motion to direct staff to draft revised permit regulations for ADUs consistent with state law, Coastal Commission guidelines and city standards was approved 5-0.

Public arts pilot program

Carpinteria City Council unanimously approved a public art installation of large photographs by Carpinteria-based artist Patricia Houghton-Clarke, paving the way for an Art in Public Places program in Carpinteria. Houghton-Clarke’s photo-portraits, “Facing Ourselves,” will serve as a public arts pilot for the city, which also approved conducting preliminary research towards developing a long-term public arts program as part of the city’s 2020 Work Plan.

“Facing Ourselves” is a collaboration between Houghton-Clarke, Mike Lazaro and the Lynda Fairly Carpinteria Arts Center and will be on exhibit at Seal Fountain Plaza from Oct. 18 through Nov. 5. The project explores issues of immigration and community through large-scale portraits of community members.

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