Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

New Rules on “Granny Flats” Coming

Guest house/granny flat at a local area home.

The Los Angeles City Council voted yesterday to instruct the City Planning Department to create a new set of rules for accessory dwelling units, also known as “granny flats,” which would allow their construction behind existing homes on single family lots…but which would still be more limiting than a current state law.

For many years, Los Angeles had allowed second units up to 640 square feet on single-family lots.  But after a new state law was passed a few years ago, allowing units up to 1,200 square feet, the city started using that number instead.  A recent court case, however, involving a project under construction in Cheviot Hills, determined that the city had been illegally ignoring the older, more restrictive, size limit still on the books…and permitting of all such units was halted until the City could iron out the differences.

According to an L.A. Times story about the vote, proponents of second units have called for a repeal of the more restrictive city limits so the city can resume permitting units up to the state’s limit of 1,200 square feet. But many neighbors argued that the 1,200 square foot limit is too generous, and “would allow out of scale second homes to start popping up” in back yards of smaller scale neighborhoods.  As the Times reported:

Relying on the looser state standards would result in a big jump in neighborhood density, worsening noise and congestion, argued Xochitl Gonzalez, a Sawtelle homeowner. She complained that multistory units in her area had eroded privacy for their neighbors.

For people who have scrimped to buy a home, “it’s a big middle finger to us,” Gonzalez said.

Robin Greenberg, president of the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council, said turning to the state standards would be a “one-size-fits-all approach” that fails to meet the needs of different neighborhoods, particularly hillside areas.

So the Council voted yesterday to adopt what Council Member David Ryu called a “great compromise” – a motion that creates some temporary revisions in the current law (to legalize many projects that were permitted or built before the latest freeze), along with a mandate to create a new permanent law with size limits that would be more restrictive than the state law, but also allow some flexibility by neighborhood.

This promises to be another hot topic in the city’s current swirl of zoning issues, but the actual effects on neighborhoods might be fairly minimal, at least at first.  According to the Times story, only about 60 granny flats are permitted each year in the city…though that number could increase if the permitting process is simplified, and city’s shortage of affordable housing continues to grow.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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  1. Please City Council don’t just react to people’s imaginary fears. In rare circumstances could a unit be built to the state limits of 1200 sq ft because of the fact that local zoning, set backs etc. Please need this kind of housing and frankly it is one of the most innovative areas of “community integrated development.” This is so different than warehousing in giant buildings. Accessory dwelling units when well designed fit right in and can both improve the homeowner’s position and serve our region overall. Come on guys get it done quickly!


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