The Sierra Madre Planning Commission voted at its meeting last Thursday to recommend changing city law to make it easier for city residents to build second housing units on their lots. The changes will next be presented to the Sierra Madre City Council for consideration at a future meeting, according to Danny Castro, the Director of Development Services for the city.
The change would make the allowable maximum size of the unit 800 square feet, up from 600 square feet and raise the height from 15 feet to 25 feet to make it easier to build above garages. The changes would also expand eligibility to build the units to every residential zone in the city.
The move would be one part of the city's state-required Housing Element, which requires each city to zone for residential population growth by making it possible to build an allocated number of new units in the city. Making those changes would help Sierra Madre toward meeting its goal for the 2008-2014 Housing Element.
Future units built in the city could also help Sierra Madre meet new recently-issued targets for the 2014-2021 Housing Element process. The city's allocation is 55 new houses or housing units by 2021, with 23 of those in the low-income or very-low-income category.
The city has already had some experience with the new requirements - from October of last year through July the city ran an experimental amnesty program for homeowners with units that do not meet the existing city requirements. Currently, the city is processing 16 applications for existing units that did not meet the old code but would meet the new code.
That compares to only two applications filed by homeowners since 2004 that actually met the old requirements.