October 19, 2017
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City of Rohnert Park

Mary Grace Pawson
Adding housing with accessory dwelling units
October 13, 2017

The affordability of housing in California, including Sonoma County and Rohnert Park, is widely recognized as one of our most pressing and challenging problems. The demand for housing, driven by our strong economy, desirable climate and wonderful quality of life, has outpaced the supply for years. Consequently, prices to purchase homes and rents have increased substantially. In Rohnert Park, we are doing much to address this by working with developers to increase the supply of new apartments and homes. Some of these units will be reserved for low and moderate income residents.

Because the housing crisis is state-wide, last year the state Legislature approved changes designed to further increase the number of affordable units. In particular, they reduced restrictions on “Accessory Dwelling Units.” These units include what we commonly call ‘granny’ or ‘in law’ units. There are three types: stand-alone (detached) buildings in a back yard, additions to existing houses and the conversion of part of an existing house into a separate unit (internal conversion). 

For residents interested in creating an accessory unit, the city has established requirements for you to follow. We strongly recommend that you carefully review these requirements before signing any contracts or purchasing ready-made buildings to install and that you speak with city staff before making commitments. The City requirements include:

•All units must provide complete, independent facilities for living, sleeping, cooking and sanitation on the same parcel as an existing single-family home. 

•City staff must approve plans before issuing a building permit. 

•Units must be architecturally consistent with the main house on the property and have separate exterior access. 

•Units may not be 50 percent larger (in floor space) than the main house and separate units may not exceed 1,200 square feet. 

•An additional parking space off the street may be required. 

•Attached garages cannot be converted into accessory units. 

•There are limits on the amount of space required between new units and the edge of the lot. 

•While internal conversions can use existing utility connections for water, gas and sewer, new stand-alone units and additions to existing houses must have separate connections. 

•The use of existing electrical service depends on the size of the existing and new units and related factors; in some cases, a connection may need to be added or upgraded. 

•Building materials must meet fire codes. 

•All units require smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. 

•All units must have water-conserving plumbing fixtures. 

•Detached units and additions require new water lines and meters and additional sewer cleanouts. 

These requirements are intended to ensure that new housing is safe and compatible with our neighborhoods. Details can be found on the city’s website. 

Help Shape the Future Downtown: All residents are invited to join us at any point during a four -day “Charrette” on the future downtown from November 6-9. A charrette is a hands-on, interactive effort to help design the look and feel of the future downtown. We will consider topics such as the architectural style of buildings, the height of buildings, the lay-out of streets and the right ‘mix’ among housing, businesses and public spaces such as plazas and parks. Come and bring your inner designer to help us shape the future downtown Rohnert Park! Details on location and schedules will be coming soon and will be available on the city’s website.