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Santa Clara Planning Commissioner Transforms Garage into Affordable Housing

Santa Clara resident Yuki Ikezi is among the first to take advantage of a new City ordinance that facilitates the process of adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to a homeowner’s property.

As a City Planning Commissioner, Ikezi was one of the first to learn about Ordinance 1968, which became effective Sept. 21, 2017. Now, just a year later, her 560-square-foot ADU is a fait accompli, adding value to her 1961 ranch-style home and monthly income as soon as she rents it out.

She converted her attached garage to an ADU to preserve her backyard. She added a new garage on the other side of the house, opposite the ADU, changing her home from an L shape to a U shape. The ADU, with a private outdoor entrance, has a living area with kitchen, a separate bedroom, a bathroom and laundry area.

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Ikezi held an open house Sept. 20 to show off her new ADU and inspire others to consider such a project.

“The new ordinance passed in 2017 but people still don’t know about it,” said Ikezi. “Now we have the right to build. The over-the-counter permit with automatic approval removes uncertainty.”

In the past, there was no guarantee of Planning Commission and City Council approval of an ADU project. Now, however, any project that conforms to the relevant city zoning regulations is guaranteed approval.

Ikezi invited Mayor Lisa Gillmor and Council Member Teresa O’Neill to make remarks. Her builder, Greg Popovich with Goldbar Builders, specialists in ADUs, answered practical questions about the approval and building process.

“This is the first public viewing of an ADU in Santa Clara,” noted Mayor Gillmor. “The city has tried to make it easier to build. It allows us to add more affordable units, one unit at a time.”

“It can help a home owner who sits on an asset to generate income as well as fill a housing need in the community,” said Gillmor.

O’Neill pointed out that State Senator Bob Wieckowski, representing Senate District 10, introduced SB 1069 in 2016 and SB 229 in 2017, which, statewide, now eliminate certain barriers to the construction of ADUs.

Ikezi put her entire ADU project in the hands of her builder, who submitted plans to the city Planning Department in March 2018. She paid about $2,000 in school fees and $2,000 for a permit, which came through in May. Construction, which took three and a half months, was completed on schedule in September.

Ikezi used the Second Unit Resources Center (secondunitcentersmc.org) to estimate building costs and potential rental income. She also visited Craigslist and Zillow to check the local rental market.

ADUs are known informally as granny flats or in-law flats, reflecting their common use as housing for family members, facilitating intergenerational living. Open house attendee Debbie Benovitz said she was considering adding a granny unit as an apartment for her son or for a caregiver should she ever need one

Jon and Jacque Hennig had to tear down an old granny unit on their 1948 Santa Clara property because it couldn’t be brought up to code. They intend to build a new unit in 2019 to use for guests and, eventually, as a rental.

According to City Planning Manager Reena Brilliot, the City has reviewed and signed off on 45 proposals for ADUs for conformance to zoning code since the new ADU ordinance took effect. Fourteen applicants have followed up with building permit submittals and 11 building permits have been issued.

Visit the Santa Clara city website for ADU information: http://santaclaraca.gov/government/departments/community-development/planning-division/zoning-code-update/accessory-unit-zoning-ordinance-update.

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