Not even in my own backyard? Granny Flat builders stuck in legal bind

A rendering of a granny flat (Credit: Home Renovation Hints)
A rendering of a granny flat (Credit: Home Renovation Hints)

Hundreds of Los Angeles residents are stuck in a legal dispute over secondary units known as “granny flats,” which have been viewed as one solution to the housing shortage, despite having already obtained building permits.

The crux of the problem is that the city and state laws that govern secondary units are at odds with each other.

When state lawmakers enacted a law years ago that made the approval process for granny flats more convenient for property owners, more than 500 Angelenos obtained building permits or occupancy certificates for the small units, the L.A. Times reported. The city of Los Angeles, however, declined to comply, and said in memo the flats would only be allowed in areas where zoning permits them.

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Then a court ruling said city officials could not simply ignore the ordinance without doing its own analysis. The ruling also ordered the city to halt the handing out building permits for granny flats in the meantime. It said the city  could clear  the way for granny flats by amending or appealing its old ordinance — neither of which it has done.

As for the homeowners who obtained permits under the state law, the city will allow them to move forward with construction plans but only if they sign a document saying they understand their granny flats could be legally challenged.

While supporters of the state law say granny flats can mitigate the housing shortage without drastically changing the look and feel of a neighborhood, opponents argue that these additional units would congest traffic and build way-too-large houses.

L.A.’s city rules set the size limit of granny flats to be 640 square feet, but the state allows them up to 1,200 square feet. [LAT]Cathaleen Chen