Los Angeles considers amnesty for owners of illegal ADUs

Motion would grandfather “granny flats” in exchange for affordable rent requirement

Residential real estate, accessory dwelling units
Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez (Getty, Facebook, Abodu)

A Los Angeles councilwoman has pitched a plan to let owners of illegal granny flats off the hook in return for offering affordable rents.

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez has filed a motion to create an amnesty program for legalizing unpermitted accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs, the Los Angeles Daily News reported, citing City News Service.

The motion noted the need to remove barriers and create more affordable housing across Los Angeles.

It said the city’s requirement that an illegally built structure must first get permitted before being turned into an ADU “may deter many property owners from pursuing legalization.”

“In other words, a garage illegally converted into a residential unit must first be fully permitted as, and returned to, a garage before the applicant can then apply to legalize and convert their unit into an ADU,” Rodriguez’s motion states.

That process can be costly, time-consuming and might not affect the safety of the final permitted ADU, according to Rodriguez.

“What I’m proposing is that we cut the red tape in order to make it easier for residents to come forward and convert an unpermitted unit into a legal ADU, bringing it up to code for the health and safety of its inhabitants,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “In turn, an affordable housing requirement would be placed on their legal ADUs, which would ensure that Angelenos have access to more affordable rents. It’s a win-win.”

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The motion, seconded by Councilman Bob Blumenfield, sought to waive the requirement of a certificate of occupancy “as the basis for ADU conversion and instead only require permit issuance.”

More than 25,000 ADUs have been permitted in Los Angeles since 2017, and the number of permits issued more than doubled from 2017 to 2021, according to Crosstown LA, a nonprofit news agency based at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

Last year, Los Angeles launched a program intended to speed up approval time for the construction of accessory dwelling units — also called granny flats – with 20 pre-approved ADU designs.

ADUs, which are typically built in the backyards of single-family homes, now account for 22 percent of newly permitted housing in the city.

In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a flurry of additional pro-density housing bills, including AB 221, a measure that incentivizes ADU construction by clarifying construction rules and extending allowances to proposed, rather than only existing, multifamily projects.

Dana Bartholomew

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