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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Urgency ordinance tackles housing loophole

“Mini-Dorms” up for review

The Davis City Council considered tackling “mini-dorm” construction through an urgency ordinance. Before the ordinance, people could get away with having more bedrooms on their properties as long as they noted that the rooms would be dining rooms or other rooms. In reality, though, many of the extra rooms have served as bedrooms.

Due to the urgency of the situation to handle housing expansions that dodge through the loophole, Mayor Brett Lee explained that City Council must move forward with an urgency ordinance.

“A normal ordinance typically takes 30 days to go into effect,” Lee said. “First, we would vote on the ordinance, and it would come back for a second review and vote, whereas the urgent ordinance will allow it to go into place right away.”

Gloria Partida, the mayor pro tempore, elaborated that the council would like to have the ordinance go into effect as soon as possible.

“The ordinance is urgent because we would like to have this go into effect soon enough to capture projects that will be coming forward that meet these requirements,” Partida said via email. “We previously had a project come forward that was very large in size compared to its neighbors and because it met all of the remodel requirements the city had to issue a permit and could not review the project for some of the things the neighbors had issue with. Such as window placement, number of bedrooms etc. Because this is an urgency ordinance meaning it would go into effect immediately it requires 4/5 vote. A regular ordinance which would need to come back for 2nd readings and gives the opportunity for members to change their votes requires 3/5 vote and takes longer to go into effect.”

Lee added that people got away with having extra bedrooms by coining different names for the rooms.

“The reason why there was a need for an urgency ordinance was because we literally had someone who had a 1800-square-foot home with four bedrooms, and they doubled the size of their parcel,” Lee said. “Rather than calling the rooms bedrooms, they magically had an extra living room and extra dining room, as well as additional bathrooms. When you look at the plans, it’s clear that they’re not going to be used as living rooms or dining rooms — they’re actually used as bedrooms.”

Lee included that for those who still want home expansion, nothing would change if they stayed within the limits.

“If somebody wants to expand their home — as long as they’re not expanding more than 40 percent — then everything stays the same,” Lee said. “If they want more, then there’s additional review by staff to see whether the expansion fits within the neighborhood in terms of the existing design.”

In addition, the City of Davis indicated that the ordinance would be able to solve other neighborly concerns as well.

According to The Davis Enterprise, the city staff noted that, “The urgency ordinance is drafted in a manner to address the majority of the situations that cause neighborhood concern without unduly burdening all new residential construction and additions.”

Partida suggested that the ordinance will also benefit neighborhoods so that they will become more aware and ready for changes within their community.

“The purpose of this ordinance is so that neighborhoods do not have drastic changes to their neighborhoods and so that neighbors can be made aware of proposed changes to homes in their neighborhoods that they be affected by,” Partida said. “All neighborhoods will be under this ordinance. The mini-dorm referred to the fact that we were addressing construction of projects that seek to add multiple rooms that may exceed the number of bedrooms allowable without a plan review process.”

Lee expanded on how the ordinance will fix problems with the loophole, giving more review to those who want to have “mini-dorms” or extra living space for renters.

“The way the regulations were before was that technically it was not going beyond the 5-bedroom limit, so the plan was approved,” Lee said. “But now, when you’re going to greatly increase the square footage of parcel or your building, then we take that into consideration. For folks who want to do an addition, it doesn’t add any difficulty for the people who want to create ‘a mini-dorm’ in a residential area, but it triggers an additional review.”

Lee also stressed that the ordinance does not mean to disfavor students.

“It’s not meant to be anti-student — this is not saying people can’t have student rentals,” Lee said. “This is not trying to make it more difficult for students to rent rooms or homes. What this is designed to do is to prevent people from taking an existing single-family home designed for single families and turn it into a rooming house design with 10 to 20 people living in a typical home. We approved a lot of apartment complexes that are more student-oriented, and so I think that this is not meant to be more difficult for student renters.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org


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