Accessory dwelling unit

A new two-story home has recently been built in Chino Hills with an accessory dwelling unit constructed at the same time (the smaller house shown in back). The primary home and second home are on Country Club Drive in Los Serranos and are just about completed.

Chino Hills residents may now build a second house on the same grounds as their home under new state standards that allow more flexibility than previous city standards.

The city’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance, which has been the subject of numerous meetings by the planning commission and city council for one year, went into effect March 11.

The state has enacted laws to accelerate the development of these units, known as ADUs, to address the housing shortage. 

The city’s current regulations have been loosened to comply with the new state laws, making it easier for homeowners to offer additional housing on their properties such as rental rooms with a private entrance.

If the city takes longer than 60 days to process an ADU application, the state ordered that the application shall be “deemed” granted.

The City of Chino adopted a similar ordinance last year.

An ADU is an additional small residence on the same property as a single-family home, such as a back house or small bungalow, sometimes referred to as mother-in-law quarters or granny flats.

Sleepy Hollow

In fall 2020, the planning commission, on the advice of the Chino Valley Fire District, prohibited ADUs in Sleepy Hollow, north and south of Carbon Canyon Road, and the Canon Lane community on the south side of Carbon Canyon Road, because of high fire hazard, small lots, hilly terrain, and narrow streets that hinder evacuation efforts and emergency access.

Two Sleepy Hollow residents objected to the prohibition.

One of the residents, Steven Hood, asked for an exception for properties with direct access to Carbon Canyon Road because he said these properties do not have the narrow street width inhibition.

“Carbon Canyon Road serves as the primary egress route for future development that has been approved by the council and General Plan,” Mr. Hood wrote in a letter to the city. “If the road is insufficient to handle the added load of the ADUs, the viability of the road to support future development in the canyon should be reconsidered.”

David P. Ayala also asked for an exception, stating that a limited strip of properties facing Carbon Canyon Road, north and south, do not fall under the fire department’s concerns about narrow streets, challenging topography, and limited access.

Before approving the ordinance in January, the Chino Hills City Council asked city staff and the Fire District to take a second look and evaluate the request from the residents.

The fire district changed its recommendation, stating that ADUs could be built on Sleepy Hollow properties if they have direct vehicle access via a private driveway to Carbon Canyon Road and if the property has sufficient onsite parking.

Living quarters

ADUs provide complete living facilities that include a kitchen, bathroom, living area and sleeping area that can be attached to, detached from, or contained inside a primary residence.

An ‘efficiency’ ADU allows a combined living and sleeping area, a full or partial kitchen and a bathroom, and is not intended for more than two people, similar to a studio apartment, that can be attached to, detached from, or contained inside a primary residence.

Residents may build an apartment over a garage if the garage is located behind the house and complies with the setbacks applicable to the primary dwelling.

A “junior” ADU, which would be new in the city, is a dwelling unit of no more than 500-square-feet that is contained in the home or in an attached garage and includes an efficiency kitchen with a cooking facility that includes appliances, sink, counter, and cabinets, and a bathroom wither within the unit or shared with the primary residence.

Unlike the ADU and the efficiency ADU, the junior ADU does not require its own bathroom.

Up to two 

Residents may have both a junior ADU and a detached ADU of not more than 800-square-feet on their property, for a total of two additional dwelling units.

Residents may build ADUs and junior ADUs on their property even if they live in homeowners’ associations with covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that prohibit such units.

A minimum size of 220-square-feet is allowed for ADUs and junior ADUs.

A maximum size of 850-square-feet is allowed for an ADU with up to one bedroom (but does not apply if the ADU is converted within an existing structure), and 1,000-square-feet for an ADU with two or more bedrooms (but does not apply if the ADU is converted within an existing structure).

Recent ADUs

Since last year, several permits for ADUs, both attached and detached, and one junior ADU have been issued in Chino Hills: Garden Court, Valle Vista Drive, Mesa Bluff Court, Painter Drive, Cove Landing, and Country Club Drive as shown in photo.

State has say

Although the ordinance has gone into effect, it must be approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). 

Community development director Joann Lombardo said the HCD has confirmed the ordinance has been received but has not provided any indication as to when it will be reviewed.

“Because most of the ordinance strictly follows state law requirements, there are only a few provisions on which HCD could comment,” Ms. Lombardo said. “If any of HCD’s future comments require revisions to the ordinance, we will move forward with the required amendments.”

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