Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat


The Union Democrat

A decade after California enacted a law to make it easier to construct secondary housing, better known as "mother-in-law" units or "granny flats," Calaveras County is coming in line with it.

Assembly Bill 1866, passed in 2003, was designed to improve the affordability of housing in the state but caused controversy in part due to its potential to increase density and demand on parking.

It took Calaveras County until 2010 to address the changes in the housing element of its General Plan land use guide document. Necessary zoning code amendments first went to the Planning Commission in February 2012.

The changes approved 5-0 Tuesday by the county Board of Supervisors to comply with the state law include:

• Making the quarters permissible in all zoning that allows single-family residences.

• Establishing a maximum size of 1,200 square feet, a requirement for owners to demonstrate water and sewer or septic requirements are satisfied.

• Removing an owner occupancy requirement.

• Removal of 1-acre minimum parcel size.

• Allowance for one off-street parking space per unit.

Calaveras County Planning Director Rebecca Willis also noted the state law supersedes any homeowners associations' rules that prohibit the second units.

Construction of a second unit by law does not factor in when calculating density, Willis said, and does not hinder property owners' ability to subdivide lots.

She noted the county can make certain findings that grant the ability to prohibit second units when approving major subdivision projects and did so with Oak Canyon Ranch and Tuscany Hills in Copperopolis.

Environmental Health Director Brian Moss responded to a question about septic tank upgrades. Moss said owners will not have to upgrade an existing tank to modern standards as a result of the code change but may have to add new capacity to accommodate the units.

"As long as we have capacity, our main goal is to make sure we don't have surfacing effluent, leading to a public health hazard," Moss said. "Why make somebody dig something up or replace something that is working? That's not our goal."