Individually and collectively we try to be careful stewards of our city’s natural and cultural treasures. Top down federal or state government assistance to cities is always welcome, but we strongly prefer bottom up local control of our internal civic affairs.
That equation changes when Sacramento shifts back to the people a significant measure of control over our individual lifestyles and property rights. As individuals we naturally want to reclaim freedom from regulatory powers previously delegated to cities by state law.
That appears to be happening under new state law allowing in-law and rental suites not permitted by most cities. The purpose is to promote more use of already occupied land, instead of reducing open space to house California’s exploding population.
The city should not pretend nothing changes under local law until the city does a new local ordinance. Unless and until a local ordinance is enacted, the city is mandated to permit eligible projects, and local laws inconsistent with the new state law are null and void.
Similarly, the city should not hide behind legalistic tactics claiming state and local coastal development laws supersede, preempt or delay new state housing and development law.
Instead of being defensive and deferring enjoyment of our new rights, the city should recognize senior citizens, low-income families, workers and artists are Laguna’s dreamers, this is Laguna’s own “DACA” moment.
There are hundreds of non-conforming dwelling units all over Laguna, maybe thousands, as there are millions throughout the state. This new state law is an amnesty program to give legal status to property owners and occupants, in order to restore affordable housing and socio-economic diversity.
Bringing prohibited but ubiquitous in-law and rental suites out of the shadows will reduce workload for city staff, mitigate fire and emergency safety risks, reduce neighbor-on-neighbor rancor, and lessen disdain for selective city code enforcement based on secret complaints without reciprocal accountability for complaining parties.
Most existing non-conforming dwelling units are already occupied, so projections about increased parking demand are exaggerated and can be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The city should embrace the new law, manage it affirmatively, not make it unduly complicated or expensive.
Auxiliary dwelling suites should not be a privilege of the wealthy when greater need is broad. We can restore our working class and middle class through new housing options not subsidized or controlled by the city.
Howard Hills, Laguna Beach
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