|- Behold! The mysterious rising of Sierra Madre's 1st ever McGranny Mansion, complete with elevator. -|
Today's post involves a most unlikely twist on the old Granny Flat concept. As many readers here will recall, it was not too long ago that granny flats were discussed as a possible way of helping Sierra Madre achieve its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (or RHNA) numbers without having to actually allow for the building of anything. RHNA numbers being the product of corrupted Sacramento central state planners intent on forcing high density housing into resistant cities such as this one.
So in order to hit this number without actually allowing any SCAG housing in, the City Council at that time began looking at Granny Flats as a way of pumping up Sierra Madre's RHNA numbers. And it was decided that Granny Flats, those small single bedroom detached structures some people have tucked away in their backyards, could be brought up to code and then counted as real housing.
Or so the plan went. Many were in a state of disrepair of course, but should their owners fix these structures up a little and bring them up to code, the city could then count them as actual housing. Thus adding to the community's housing stock and helping dodge predatory state high density development mandates.
Invariably, the good intentions of that City Council were somehow subverted, and we are today looking at Sierra Madre's very first McGranny Mansion. Or, as some in that neighborhood have taken to calling it, the "two story aircraft carrier." Take your pick.
I like McGranny myself because it ties nicely into what has been a decade-long conversation about low income housing here.
Last week one resident did speak with the always well-informed and helpful Leticia Cardoso about this first ever McGranny Mansion, and came away with a lot of interesting information. Much of what follows is based on a series of emails sent to me yesterday afternoon. Our intrepid reporter learned a lot about the 2-story McGranny Mansion that has arisen from the ground toadstool-like out in back of the properties at 665 Fairview and 400 Gatewood, and also raised a lot of questions.
Unlike resurrected Granny Flats, the city considers this item to be an "accessory" structure, or at least according to the permit dated December of 2014. It cannot to be considered a true "2nd unit," or Granny Flat. Or so they are saying now. As such, it cannot have a kitchen and cannot be lived in on a permanent basis, although guests can stay there temporarily. It also cannot be rented.
Here I sense a disconnect. I am not certain how anyone could have gotten from the Granny Flat idea to this McGranny. How could the construction of so large a building be allowed by City Hall, yet nothing much can be done with it? If there is to be no kitchen, and nobody can rent the place, what is its purpose? Maybe it is to be clubhouse for some rather privileged youngsters? Complete with an elevator?
Because the permit was pulled in December of 2014, the new rules that were passed by the Planning Commission in June of 2015 do not apply here. Under the new rules, plans for a two story item such as this would need to be submitted to the city for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), and the neighbors would have been notified.
Even though none of this apparently applies to the object of today's conversation, our correspondent wanted to address "2nd units," which the Planning Commission will hopefully be taking up at their September 3rd meeting. So here goes.
A few years back a previous City Council changed the rules to allow 2nd units in R-1 zones. As we stated above, they did this as a way of complying with onerous state mandated RHNA requirements for more low income SCAG Housing without having to actually allow for the building of any. They faced a Hobson's Choice between allowing for more multi-unit buildings in the city, or allowing these already existing (though often rather neglected, or just plain funky in the planner sense) 2nd units to be rebuilt, upgraded and brought up to code in the R-1 Zone.
To make it easier to turn these 2nd units into viable living spaces, that City Council relaxed some of the R-1 Zoning requirements in regards to things like set backs. But now, with the rising of this city's first ever McGranny Mansion (as fine an example of good intentions gone wrong as you will ever see), the concern has become whether or not this effectively turns an R-1 Zone meant for single family homes into an R-2 Zone where pretty much anything goes.
That doesn't sound like anything anyone was looking for to me. Regardless of what you call that bizarre structure, it should not have been allowed under any rules, new or old.
Usually backyards run together. Now the neighbors of this LULU have a massive 2-story structure looming over their properties. Leticia Cardoso believes that under the wording of the new rules a CUP would apply to any 2nd story, whether it's for an "accessory" structure or a "2nd unit." Though, we must add, she wasn't absolutely sure about any of this, and intended to bring it up with the City Attorney.
It is also hoped that new floor area limits would also apply, although I'm not absolutely sure about that, either. Like I said, there are mysteries here.
Maybe this McGranny was just one of those Danny Castro "over the counter specials." You know, like the Carbuncle Castles at 319 and 321 Camillo Road? If there aren't any specific rules against approving construction, you just pass 'em through, right?
You have to wonder if there are any other surprises out there, just waiting to get built.
It might be a good idea to show up at that Planning Commission meeting at 7:00 on September 3rd. There is a lot that needs to be discussed.