Berkeley ADU Rules Found in Violation of State Law

A state agency has ruled against Berke­ley’s restric­tions on acces­so­ry dwelling units (ADUs) in its hill­side neigh­bor­hoods, Nico Savidge for Berke­ley­side, dis­miss­ing the city’s that allow­ing two ADUs per lot in the Berke­ley Hills would neg­a­tive­ly impact safe­ty in the event of a fire evac­u­a­tion. 

As Savidge explains, “Berke­ley’s reg­u­la­tions allow acces­so­ry units to be built through­out the city. But where­as home­own­ers in the flat­lands can build two such units on the same prop­er­ty — both a detached cot­tage and a ‘junior ADU,’ such as a base­ment apart­ment — they are only allowed one acces­so­ry on that lie in areas Berke­ley clas­si­fies as Very High Fire Haz­ard Sever­i­ty Zones.” Accord­ing to Savidge, “David Ziss­er, an assis­tant deputy direc­tor for gov­ern­ment rela­tions and account­abil­i­ty at the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Com­mu­ni­ty Devel­op­ment, struck down that rea­son­ing in an Oct. 17 let­ter to Berke­ley Plan­ning Direc­tor Jor­dan ,” writ­ing that “the city has not ade­quate­ly demon­strat­ed that new ADUs will actu­al­ly impact safe­ty.” Crit­ics see the restric­tion as way for cities to lim­it new hous­ing con­struc­tion in some of their wealth­i­est areas.

Coun­cilmem­ber Susan Wen­graf, who rep­re­sents much of the Berke­ley Hills, said that “state reg­u­la­tors are being too inflex­i­ble with the ADU law and should have pro­vid­ed more lee­way for cities that are at risk from wild­fire to lim­it con­struc­tion.” Wen­graf says she will dis­cuss the issue fur­ther before decid­ing whether to chal­lenge HCD’s deci­sion. 

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