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Belvedere sets emergency limits on new housing law

Belvedere has passed temporary guidelines that limit building size, floor area and height on housing developed under a new state law that makes it easier to build up to four units on lots otherwise zoned for just one.

The City Council at its Jan. 10 teleconference meeting voted unanimously to approve the 45-day urgency ordinance until it reviews and adopts a more comprehensive housing standards document, expected to happen later this month.

The urgency ordinance was in response to Senate Bill 9, the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency Act, which took effect Jan. 1. It allows ministerial approval — without discretionary review or a public hearing — for most homeowners to build two homes or a duplex on a lot zoned for single-family housing or, if the lot’s greater than 2,400 square feet, a lot split with two homes or a duplex on each, for four total units. The state’s goal is to not just create new housing but to allow for more affordable homeownership opportunities.

The bill does, however, provide local government the ability to regulate some aspects of the proposed developments, as long as those criteria don’t conflict with language in the law. Without the ordinance, development plans would need to be approved at the staff level under the less-restrictive standards of SB 9. However, developers who don’t adhere to the guidelines can still apply, with their plans subject to review in a hearing of the Planning Commission.

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