Placer updates secondary unit ordinance with eye on housing |

Placer updates secondary unit ordinance with eye on housing

Kelsie Longerbeam
The Frishman Hollow development is a past example of a form Truckee affordable housing.
Seth Lightcap/ Sierra Sun |

Placer County has made it easier to build secondary dwelling units in hopes of increasing workforce housing.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted on Thursday, Nov. 16, to support an update to the county’s ordinance for secondary dwelling units. These units, commonly known as in-law suites or granny flats, are permanent dwellings that are an accessory to a primary dwelling on the same site.

Secondary dwelling units are an important source of housing since they can be built at a relatively inexpensive cost, have no associated land costs, and tend to be more affordable because of their smaller sizes.

“We are trying to incentivize additional workforce housing, what we’re not trying to incentivize is additional vacation rental housing,” said District 5 Supervisor and Board Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery. “We don’t want to turn residential neighborhoods into commercial operations.”

The units are typically used for homeowners to accommodate young adults attending college, college graduates returning to home, and those providing care for aging parents, all of which helps ease the pressure on a limited stock of rental housing.

The updated ordinance will allow flexibility for either the primary or secondary dwelling on the property to be available for owner occupancy or long-term rental, which is defined as 31 consecutive calendar days or more.

The ordinance allows a maximum secondary unit size of 1,200 square feet on any lot size so long as it meets county height, setback and lot coverage requirements; allows attached secondary dwelling units sizes up to 50 percent of the existing structure’s living area; keeps secondary dwelling units consistent with existing zoning and the county General Plan; and requires only one on-site parking space per secondary dwelling, either as tandem parking on an existing driveway or in setback areas, among other parking requirement exemptions.

Additionally, the ordinance allows a property owner to voluntarily deed restrict a secondary dwelling unit for affordability in order to be exempt from building permit and other specified fees, including county road network fees and county parks and recreational facility fees.

The dwelling may either be attached or detached from the primary unit and must provide complete, independent living facilities for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation. Guest and pool houses are not considered secondary dwelling units.

Placer County previously eased restrictions on secondary dwelling units in March 2016; this ordinance update brings the county’s ordinance into line with state law passed subsequently that eased them even further. The ordinance is set to go into effect Dec. 12.

Kelsie Longerbeam is the news, business and environment reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. She can be contacted at or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram @kelsielongerbm

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