Thursday, June 17, 2021



Williams prepares for California’s many zoning changes

Tiny homes and homeless centers could be coming to a neighborhood near you.

The Williams Planning Commission in April decided to take a few extra weeks to absorb the many changes in California zoning laws intended to remove constraints to affordable housing.

The Planning Commission expects to make the changes to the city’s zoning codes and housing element on May 17 before sending it to the City Council for final approval.

Williams Planning Consultant Gary Price said the city must amend its zoning codes to address a statewide goal of producing more housing, particularly for low-income earners.

“After the zoning code is updated, we have to present the changes to the state,” Price said.

Price said a number of state housing laws have been created over the past few years that will streamline the review processes for new housing, relax some development standards, and address alternative types of housing than just single-family residential homes.

“There have been many changes, with the most significant being the secondary housing issue,” Price said.

Planning Commissioners said they have already fielded calls about the allowance of what the state now calls “Accessory Dwelling Units,” which are independent residential dwellings located on the same lot as a stand-alone single-family home.

Relaxed laws will allow for more small backyard homes to be constructed or moved onto single residential lots to provide additional housing, as long as they meet certain standards, as well as other leniencies for converting garages into accessory dwellings and modular home in

Commissioner Marcie Voorhees said members of the public have even asked to convert shipping containers into tiny houses to provide additional housing, but Price said the cost to meet the standards for plumbing, roofs, and sidings would likely be very high and more than the cost of a prefabricated tiny house.

Among some of the other changes to state law, the city must adopt is creating a new priority housing Infill Development Program to help the city identify opportunities to reduce or relax development standards, such as smaller residential lots on the westside of town to encourage development.

The city will also have the flexibility to approve higher-density single-family housing to ultimately provide for more affordable market-rate workforce housing.

“This allows the Planning Commission to waive certain development standards, such as lot size as long as it is consistent with the General Plan,” Price said.

New state laws also require cities to address other types of housing needs, including “low barrier navigation centers” to house homeless or disenfranchised individuals.

Under the new law, the housing element of cities and counties must identify adequate sites for housing all economic segments of a community.

The updated plan would give the Planning Commission more flexibility to approve housing that would have few barriers for entry. Typical housing barriers include lack of state-issued identification, previous evictions, lack of employment.

Zoning laws would generally require that emergency shelters be in areas that allow residential use, including mixed-use areas, but would now permit designation in nonresidential zones if not possible where residential use is permitted and if a local government can demonstrate that the zone is connected to specified amenities and services. The bill would remove the authorization granted to local governments to require off-street parking, as specified, in connection with standards applied to emergency shelters.

The Williams zoning code update, if approved by the City Council, would go into effect 30 days after final adoption, likely in September, officials said.


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