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ADU Advocates’ Unsanctioned Guidance for Oregon Cities Updating Local ADU Regulations by January, 2020 to Comply with HB 2001 Statute

Two of the most common “poison pills” in ADU standards will be prohibited statewide in Oregon beginning in January, 2020, making earlier ADU legislation significantly more effective.

Oregon House Bill 2001 (HB 2001) was signed into law on August 8th, 2019. While HB 2001 rightly claimed headlines for expanding missing middle housing options, it also included some specific requirements for ADUs. 

These additional provisions address ADU standards to clarify earlier legislation passed in 2017 mandating cities over 2,500 people to permit ADUs with all single-family homes (SB 1051). The milestone element within HB 2001 is statutory follow-up clarification that requires Oregon cities with more than 2,500 people to update their ADU codes to eliminate occupancy requirements and off-street parking requirements by January 2020. 

These are two of the most restrictive ADU development standards, and this prohibition significantly improves the efficacy of the 2017 statutory ADU mandate. 

“I think everyone in this room knows what the bill will do besides change Oregon. I think it’s gonna change the United States”  -Governor Kate Brown, August 8th, 2019

Excerpts from HB 2001 about ADU code updates

January, 2020? 

Wait. That’s less than two months away! Yep. And there are multiple government holidays in between. 

Indeed. In less than two months, cities in Oregon are legislatively mandated to update their zoning codes to comply with this new state law. Approximately 134 of Oregon’s cities and towns (with a population of more than 2,500 people) must comply.

Even if cities don’t update their codes on the books, we assume that homeowners who wish to build an ADU should still be able to take advantage of the new state law, and that existent ADU owners are duly relieved of these onerous provisions of the legacy code.  This theory could be tested in future Land Use Board of Appeals cases that could set legal precedent..

The code updates are fairly simple, and we’ll provide an example here of what those code updates may look like. And while cities are making these revisions to their ADU codes, we suggest that they use this deadline as an opportunity to make a few other changes as well.

Here’s a sample of an existing ADU code from Cornelius, Oregon that must be updated to comply with HB 2001. Our intent isn’t to pick on the Cornelius ADU code. Most cities have ADU codes that don’t yet comply with HB 2001 and can benefit from additional changes as well.  The Cornelius ADU code is refreshingly simple, making it good to use for illustration of changes that any city in Oregon could make.

Here are the required updates that Cornelius must now take with their ADU code:

 Accessory dwellings shall comply with the following:

(1) The owner(s) of the primary dwelling shall occupy at least one of the units.

(2) There shall be a minimum of 250 square feet of floor area for each occupant, and there shall be no more than two occupants, and the unit shall not exceed 800 square feet, or 30 percent of the total floor area of the primary dwelling.

(3) One additional off-street parking space shall be provided, unless waived by the planning commission.

(4) The exterior architectural design and building materials are consistent with those of the primary dwelling, and there shall be only one front door facing the street.

(5) All yard area requirements of the base zone shall be met, and the unit shall comply with the fire and life safety codes. [Ord. 810, 2000; Code 2000 § 11.20.09.]

If Cornelius wanted to go a step further towards complying with the spirit and intent of SB 1051 and HB 2001, which were laws written to help encourage ADU development, they’d simplify their code by striking out a few more restrictive elements. Additionally, the design standard should be clarified to comply with existing state requirements for residential standards to be “clear and objective” rather than discretionary. (ORS 197.307(4).)

 Accessory dwellings shall comply with the following:

(1) The owner(s) of the primary dwelling shall occupy at least one of the units.

(2) There shall be a minimum of 250 square feet of floor area for each occupant, and there shall be no more than two occupants, and tThe unit shall not exceed 800 square feet. or 30 percent of the total floor area of the primary dwelling.

(3) One additional off-street parking space shall be provided, unless waived by the planning commission.

(4) The exterior architectural design and building materials are consistent with are the same as those of the primary dwelling. and there shall be only one front door facing the street.

(5) All yard area requirements of the base zone shall be met, and the unit shall comply with the fire and life safety codes. [Ord. 810, 2000; Code 2000 § 11.20.09.]

But wait, there’s more

In addition to the required changes that cities must make per statute, here are some further barriers, found in other parts of the code, that could be removed to support ADU development in Oregon.

You’re Setting Me Back

Cornelius’ “base zone” rear yard setback (see bullet 5 above) is currently 10 feet

(D) Minimum Yard Area Setbacks.

(1) Front Yard. The front, as measured from the furthest extension of the home, including porch or decks, shall not be less than 10 feet. Accessory structures, garages or carports shall not be less than 20 feet.

(2) Rear Yard. No rear yard shall be less than 10 feet in depth.

10-foot setbacks don’t work well for detached ADUs. ADUs are commonly built as detached new construction on relatively small lots. 10-foot (or more) rear and side yard setbacks can make it impossible to physically locate an ADUs on average 5,000 sq ft sized lots in central city neighborhoods.  

Even 5-foot setbacks for ADUs are passe at this point. 

Cornelius should consider matching its setback standards to what California now requires of every one of its municipal ADU codes: 4 feet by right, and zero feet if it’s replacing or converting an existing structure. 

No setback shall be required for an existing living area or accessory structure or a structure constructed in the same location and to the same dimensions as an existing structure that is converted to an accessory dwelling unit or to a portion of an accessory dwelling unit, and a setback of no more than four feet from the side and rear lot lines shall be required for an accessory dwelling unit that is not converted from an existing structure or a new structure constructed in the same location and to the same dimensions as an existing structure.”

Excerpt from California’s Assembly Bill 6865852.2. (D) (vii)

Why Just One ADU?

Another idea for Oregon cities to consider is allowing two ADUs, as Tigard and Washington County have done.  Cornelius is also experimenting by permitting two ADUs in the central residential neighborhoods closest to downtown as part of their recent Town Center Plan.   Portland is gearing up to pass a code that will allow two detached ADUs. In fact, this may be a big step towards meeting HB 2001’s Middle Housing code standards for larger Oregon Cities, well before the mandatory compliance date of June 2022.

Relaxing structural and energy standards for conversions of existing permitted structures

Creating an ADU within the envelope of an existing primary dwelling is more environmentally friendly and usually less expensive than building a detached ADU.  So to further these policy priorities, it makes sense to reduce the regulatory burden for converting existing structures. 

Oregon state code allows jurisdictions to provide flexibility in building codes for situations where non-living space is converted into living space within older homes.  Such rules can make it much easier to create ‘internal’ ADUs.

For instance, cities can allow people doing garage conversions to fill the 2” x 4” stud bays with R13 insulation rather than furring out the walls or replacing all the studs with 2” x 6”s to meet current insulation standards.  Similarly, a basement conversion or garage conversion could have an R13 insulation requirement, which could be met within a 2” x 4” perimeter wall that’s likely there already.

Below ground, the concrete foundations of existing structures may not be deep or wide large enough to meet current building code. Even if the building ‘use’ is changing from non-habitable to habitable, these non-conforming structural elements should be grandfathered in if we are to enable the possibility for more structural ADU conversions.  

Portland provides simple guidance to homeowners on these matters in a two-page flier, called Converting Attics, Basements and Garages to Living Space”.

But, ADUs are Still Extremely Expensive to Build

If Portland provided an ADU success story to observe, it had the 2010 SDC waiver to thank for it. Jurisdictions that want to promote ADUs, should consider using this historic moment to attempt a time-limited SDC waiver for ADUs. That little boost could help to kickstart some ADU development like it did in Portland beginning in 2010. 

Reduce Parking Requirements for the Primary Dwelling

Make room for ADUs on typical single-family lots by reducing the minimum parking requirements associated with the primary dwelling and required parking layout.  For example, requiring three or more spaces and requiring them to be located in a garage or carport can take away space that could be redeveloped into an ADU. Liberalizing off-street parking requirements for the primary dwelling could include reducing minimum number of off-street spaces to one or two at most, and permitting those spaces to be covered or uncovered, and permitting parking spaces in the driveway, even in tandem, to count towards the minimum.  

Benchmarks, Measurements, Policy Making, Oh My

Finally, HB 2001 also requires cities to track the number of ADUs beginning February 1st, 2020. 

We would also encourage cities to track ADUs by type: basement conversion, internal conversion, garage conversion, addition, or detached new construction. Other metrics would be valuable to track as well, such as what the initial intended use of the unit is, and how many square feet it is. But, any standardized count of permitted ADUs will be helpful as we start to learn more about the spread of ADUs in a state that has legislatively knocked down some of the larger ADU barriers. 

This post was co-authored by Kol Peterson (Accessory Dwelling Strategies LLC), Eli Spevak (Orange Splot LLC), and Elizabeth Decker (Jet Planning LLC)

About Kol Peterson

Kol is an ADU consultant, advocate and author of Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development. Read more here: AccessoryDwellingStrategies.com and learn about building your own at BuildingAnADU.com. Email at Kol@accessorydwellingstrategies.com

2 comments on “ADU Advocates’ Unsanctioned Guidance for Oregon Cities Updating Local ADU Regulations by January, 2020 to Comply with HB 2001 Statute

  1. Aaron
    December 5, 2019

    Just to point out that only sections 2,12 and 13 have an effective date of Jan 1, 2020.. All of the other sections – section 7 specifically – which modifies the off street parking and occupancy requirement don’t go into effect until either 2021 or 2022 based on the size of the community per section 3

    • Kol Peterson
      December 5, 2019

      Aaron, the ADU elements actually go into effect in January, 2020. ORS 197.312 has the text that is being modified to eliminate parking and owner occupancy for ADUs. “SECTION 14. (1) Sections 2, 12 and 13 of this 2019 Act and the amendments to ORS197.296, 197.303, 197.312 and 455.610 and section 1, chapter 47, Oregon Laws 2018, by sections 5 to 9 of this 2019 Act become operative on January 1, 2020.(2) The Land Conservation and Development Commission,”.

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This entry was posted on November 18, 2019 by in Policy & Trends and tagged .

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