The other side of the student housing crisis has been the proliferation of mini-dorms, as students lacking multi-family units on and off campus have been pushed into the neighborhoods. While the council has attempted to alleviate some of the concerns through an increase in supply and has been joined in their efforts by the campus’ commitment to add 9000 beds over the next decade, the council will for the first time take up the issue of mini-dorms directly, at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Back on August 28, the council directed staff to address “neighborhood concerns about the lack of notification for large-scale additions to existing residences and new construction within existing neighborhoods.”
These concerns have focused on both the intensity of use as well as “new construction and additions being out of scale and incongruent with the existing built environment.”
Under current laws, if such projects are found to be consistent with existing zoning regulations, they need only request a building permit. Such process permits “no city discretionary review or neighbor notification.”
The “City has no authority to deny such a project, or to require adjustments in design to address potential neighborhood concerns” under existing rules in the Municipal Code.
The city is recommending council approve an “Urgency Ordinance” that would amend the Davis Municipal Code to “require architectural and design review for the new construction of single-family dwellings, duplexes or two-family dwellings that are two or more stories; and for additions to single-family dwellings, duplexes or two-family dwellings of 40% or more in gross square footage.”
To pass, the Urgency Ordinance requires four votes from council.
Staff explained, “The purpose of the ordinance is to set an immediate opportunity for neighborhood notification for all newly constructed two-story residences, significant additions, and an opportunity to review the design of these projects to address concerns similar to those expressed in the past.”
With a shortage still in multi-family housing, property owners have continued to show an interest in pursuing significant expansion of existing residences. Staff notes that “the trend (is) for new construction of homes proposed to be significantly larger than existing nearby homes.”
As such, the staff believes that the urgency ordinance is “necessary to ensure that the design of proposed projects are suitable for the site, enhance the neighborhood character, and to ensure proposed projects are compatible with existing properties and anticipated future developments within the neighborhood in terms of elements such as height, mass, scale and proportion.”
Under the proposed ordinance, staff would have a noticing map and be required to notify all residents within 500 feet of the project.
Neighbors would be provided “with a ten day comment period to review the proposed project and to pose any comments or questions to staff.”
While the action would be administrative review, there would be a ten day period that would allow any party to appeal the action to the Planning Commission, which would ultimately allow for the city council to review projects under some conditions.
In reviewing the issue, “staff feels that existing height and area regulations established in the zoning ordinance provide for the compatible design and construction of new single-story homes and additions that do not exceed 40% without a need for additional review.”
They note: “New construction of single-story homes and additions of this scale have not been the source of significant neighborhood concern.”
However the review of a larger dwelling would “allow for compatibility concerns to be discussed and addressed.”
Staff believes that “the urgency ordinance is drafted in a manner to address the majority of the situations that cause neighborhood concern without unduly burdening all new residential construction and additions.”
Staff is still under the belief that “a primary home of five bedrooms is reasonable without the need for a CUP.” They did explore an amendment that would “require a CUP for any combination where a primary home and an accessory dwelling unit result in more than five bedrooms on one parcel.”
However, “In reviewing the possibility of proposing an amendment to the municipal code to address this matter, staff found that the state statute governing approval of accessory dwelling units is extremely stringent and limits the City’s ability to require discretionary approval, and likely would not allow for this type of restriction.”
In addition to concerns about intensity of use, “residents have voiced concern that some property owners may not be in compliance with registering rental dwelling units as required by Section 18.11 of the municipal code.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting