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Woodside: Easing regulations on building second housing units

Proposed ordinance would prohibit rentals of fewer than 30 days

The Woodside Town Council on Tuesday (March 14), in a unanimous vote, introduced an ordinance intended to make it easier for residents to build second units -- now referred to by the state as accessory dwelling units. The ordinance includes a provision that these dwellings cannot be rented for fewer than 30 days.

New state laws designed to provide more housing affordable to people of low and moderate incomes took effect on Jan. 1. The new ordinance would bring Woodside's municipal code into compliance with the new laws.

The council will hold one more public hearing, probably at its next meeting, on March 28, when it is expected to vote a second time on the ordinance. If approved, the ordinance becomes law 30 days later.

Among the changes in the proposed ordinance:

• Accessory dwelling units would be required to have just one parking space per unit, down from two spaces. However, town code will continue to include provisions allowing for additional parking, according to a staff report.

• Property owners in the R1 zoning district – principally Woodside Glens and Emerald Hills – with properties of at least 20,000 square feet may build accessory dwelling units that are detached from the main residence. On smaller properties in the R1 district, the dwelling units must be attached.

• A building permit for an accessory dwelling unit may be approved by Town Hall staff if the structure is located within an existing residence, has independent access to the outside, and has side and rear property line setbacks that are sufficient for fire safety.

The 30-day restriction on rental units was not part of state law. The council held a study session on short-term rentals last October at which most of the comments from the public were complaints about the disruption caused by short-term rentals, such as those done through Airbnb. Events involving groups of people have been particularly troubling to neighbors, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said at the time.

At the study session, Councilman Peter Mason suggested that the council focus on worst cases and "quickly put something in that allows us to defend the community."

The 30-day restriction was one of several ideas proposed at the study session. Others included no corporate leasing within residential areas, limiting the number of rentals in a calendar year, and requiring the homeowner to be living on the property.

The council asked staff to prepare a report with six or seven approaches to the problem and including some common regulating ideas, such as using nuisance laws.

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