To spur growth and keep track of the number of in-law units in town, Portola Valley is seeking two to four volunteers to promote accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — which make up about a third of the town's draft housing element.
The volunteers would help verify the town's existing list of units, gauge community interest in constructing new units, gather data on unpermitted ADUs that could be legalized, and find people interested in renting their ADUs to lower income tenants.
The ADU ambassador program came about as part of the town's state mandated housing element process, said Vice Mayor Sarah Wernikoff during a Sept. 14 Town Council meeting. The town's Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee members, along with residents, expressed an interest in expanding ADU outreach and gathering additional information about how ADUs could be best used to help satisfy the town's obligations under state law.
"There was a lot of passion about leaning into ADUs more," she said. "We want to harness the spirit of community volunteerism to support initiatives within the housing element and understand the landscape of ADUs better."
Portola Valley is required to plan for 253 new units as part of the 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), compared to just 64 in the last cycle. The town built in a buffer of extra units, meaning it's planning for a total of 293 units to be constructed. The town's draft housing element anticipates 92 new ADUs, of which 56 will be designated as low or very low-income housing units.
The town's planning department would develop the survey and the ambassadors would reach out to residents — going door-to-door, standing in front of Roberts Market, etc. — to gather a minimum 80% response rate from town property owners, Wernikoff said. Staff will train volunteers and provide educational materials on ADUs, she said.
Wernikoff clarified that the volunteers will not be interpreting, or changing, the housing element. The town has also acknowledged that ADUs alone won't be enough to satisfy its RHNA figures.
Town officials plan to develop a program to match low-income tenants with Portola Valley ADU owners willing to rent in-law units at below market rates, according to the draft element.
The town's ADU ordinance allows one ADU and one JADU (junior ADU) on all parcels smaller than 3.5 acres in all zoning districts, except on properties that are subject to a fire safety exception for parcels that are smaller than one acre whose direct vehicular access is from a road or cul-de-sac which has a single point of ingress or egress, and has a width of less than 18 feet.
Parcels with 3.5 or more acres are allowed to have two ADUs. All existing development restrictions in the base zoning district apply, including adjusted maximum floor area, height, setbacks, parking, site development and outdoor lighting requirements.
The town estimates the time commitment for the ambassadors will be about 10 hours per week from Oct. 24 to Dec. 7.
Apply to be an ambassador by Oct. 7 here.
Watch a video of the Sept. 14 meeting here.