Albany residents who want to build an accessory dwelling unit of up to 900 square feet may get their desire after all.
The Albany City Council voted 4-2 on Wednesday, with councilors Bill Coburn and Dick Olsen dissenting, to amend the city's development code to loosen restrictions on ADUs.
The main change: New ADUs in Albany will be allowed a maximum of 900 square feet, assuming all other standards are met, up from the current limit of 750 square feet.
Albany's old code also required that either the main building or the ADU be lived in by the owner, a requirement the update eliminates. The old code also restricted ADUs to certain subdivisions, a restriction that's now been lifted.
Lastly, the code update as adopted Wednesday requires sites with ADUs that have two or fewer on-site parking spaces to provide at least one additional parking space to serve the ADU. That space must be on site unless there's no room, and in that case one street parking space will count toward the total.
Although it was not part of the formal motion, councilors and Mayor Sharon Konopa agreed in principal to revisit the city's ADU situation at some future point. All said they want to see how many applications have been received and for what size buildings, and evaluate any potential problems that may have come up.
Konopa vetoed the ADU changes in July, the last time they came before the council, mostly because of the 900-square-foot proposal. The veto was her first in 10 years as mayor.
It takes five votes to overturn a mayoral veto, which the council was unable to muster. Konopa has until the end of the day Friday to issue another veto but said late Wednesday she's not certain whether she will. If she chooses not to, the code updates take effect.
The council needed to revise its ADU policy to comply with updates in state law. The updates allow the dwellings anywhere within areas zoned for single-family residences. That went against Albany's development code, which allowed accessory dwelling units only in certain subdivisions, or only if converted buildings were a certain age.
State law doesn't mandate sizes for ADUs, however, leaving that decision up to cities.
Konopa has said she objects to the idea of accessory dwelling units in general, but acknowledged the state requires cities to allow them.
If ADUs are allowed, however, Konopa said she believes they should remain at no larger than 750 square feet. She objects to larger ones because they could hold larger families, which could prompt neighborhood parking problems and strains on city services not designed to meet the greater demand.
"It's changing the character of a neighborhood," she said.
Coburn and Olsen agreed, and also objected to the amendment that allows the owner of a home with an accessory dwelling unit to rent out both of them.
City staffers had said in previous reports this is no longer mandated because it's hard to enforce and doesn't involve a siting or design situation, which is what the state says cities can regulate. Property owners are still responsible for both dwellings.
Councilors Rich Kellum and Ray Kopczynski, who voted for the amendments, said they didn't believe the updates would prompt any large-scale changes in Albany. Only two requests have been received so far, Kellum noted, and ADUs must still comply with height and setback restrictions.
ADUs also are are costly to build, Kopczynski said. "You don't just go down to Home Depot and buy an ADU-in-a-box."