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ADU Policy Updates Underway

By Datta Khalsa, Broker

I was pleased to learn that my recent column on local ADU occupancy policies prompted the following statement by Lee Butler, Director of Planning for the City of Santa Cruz, which I am relaying in this week’s column to provide a more current read on their position, that it might help anyone with a current compliance case pending:

“The state’s current prohibition on ADU owner occupancy requirements is for permits issued between 1/1/20 to 1/1/25.  For permits issued pre-1/1/20, the City’s owner occupancy requirement still applies.  A prior Council declined to direct staff to remove the requirement altogether circa the time that the state’s prohibition took effect, but that doesn’t mean that the pre-2020 owner occupancy requirement will remain in perpetuity.  In fact, several potential changes are at play. 

First, staff requested, and the Council affirmed in December 2022 that we do outreach related to this issue.  We’re planning to start that outreach in the next few months.  We’ll be bringing a recommendation to the Planning Commission and Council related to this issue later this year, so the pre-2020 owner occupancy requirement could potentially be removed through that process.


Second, the state has a bill introduced this year (AB 976 (Ting)) that would prohibit owner occupancy requirements for ADUs indefinitely.  Another member of the Planning Department and I are on the American Planning Association’s CA Chapter Legislative Policy Committee, and our other representative on the committee made the wise suggestion that this bill should be amended to also apply retroactively. 

I don’t know if that will get any traction with Ting, but it was well received in our committee. That’s one avenue where owner occupancy requirements would be removed.  If the bill passes without a retroactivity clause, then I can tell you that staff will propose to the Council that pre-2020 ADUs also have their owner occupancy requirement removed. I would recommend that interested parties sign up for the ADU email list at 

Regarding enforcement of the owner occupancy requirement, we regularly pause enforcement if pending local or state law changes would affect the outcome of the case.  We have done just that for owners in similar situations to that referenced.  The owner should simply reach out to the Code Compliance Specialist who they are working with and request such a stay of enforcement while this issue is being considered, and it will be granted.  I will also follow up with the team to alert them to these pending changes, though I know that some, if not all, of the team is aware of these potential updates and our pending work related to them.”

In closing, Lee offered the following note of correction which I am sharing here in the interest of maintaining editorial accuracy:

Regarding SB 9…that is separate from the aforementioned ADU bills and separate from the 1/20 through 1/25 owner occupancy prohibition.  SB 9 requires an affidavit that the owner will live on-site for at least three years.

It is encouraging to see our city officials actively working to develop solutions and helping to ensure that the information being disseminated on these important issues is accurate.

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