10/03/2008: "PC Reverses Former Opinion -Agrees To ADU Lottery"
The SJC Planning Commission (PC) has voted to approve a recommendation from CD&P (Community Development & Planning) to drop the “First Come, First Served” call-in permit application process currently used to apply for an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) Permit.
While only the method of how one applies would be changed (the rest of the procedure process would remain the same) it is possible the result will be less permits for ADUs -also known as guest houses- being granted.
The current system requires some commitment, but under the lottery system anyone will be able to throw their name into a hat and hope for the best, even if they really have no intent of building an ADU.
This is important because there are only a limited number of permits available per year, and each winner of the lottery will have six months, or the end of the year -whichever comes first- to turn in a complete permit application.
If an application is not turned in, or if it is decided for some reason at the end of the process that the applicant does not really qualify, the next person in line is contacted, and then they have six months to turn in an application.
Problem is, the clock is running, and six months and six months takes care of the year, and at the end of year all of the permits available must have been used, or they expire. So if you are, for example the third guy in line, and the other two both took six months to decide not to turn in a permit, or it took that long to find out they did not qualify for a permit, then that particular permit expires.
CD&P Director Ron Hendrickson asked the County Council to consider the change to a lottery system to make the system easier for the public and for the staff; and because there was a fairness issue involved with the call-in system.
Hendrickson said under the current system some applicants were marshaling their friends to aid them in attempts to get a call through in the limited time CD&P allows.
The CC agreed to send the proposal to the PC for their review and possible recommendation.
Hendrickson and a staff member gave the same arguments to the Planning Commission members, who were, for the most part, receptive to the concept.
One of the problems with the phone in system they said, was the degree of success in completing a call may be related to where one calls in from, with long distance calls being less likely to get though then a local call. No evidence was presented to support this assertion, but none was needed to convince a majority of the PC members to vote for the change; with one vote to keep it as is.
One the PC members said the obvious solution to the problem of the permits expiring without being used, is to allow the permits authorized for one year, to be moved forward to the next year, if no one has used it.
Hendrickson said the Growth Board did not allow them to be moved forward. A review of the Growth Management Orders did not indicate that Hendrickson was correct, and County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord who wrote the ordinance said the Growth Board did not state what the details of the ordinance had to be. “They only approved what the County gave them.” he said. In other words, the County put the prohibition into the ordinance, and so they can also remove it.
Gaylord also recalled that one of the objections originally made to a lottery system was the concern that those who opposed ADUs could flood the lottery with applications, and then not use them, which would extinguish them.
The PC will now formalize a report and forward it to the CC for their review. The CC will then hold a public hearing on the matter before voting on a change to the controlling ordinance.
It is possible that one of the fears expressed by a PC member when the idea of a lottery was first suggested -prior to the writing of the ordinance- was that a lottery will increase the number of applicants, since the process will become easy to participate in, which will decrease the odds of obtaining a permit.
If true, this would paradoxically not only increase the work load of staff if there are more applications to process to determine their validly, but at the same time may result in less permits being issued than the ordinance allows.