City to consider more 'granny flat' options

Garage conversions to accessory dwelling units in California. (CityLab)

Evanston city staff will ask aldermen Monday whether they're open to expanding affordable housing options by permitting attached accessory dwelling units in garages and garden-level spaces.

The City Council last year approved a zoning change to permit rental of detached accessory dwellings, or coach houses, to non-family members. So far the city's only received four applications for new ADUs, sometimes referred to as granny flats. But Evanston's rules currently ban attached accessory units.

Three urban planning professors, writing in CityLab this month, urged that Californians take advantage of a new state law there that overrides local zoning to permit garage conversions. They say that in Los Angeles the change in the law increased the number of permits approved in Los Angeles for accessory dwelling units from 117 in 2016 to 4,171 in 2018.

In Arlington, Virginia, officials who've already approved attached ADUs, are now moving to allow construction of detached ones.

A limited number of attached ADUs have been recently approved in Evanston, but they had to go through the Zoning Board of Appeals process and receive special zoning relief.

The City Council is also expected to be asked to approve a small lot housing concept for a city-owned lot at 2122 Darrow Ave.  from the Evanston Development Cooperative under the city's "unique use" standards. A 2016 plan to build six "tiny homes" on the site adjacent to Twiggs Park didn't move forward.

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