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SACRAMENTO — Sen. Bob Wieckowski thinks California’s housing crisis could be eased one garage apartment or backyard cottage at a time. Make it as easy and inexpensive as possible for people to build small in-law units next to their homes, he argues, and these so called granny or in-law flats — which are cheaper to construct than the average new home and often rented out at below-market-rate prices, a recent study found — will start popping up everywhere. The Fremont Democrat, former city councilman and occasional theater performer (more on that below) passed a bill in 2016 to ease local restrictions on accessory dwelling units, effectively legalizing them statewide.

Now he’s back with Senate Bill 831, which would force local agencies to waive an array of service fees typically charged to newly permitted in-law units, These impact fees help pay for local schools, water and other services, Wieckowski’s bill — which cities are likely to oppose as an attack on local control and funding — would also create an amnesty program for the many existing granny units that are not permitted, “There could be 200,000 `illegal units’ in the state of California, which is nutty,” Wieckowski said, “Let’s bring white ballet flats these people out of the darkness and let them have a documented home that they’re paying taxes on, that they can live in — that they have a window and a front door.”..

We spoke with Wieckowski about solving the housing crisis, changes in his hometown and why he thinks granny units are an answer. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Q: How has Fremont changed since your childhood?. A:  When we were in high school, one of my sister’s friends would ride a horse from Stevenson Boulevard to Mission Boulevard. I remember the horse being on our front lawn. It wasn’t exactly the wild west, but the Sundale Manor home my parents bought in 1959 was like the fourth tract home development. It was mostly fields.

Q: How has the housing affordability crisis affected your hometown?, A: Eugene and Helen — my parents — bought their 4-bedroom, 2-bath house for $99 down and $99 a month for 30 years, Now, if you could rent an apartment, it would probably cost you $2,500, And I think my house in Sundale Manor is probably worth $950,000, white ballet flats The affordability is just outrageous, Modest-income folks have been pushed out, I remember Brookvale, in the northern part of Fremont, was predominately teachers, I remember all of the teachers were buying houses there, Now, on a teacher’s salary, you’d have to not eat for four years and not pay taxes just for the down payment, and you couldn’t afford your mortgage..

Q: What kind of a dent can these backyard or garage units make in the problem?. A: It’s twofold: having all these unpermitted structures be legalized, and to have ordinary people help us with this housing crisis. It can’t always be government coming up with a big bond. This is really just, “Get out of the way and let people who want to help and build a unit on their house, let them do it.”. Q: Why were cities reluctant to allow these in the past?. A: When I was on the planning commission in Fremont I was stunned by why there weren’t many second units. The stated concern is that they don’t want people parking on the street, even though in California there’s all kinds of people parking on the street. There’s all kinds of people whose garages are so filled with junk that they can’t park in their garage, but nobody’s going to pass an ordinance to say, “Hey get rid of your junk, declutter your garage.” I think there’s an also well-documented NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) phenomenon that neighborhoods would say, “We don’t want that low-income housing or that type of person (whoever that person would be) who would live in that accessory unit.” What happened is 40 years passed and we’ve got no place to build homes and prices got higher and people are driving two hours to get to their jobs, and nobody wants to do anything to change the decision-making at city hall. So hopefully SB 831 does that.

Q: Do you have an in-law unit, or any plans to build one if Fremont waives the fees?, A: No, I’d like one, though, I have to spend my time getting the votes on SB 831, Q: Is this a solution for parents white ballet flats who worry their kids will leave California because they can’t afford it here?, A: I think it’s an opportunity for people of all ages and all types of families, and extended families, The idea that you would have a separate unit that the newlyweds can move into, and when they have kids you could imagine the grandparents saying, “Well, why don’t you take our house and we’ll move into the ADU as we go into retirement.” That’s not a bad line as people plan their lives and their children’s lives..

Q: Where do you see this trend going?. A: Where I see it going is to suburbia. I think that every suburban town is going to see residents come in and really start applying for this. SB 831 will eliminate impact fees and fees that water districts and school districts can charge. How many times have we heard about government regulation and government fees? Here’s the liberal from Fremont saying we’re going to get rid of them — you don’t have to pay that. I think there’s going to be a renaissance with homeowners who are going to want to do this.

Q: Do you think the bill has the support to pass?, A: Oh yeah, Just looking at the white ballet flats numbers of people who are applying for permits, when they see, “Wieckowski’s got another bill — I don’t have to pay impact fees.” I would imagine next year, the cities should be sending out community newsletters saying in four different languages, “If you have an illegal unit, the amnesty period has started, Please come forward.” We’re saying, make it safe, make it livable, Bob Wieckowski profile..



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