Ordinance & Policy Updates

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Relocation Assistance for Displaced Tenants (Large Rent Increase Ordinance)

Last Updated: February 26, 2019

On January 8, 2019 City Council Approved:

An amendment to Chapter 21.03 of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code, Relocation Assistance For Displaced Tenants.

The amendment defines what constitutes a “large rent increase” and spells out requirements for relocation assistance should a tenant need to move because of a substantial increase in rent. For more information on the ordinance, please check out our Frequently Asked Questions flyer and a copy of the ordinance.

You can also visit the Housing Assistance Information page from our Economic Development Department for additional resources and information.


Accessory Dwelling Unit Updates

Last Updated: February 15, 2019

On February 12, at the second reading of the ADU Ordinance Amendments, the City Council voted to add one additional proposal to the list of Proposals Approved:

One item from Category 3: Land Use Policies

  1. Eliminating parking requirements for Detached New Construction ADUs.

The Council provided further direction that staff shall return to the Council in one year with an update on the number of ADUs that have been created, the number of those ADUs that are Detached New Construction ADUs, and the number of parking complaints we have received from neighbors. At that time, the Council will evaluate the impacts of the change in parking policy and could vote to change the policy, at their discretion.

The amended ordinance had a first reading on February 12, and will return for a second reading on February 26. When the ordinances pass they go into effect 30 days later.

Accessory Dwelling Unit Updates

Last Updated: January 25, 2019

The City is in the process of revising the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations. The actions described below were taken by the City Council on January 22, 2019, based on a set of proposed ordinance amendments that are summarized in the document attached below.

Once the approved proposals are finalized and go into effect, the information on the website will be updated to reflect the new Code requirements.

For a more detailed analysis of these policies, the staff report and attachments for the 1/22 City Council hearing are available online. (Click on the link, then click on the title of Item 23, and the materials will appear in a list on the right side of the screen). 

The project manager for this item is Sarah Neuse. She can be reached at sneuse@cityofsantacruz.com or (831) 420-5092.

Proposals APPROVED:

 All items from Category 1: State Required Changes

  1. Removing parking requirement for Attached ADUs (attached to the primary home, to a garage, or to another legal structure on the property);
  2. Removing the Minimum Parcel Size (ADUs can now be added to any size lot);
  3. Allowing ADUs by right in all Residential Zones, when built with a single family home;
  4. Removing requirements for Use Permits/Design Permits for ADUs on substandard lots; and
  5. Allowing ADUs above garages to provide minimum setbacks of 5 feet to side and rear lot lines (previously required minimum of 10 from the rear).

Some items from Category 2: Site and Building Standards

  1. Allowing full reconstruction of Conversion ADUs (previously limited to 50% of the structure);
  2. Allowing modest expansions of Conversion ADUs of up to 120 square feet of floor area and 2 feet of height; and
  3. Allowing interior connections between an attached ADUs and the Primary Home on the parcel (Building Code will likely require a self-closing, fire-rated door for this connection).

One item from Category 3: Land Use Policy Items

  1. Modifying the definition of Owner-Occupant to include immediate family members (limited to Spouses, Siblings, Parents, and Adult Children).

Additionally, Council passed a resolution reducing the General Plan Maintenance Fee by half for ADU applications.  This could be a savings of $450-$750/ application, depending on size and estimated value of the project.

Proposals placed ON HOLD:

 Some items from Category 2: Site and Building Standards

  1. Increasing Rear Yard Lot Coverage from 30% to 50%;
  2. Changing ADU Green Building Standards to match those required for new Single-Family Homes (currently significantly higher); and
  3. Allowing attached ADUs to be 10% of lot size (Currently limited to 50%);

Some items from Category 3: Land Use Policies

  1. Allowing two ADUs on parcels over 10,000 sf; and
  2. Eliminating parking requirements for Detached New Construction ADUs.

For these ON HOLD items, Council directed staff to return at a future date with an analysis of the feasibility of requiring perpetual affordability deed restrictions in exchange for each proposed change. 

Proposals DENIED:

One item from Category 3: Land Use Policies

  1. Proposal to allow a temporary, three-year period of Short-Term Rental activity for newly-created ADUs.  This item will not return to Council. 


  1. Approved Amendments

    The approved amendments will come back to Council at the February 12th meeting for a Second reading.  There is a possibility that things could change a bit at that point, and I will keep you posted.  If there are no substantive changes, the ordinance will be published and final, and go into effect on March 14, 2019 (30 days after the 2nd reading date, per law).

  2. On-Hold Amendments

    Over the course of the next few months we will analyze the likelihood that any of the proposed amendments would effectively encourage the creation of ADUs that are deed-restricted affordable housing to serve individuals or households earning around or below the area median income. After some internal analysis I will be reaching out again to engage with the community about our findings and the new ideas we come up with.  Any changes proposed will be required to return to the Planning Commission before being brought back to the City Council. Currently, we’re anticipating this process to take 6-9 months, however this timeline may be extended as the new Council sets their goals and priorities for other work items falling to our department. I will be doing whatever is within my power to keep that timeline as short as possible, but the reality is that with a new City Council, some of our existing workplan is being reprioritized.

  3. Other ADU Items

The City Councilmembers also asked staff to also consider the following topics as we develop future iterations of the ADU ordinance:

  1. Allowing ADUs on parcels developed with a duplex, triplex, or other multi-family housing, including a data analysis of the number of parcels that would be affected by this proposal;
  2. Incorporating alternative transportation measures when lifting parking requirements;
  3. Facilitating Aging in Place through ADU standards;
  4. Establishing an ADU loan program;
  5. Encouraging the use of green building techniques;
  6. Collecting data to attempt to identify which changes to the ADU standards have been the most effective at creating new housing units (timeline 12 months);
  7. Lifting Owner Occupancy in exchange for an affordability deed restriction  (initially part of the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee recommendations, and reaffirmed by Council);
  8. Further lowering fees and development costs (initially part of the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee recommendations, and reaffirmed by Council).


New Planning Department Community Outreach Policy

Adopted by City Council on August 28th, 2018.

Final Planning Department Community Outreach Policy.

Community OutreachIn 2017, City Council conducted an extensive outreach process related to housing issues, resulting in a report entitled Santa Cruz Voices in Housing: Fall 2017 Community Engagement Report. Once the Report was completed, the Council formed the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee to prioritize the Report recommendations and to develop an implementation strategy. The Subcommittee summarized the results of this process to City Council on June 12, 2018.

The Planning and Community Development Department compiled a Community Outreach Policy in response to the direction from the Subcommittee. The Policy encourages early notification, including sign postings on the project site during different project phases, and broader noticing for community meetings. Community meetings are required for large and significant projects early in the process, and meetings are encouraged for small and medium projects.

A list of recently filed applications will be posted on the Planning Department website and will be updated monthly. Significant projects will include expanded information. Large projects may also have expanded information posted, dependent on project scope and community interest. Notifications regarding community meetings will be posted on the project site and on the City’s website. Announcements will sent via U.S. Mail to owners and residents within a specific radius.  Email notices will also be sent to anyone who signs up to receive notices regarding community meetings. 

A subcommittee of the Planning Commission will participate in some community meetings, particularly large and significant projects.  This will provide representatives of the Planning Commission with opportunities to talk with the applicants and community and to provide site design and architectural feedback earlier in the development review process. 

The policy was presented at two community meetings: on May 15, 2018, at which other recommendations by the Subcommittee were also presented, and on July 17, 2018, at which other Planning policy efforts were also presented. The policy was also presented at a developers’ roundtable meeting on July 12, 2018. The Planning Commission reviewed the policy at a public hearing on August 2, 2018. City Council adopted the policy on August 28, 2018.

Contact person: Katherine Donovan, kdonovan@cityofsantacruz.com or 831-420-5134

Active ListeningThinking TogetherFinding Understanding


Cannabis Ordinance Updates


Contact person: Katherine Donovan, kdonovan@cityofsantacruz.com or 831-420-5134


Tenant Relocation Assistance associated with Large Rent Increases (formerly called Exorbitant Rent Increase Ordinance) Updates

Contact person: Sarah Fleming sfleming@cityofsantacruz.com or 831-420-5216