RIVERSIDE: New zoning would
curb ‘mini dorms’
After a two-year moratorium, city is proposing special zone for neighborhoods near UCR that would limit bedroom space compared with common areas.
From PE.com 8/21/15
After months of residents lobbying the Riverside City Council and two years of work by an ad hoc committee, the city may have found a fix for concerns about crowded rental houses.
Residents living near UC Riverside began complaining in 2013 about what they called “mini dorms” – single-family homes that were subdivided to add extra bedrooms and rented to five or more people, often UCR students.
City officials responded to neighbors’ complaints about noisy parties, littering, speeding and public urination by blocking permits to add extra bedrooms while they studied the issue. Their proposed solution, presented to a council committee Monday, is special zoning that would limit the space bedrooms could take up in relation to other parts of a home.
The “residential protection overlay zone” would require that the square footage of all bedrooms in single-family homes not be greater than the square footage of common living areas such as the kitchen and living room.
That would make it harder for an owner to convert living and dining rooms into bedrooms without also adding on to the house. The rules also would require that bedrooms consist of no more than half the home’s total dwelling area. Officials also might increase the minimum bedroom size.
The rules as proposed would apply only to portions of the University and Canyon Crest neighborhoods.
Residents have said investors were driving the changes in their neighborhood, beating out buyers who wanted to live in the homes and then renting them out for maximum profit. Many worried that once a home was altered, with new bedrooms in place of common space, families would be unlikely to buy it – so it would remain a rental.
Those who worked on the proposed new zoning say it should please everyone.
The goal was to create rules that would help preserve property values without infringing on property owners’ or tenants’ rights, said Gurumantra Khalsa, who leads the University Neighborhood Association.
“We’re not limiting occupancy,” he said. “We don’t know who’s going to live in the house or how many are going to live there.”
Khalsa and Jeff Kraus, UCR’s director of local government and community relations, agreed that resolving the issue took cooperation.
“We’ve been very respectful of what the neighbors wanted,” Kraus said. “We wanted to make sure this wasn’t targeted against students, but also given the impact that the university has, make sure that we were being good and fair neighbors.”
Property owners should also be satisfied, said Tim Johnson, executive director of the California Apartment Association’s Greater Inland Empire chapter. The group helped draft the rules.
“If you have a single-family home, you should be able to rent it,” he said. “It shouldn’t prevent that.”
The city’s work isn’t done, however. The moratorium on building permits won’t be lifted until the proposed new zoning is approved. It likely will go to the planning commission Sept. 3 and to the City Council later that month.
It wouldn’t be retroactive, so homes that already have been chopped up would keep their extra bedrooms, provided the owners had permits to do the work, said senior city planner David Murray.
Riverside also faces a lawsuit from the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County that challenges the city’s four-renter limit in single family-zoned areas.
Though the two-year moratorium stopped homes from being subdivided to add more tenants, it also blocked owners from making changes to homes they live in. Watkins Drive resident Chris Barney is among those who can’t wait for the new zoning to be approved.
Barney has been waiting a year and a half to add a bedroom and living space to better accommodate his family, which includes five children. He thought about moving, he said, but he wouldn’t want to lose his large yard, and he expects property values to improve as UCR’s medical school develops.
“I just hope that they do hash it out so the moratorium ends and I can do what I want with my home,” he said.
Riverside will consider new zoning to address concerns about landlords turning living rooms into extra bedrooms to pack more tenants into single-family homes.
What: The “overlay zone” would require that bedroom space be no greater than common living space such as kitchens and living rooms. Homes with more than four bedrooms would need more parking.
Where: The new zoning would apply to single family-zoned portions of the University and Canyon Crest neighborhoods.
What’s next: The planning commission is expected to hear the proposal Sept. 3, and it could go to the City Council on Sept. 22.