Public Input for Planning Commission

8/21/18 Council Directives:  The following items removed and brought back to the Planning Commission:

Tiny homes on wheels.

  • Size to be reduced to 300 sq. ft. not including the size of the loft.
  • Establish design standards for approval.

This is the link to the revisions offered by the building department.

Size was addressed in the new ordinance draft.  --  Design was not.  --  Furthermore there are no measures taken to assure affordability to rent this type of housing unit.

The information below addresses the following:

  • Compliance of structural certification
  • Suggested movable tiny home design standards
  • Suggested site design standards
  • Suggestion: Deed restrictions on parcels hosting a tiny home

Compliance of Structural Certification

Current language:   “The  proposed  moveable  tiny  house  has  been  certified  by  a  qualified  third-party  inspector  as  meeting ANSI 119.2 or 119.5 requirements, or was built to meet ANSI 119.2 or 119.5 requirements as demonstrated by sufficient evidence satisfactory to the Director;”

Concerns:  There should be NO EXCEPTIONS allowed on the certification of construction compliance to basic structural standards.  BY NOT HAVING MANDATORY THIRD PARTY STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING CERTIFICATION (((ON ALL UNITS))) THE FOLLOWING WILL OCCUR:

  1. The units built will be difficult to place legally in almost all RV parks or in disaster relief situations nationwide.
  2. The original and future owners of the tiny home will have a difficult time with resale or disposing of an undesired unit.

Here is the language I suggested:

  1. All moveable tiny homes shall be certified by a qualified third-party inspector as complying IRC Appendix Q and one of the two additional codes:
    • For units under 8 ft 5 inches, they must comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)119.2  (Formerly known as ANSI 119.2) (aka Tiny Home)
    • For units over 8 ft 5 inches, they must comply American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 (aka Park Model Home)
  2. Evidence of compliance to the above codes is required thru a gated inspection process with visual evidence kept in perpetuity may be completed by providers such as NOAH, PacWest and Bildsworth.
  3. This evidence of compliance will be available for inspection by building departments for the life of the unit.

Note: to those unfamiliar with certification, please see this reference

Suggested Movable Tiny Home Design Standards

These standards shall not specify how to build the tiny home, but rather to differentiate them from the RV aesthetic and provide the ability to remodel as needed.

  • Privacy: For loft egress windows there shall be no opening within 10 feet of direct alignment with a window of the adjoining neighbors home. Skylights and clerestory windows (a high section of wall that contains windows above eye level to admit  light  and  fresh  air), six feet from the floor of  the interior of the unit are excepted.
  • Roofs: No rubber or fiberglass roof material permitted. Must meet existing standards of the IRC.
  • Siding: Wood or metal. No stucco, cement, and brick, primarily due to weight.  No walls shall be single piece composite, laminates or interlocked flat metal sheathing because it looks like an RV.
  • Skirting: When sited on a parcel, the under-carriage (wheels, axles, tongue and hitch) shall be hidden from view. (especially wheels to protect from sun damage).
  • Size: The maximum square footage or habitable floor space for a moveable tiny house shall be 300 square feet and shall be measured by exterior wall dimensions. (lofts shall not be counted toward the maximum square footage). The moveable tiny house shall have at least 100 square feet of first floor interior living space.
  • Mechanical Equipment. All mechanical equipment, such as A/C units, for a moveable tiny house shall be incorporated into the structure and shall not be located on the roof. Energy efficiency equipment which require solar exposure will be permitted. (There are now passive solar cooling units hitting the market, in addition to solar panels. Solar hot water is also used in some traditional IRC residences.)
  • See IRC Appendix Q for further design detail. It was written for movable tiny homes.

Suggested  Site Design Standards

  1. Foundation: Compacted level pad required. Gravel is recommended over cement for the greenest building option.  Cement and asphalt accepted.
  2. Utility Connections and Requirements. Moveable tiny houses shall not require separate utility meters from the primary unit. Moveable tiny houses may be off-grid and not connected to one or more utility systems, but only if the applicant provides sufficient proof, to the satisfaction of the Director and the Building Official, that the moveable tiny house has adequate, safe, and sanitary utility systems providing water, sewer, heating, cooling, and electric power.
  3. Foundation Requirements. Once sited on the parcel of the primary unit, the moveable tiny house shall not have its wheels removed, and all wheels and leveling/support jacks shall sit on a concrete, paved, or compacted gravel surface sufficient to support its weight.

Suggestion:  Deed Restrictions on Parcels Hosting Tiny Home

My understanding for the building department not addressing design criteria is due to the desire to keep these housing units as affordable as possible by keeping barriers to acquire as low as possible.

I understand this point of view MIGHT help with affordability to purchase due to the existing resale market for traditionally built RVs with laminate siding.  These units WILL be cheaper to purchase but reducing design standards will ABSOLUTELY NOT assure affordability for this housing on the rental market.

I am of the opinion that the movable tiny homes should have the appearance of cottages to

  1. fit with the character of the neighborhood
  2. provide for ability to remodel as needed and assure longevity of the housing unit.

A compromise that I suggest IF parcels are deed restricted on rental prices, then allow less strict design criteria for the first year.  Over time more engineer certified resale options will appear.  This will help give buyers time to finance and build a new unit or shop the resale market.

Tiny Homes Offer Community Disaster Resiliency

Financial resources for the housing market post disaster is a fundamental issue that significantly affects anyone living in the region. For example, following the wildfires in Northern California of October 2017, Sonoma County lost in one day what it took them 7 years to build & rents rose 35% in 60 days. Over a third of the population can no longer afford a 1 bedroom rental.

Homeowners collectively spent over $400 million on “loss of use” allowance.  Instead of using that money to CREATE housing units, that money was used to further DAMAGE the housing market. Using tiny homes built to RV code that look like cottages as emergency housing units & conversion to accessory dwelling units is a RADICAL idea that must be done. (Mitigate housing market damage, build resiliency into community & helps under-insured homeowner)

Tiny Homes ((COULD)) Offer Affordability

Tiny homes is the LAST OPTION REMAINING to create self contained housing at the lowest cost possible.  (Cost to create is 1/4 of a traditional housing unit.) Furthermore, tax payer subsidized housing always cost more than if the market developed it and benefits a very, very small number of people.

Tiny homes are an option for the most financially challenged sector of the population, but I am of a VERY STRONG OPINION that if you do not do deed restrictions on parcels that host that them, that this will not become the affordable option desired.

Here is proof that deed restrictions are required.

Example 1

(To view larger image, click on it.)

This unit found on Craigslist on 10/4/18 is smaller than a standard studio at 173 sf that might rent for $1,000 according to local HCD studio standards, yet is priced at $1,200.  (Storage is VERY minimal.)  Everything these owners rent is over market price and they have a fancy website indicating that they make a lot of money on the rental market in SLO currently.

Example 2

Here is an Airstream being rented on AirBnB at $65 per night ($1,950/mo)

Example 3

Here’s a video testimony from to SLO City Council on 8/21 that also shows you exactly what is GOING TO HAPPEN, if there are no deed restrictions when tiny homes are adopted.

(I have reference documents from cities that do deed restrictions and am happy to provide upon request.  I also have information to assist in the implementation of a supporting policy.  Contact me here for details.)

Thank you for visiting! ~ Kimberly