Pleasanton City Council voted last week to send a proposed ordinance, which includes additional accessibility design standards for certain types of new residential developments, to city staff for further review and discussion.
Some of the accessibility standards for qualifying single-family homes that were included in the ordinance would have been for wheelchair-accessible showers and tubs for bathrooms, specific widths for entrances and accessible routes throughout the house, and other so-called universal design plans. .
However, the general consensus of the board was that while the model ordinance for duplexes and triplexes has a well-detailed design checklist, the current approval requirements for multi-family projects require more work.
“This is a very complex issue, as stated to balance the cost, as well as the benefits of providing housing for members of our community who may struggle to have housing compatible with their special needs,” said Mayor Karla Brown on September 1. 20 while she offered to pursue the item until a future date of council to be determined by city staff.
“I wish I had more time to not only speak to some of the builders who have expressed a desire to have a conversation, but also to get a better understanding of what we approve of. Especially for multi-family housing, this was the more complex for me,” added the mayor.
The ordinance was first brought up at the city council meeting in April when council directed staff to introduce a universal design ordinance for single-family duplexes and triplexes and also develop and implement a universal design checklist. This checklist would require project developers to provide a list of universal design features available for units.
Staff were also asked to update the current conditions of approval for multi-family projects, which are buildings with 15 or more units, to include additional accessibility features and improvements.
Rob Queirolo, the city’s building official, pointed out that the Universal Design Ordinance, which provides accessibility features and mandates on the installation of those features, only applies to duplex or triplex units. . He said that would not apply to custom multi-family or freestanding homes.
In the order, there would be either “mandates to install”, which are features installed by the developer, or “mandates to offer”, which are features offered by the developer that can be installed on demand. a buyer.
Some of the updated conditions for approval of multifamily projects, according to Queirolo, include changes to add at least 4% of all adaptable units required to install audible and visual capacity doorbells; establish a minimum aisle width standard of 36 inches; and set standards for having roll-in showers or tubs and having grab bars in the walls so that grab bars can be installed if needed.
But as the conversation continues on the growth of residential housing in Pleasanton with the next cycle of the 2023-31 housing element, the rest of the council have asked several questions about whether certain features need to be installed and, more specifically, on how these features will affect affordable housing. projects in the future.
“I think what we’re suggesting is something that’s a fairly modest set of additions, which are generally relatively cost-effective and only for a small proportion of units,” said Ellen Clark, director of community development.
“The State Housing Act, in addition to its affordability goals, also has access for people with disabilities as one of its primary planning goals. So that’s an equally important goal for (the California Department of Housing and Community Development). We’re offering more accessible units to residents with disabilities,” Clark added.
Council member Jack Balch went further, focusing on the longevity of the ordinance and asking staff about the need for these types of features given that, according to the last US Census, only about 7.5% of City residents have some type of disability. .
“If I remember the previous presentation of the staff, we don’t know how serious the need is or the type, so we don’t necessarily know how to forecast what to have as mandatory because we are also talking about new constructions,” Balch said. “That’s the other element at play here.”
But Clark said while they don’t have more detailed data on needs, there are still thousands of residents who may eventually need these types of features in their future homes.
“We don’t have incredibly good data on this,” Clark said. “What we have is the census, which reports all kinds of disabilities, including people with, you know, various types of disabilities, some with multiple disabilities… It’s really about more access, more opportunities for those units that can meet those needs.”
But council member Kathy Narum reiterated that it’s important to understand the specific language of universal design and pointed to a previous ordinance she and Brown passed nearly eight years ago.
She said at the time they didn’t know much about accessible building codes and that led to an apartment complex being built in a way they weren’t comfortable with. OK.
“I can’t tell you how many nights of sleep I lost because we didn’t understand something and we were encouraged to get things done,” Brown added.
“I want to understand that before I vote on something, but I want to make sure it’s okay this time. I don’t understand the requirements you have for multifamily,” the mayor said. “I understand the requirements that you’re recommending, for the universal single-family checklist, it’s very clear, and I really appreciate that. But for multi-family, I don’t have a clear understanding and that just can’t bear a decision that I don’t quite understand.”