City-initiated zoning changes relating to short-term home rentals, accessory dwelling units and minimum parking requirements are the focus of a series of community meetings that kick off tonight at Richmond’s Main Library.
The meetings are the first of two rounds of public engagement that city planners are undertaking to share and shape the zoning proposals and gather feedback. Formal proposals are to be shared in a second outreach round, tentatively scheduled for October.
Years in the works, the zoning changes follow up on recommendations included in the city’s master plan and requests from City Councilmembers. The changes related to short-term home rentals, or STRs, fulfill a process started in January aimed at revising Richmond’s rules for regulating the Airbnb-style rentals, most of which the city considers noncompliant and illegal.
In January, the Richmond Planning Commission approved a resolution of intent to amend the rules and revisit certain regulations, including a primary residency requirement in which operators must reside at the property being rented for at least half the year.
The commission had been slated to consider amendments to the rules last summer, having adopted them in mid-2020 with the caveat that they would be revisited after a year to review their effectiveness. COVID and staff changes within the planning department contributed to the process being delayed.
Accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, have been in discussion since late 2019, when the commission asked staff to study the appropriateness and feasibility of the smaller attached or detached dwellings that are located on the same lot as a residence.
Also referred to as accessory apartments, secondary suites or “granny flats,” ADUs are viewed as allowing individuals to age in place, accommodating people with special needs, creating lower-priced housing and providing residents with rental opportunities to supplement income.
The city’s master plan, adopted in late 2020, recommends updating the city’s zoning ordinance to allow ADUs by-right with form-based requirements in all residential zones as a way to encourage more housing types across the city. The plan identifies ADUs as a primary use in areas of the city recommended for residential or neighborhood mixed-use.
The changes to parking requirements stem from a request from Councilmember Andreas Addison in mid-2020 that has gained support from some of his council colleagues.
Addison’s request sought a study to determine whether the zoning ordinance should be amended to eliminate or reduce parking space minimums and restrictions in areas zoned for commercial use and areas within the TOD-1 Transit Oriented Nodal District, which encourages development designed around public transit as opposed to more “auto-centric” approaches.
Eliminating parking minimums in those areas is also seen as facilitating development in urban cores where required parking could hinder investment and contradict density and walkability goals.
Tonight’s in-person meeting starts at 6 p.m. at the Main Library at 101 E. Franklin St. A virtual meeting is scheduled at noon Wednesday, and two telephone town halls – a new meeting format for the city that’s entirely phone-based – are scheduled at 6 p.m. Aug. 16 and noon Aug. 17.
Links to the virtual and phone meetings are available on the city’s website, where more information on the zoning changes also is posted.
Note: The above link to the city’s website was previously broken and has been fixed.