A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On ADUs, council plays Groundhog Day

Written January 24th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Listening to one of 18 people who testified on ADUs from left are Councilors Rich Kellum, Alex Johnson, and Mike Sikes, Manager Peter Troedsson, and Mayor Sharon Konopa.

Eighteen people talked to the Albany City Council Wednesday about accessory dwelling units, most of them in favor of allowing larger ones. But it made no difference in the outcome: The mayor and two councilors want one thing, four councilors want something else, and nothing was resolved.

The public hearing on ADUs took more than an hour and a half. At the end, the council failed to pass either of two alternative code changes to the required second reading. So both will be on the agenda again on Feb. 13.

Albany allows ADUs, but state law says it must allow detached units on all single-family lots where they can meet setback and other requirements. The city code doesn’t do that yet, but the planning division has allowed detached units in spite of its code because the state law demands it.

One proposed code change — favored by Mayor Konopa and Councilors Coburn and Olsen — would meet the state mandate but keep the city’s existing requirements on parking, ownership and size (no more than half the main house or 750 square feet). The other, backed by Councilors Kellum, Alex Johnson, Sykes, and Bessie Johnson, would drop parking and ownership requirements and raise the maximum size to 75 percent of the main house or 900 square feet, whichever is less.

Both proposals failed Wednesday because neither could not get unanimous consent, required by the charter, to be read a second time at the same meeting.

Speakers at the hearing ranged from those who lived near ADUs and saw no problems with the relaxed requirements in order to meet a housing need, to those who seemed to fear that developers would swoop in, demolish old neighborhoods and replace them with two rentals per lot.

The most informed testimony came from builder John Robinson, who presented details on ADU requirements from nine comparable Oregon cities, along with findings from studies on the effects of allowing ADUs on parking and other issues. The weight of the information favored the less restrictive approach. Among his points: ADUs cost between $80,000 and $100,000, and allowing more than 750 square feet makes ADUs more efficient to design and less expensive to build.

In the audience was Marci Howard. The city had issued a permit for a 750-foot detached ADU on Broadway Street for her and her husband. She was hoping the council would enact the less restrictive code change so she could have a laundry inside instead of in the garage.

Whether the impasse will persist, who knows? Unless either the mayor or one of the four councilors relents or accepts a compromise, ADUs will make future council sessions look like Groundhog Day. (hh)

14 responses to “On ADUs, council plays Groundhog Day”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    There is a popular label in California that describes those who want to slow the growth of ADU’s – Residentialist.

    It appears the council has at least three Residentialists who don’t want Albany to be an inclusive, sustainable community that welcomes everybody.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Of course, one can also interpret the Residentialist label as being a progressive conservationist who wants to save the city from developer greed, ruin, and blight. It’s a quality of life thing.

    Geez, progressives fighting progressives. Can’t we all just get along?

  3. John Klock says:

    Perhaps you can enlighten me. I spoke at the end of the above meeting about the non-stop Hickory Hills development in North Albany. What is the city’s transportation plan? Is there a vision for a sustainable future? I do not say that in the utopian sense, but more of a common sense view of planning. Enjoy your newsletters.

  4. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “Unless either the mayor or one of the four councilors relents or accepts a compromise…”

    Compromises have already been offered and summarily dismissed. As I stated last night, (in an earlier conversation with another councilor while trying to elicit a compromise), I commented that both of us had (many times over the years) come out on the short end of a vote. And once that happened, while we did not like the specific outcome, we sucked-it-up and moved on – because the sun still came up in the morning…

    I asked the councilor, “If the mayor had not vetoed the 4-2 outcome, what they would have done…” Answer – “…probably nothing, we would have moved on to next item…”

    I fundamentally believe that because of the mayoral veto (twice now), the mayor has caused the problem and now has 100% ownership of the problem. It is incumbent on the mayor to craft a compromise that is palatable to the 4 councilors who have approved the enhanced version of the original proposal that was previously recommended by the Planning Commission, City Staff, and the State of Oregon (and 4 sitting councilors).

  5. Dick Olsen says:

    Hasso, you miss the whole point. The Mayor, Bill Coburn and I want rules to require that when an ADU is permitted, the property owner lives in one of the buildings. The other four councilors would allow any kind of absentee landlord to rent out both dwellings. That was pretty much the case here when we moved here 50 years ago. My downtown neighborhood (I live at 8th and Broadalbin) was sliding towards being a slum. My sainted mother-in-law said, “If you will move out of that ramshackle house in that terrible neighborhood, I’ll give you money for the down payment on a good house in a decent neighborhood.”

    Now, thanks to the neighborhood being declared an historic district, and the good advice of the LAC (Landmarks Advisory Commission), the neighborhood has gradually regenerated itself and most of my neighbors like living here. Most people agree that absentee landlords often allow their properties to deteriorate and tenants to run wild. I’ve been there and seen that. Homeowners are usually more careful and work to keep up the neighborhood.

    Some urge compromise in this situation. For me, either the property owner lives in one of the houses or he doesn’t. Not much room to compromise there.

    • John Robinson says:

      Dick: You are not paying attention. Requiring the owner to live in one of the units is not a legally defensible position. It would put the City in a position to be sued. It’s pretty fortunate that nobody has taken the City to court already over it. The State of Oregon has recommended against requiring owner occupancy, the planning commission agreed and so did attorney Sean Kidd. So…what about that do you not understand?

      Your stubbornness will cost the City when they get sued. No other form of real property has tenancy (live in) requirements placed upon it. Period.

      There is no compromise here, because you and Bill and the Mayor are wrong.

    • Bryan says:

      Dick, sounds reasonable to me.
      Hasso, of course everything the builder said sounds the “most informed”, guarantee you he’s only worried about what works out best for him

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      So you’d be OK with the 900 sf & the parking revision IF the owner-occupancy requirement stayed?  If so, talk to the Mayor and the other councilors.  That’s a compromise I could have lived with…  I don’t get a vote now…

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      I’m transitioning to being a progressive, so it’s important to understand what is happening below the surface here.

      Real progressives like Dick and Sharon believe that those who wield political authority should use their power to determine, in this instance, how people must use their private property and where people must live. The objective is to dictate the conduct of the citizenry. This isn’t about creating incentives, or influencing, or nudging people to do something. This is about exercising raw power to force people to do something.

      I want to be a loyal progressive, so I support Dick & Sharon’s use of government in this way.

    • Curious Citizen says:

      Off street parking for these ADUs are essential along with owner occupying the property, imo

      Our family has seen first hand what happens when there isn’t enough off street parking. When there’s “pack and stacking” there can be a whole lot of renters fighting for territory over street parking spaces. It can get ugly.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        As a transitioning progressive, I agree.

        That is why I support Dick and Sharon using government power to dictate who occupies private property and how little ADU’s should be. It’s for the common good and avoidance of ugliness.

    • Therese W says:

      I agree with you on the requirement to have occupancy. There appears to be a clear divide between those who stand to gain financially from having relaxed ADUs vs. those who stand to lose something…such as a certain neighborhood feel. I think we need to hold some intellectual space for those who like a small town feel and all that has to offer. There are many well documented issues that appear when a town’s population increases.

  6. Jody H says:

    Parking is an issue everywhere. There’s one house on my block has six to seven cars associated it with it. They cram two in the driveway, one on the lawn, others parked on the curb in front of other’s houses. A friend’s street is over run with the excess cars, trucks of renters across from her. I think its a good idea for housing to come with off street parking.


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