Marin County Gives Grannys A Break (with Second-Unit Amnesty Program)

This year, Marin County homeowners in unincorporated areas may take advantage of an amnesty program for un-permitted second units (so-called ?Granny Units?). The goal of the program is to increase the number of housing units and ensure that the units are in good order and meet basic living requirements. Get out of jail free card

The criteria to take advantage of this program (which puts the price of the process at 1/2 that of normal) includes:

  1. The unit must have been built before June 3, 2003;
  2. Units must be a certain size (between 220 sq. ft. and 750 sq. ft.);
  3. Owners of the home must live there (the owner’s primary residence can be either the main home or second unit);
  4. Heat, light, ventilation, a kitchen, and a bathroom must all be in place;
  5. Must have a separate entrance, parking, and adequate sewage disposal;
  6. Only one extra unit per parcel.

While only a few owners have taken advantage of the program, more are expected to apply later in the year as owners hire contractors to meet the requirements, etc. Indeed, other amnesty programs by Marin cities have been very successful as the cost of permits can regularly be in the tens of thousands. Mill Valley?s amnesty program in 2004-2005 was very successful. San Rafael has also struck a deal with the Marin Municipal Water District reducing connection costs for second units.

In addition to saving money, owners also are exposed to relaxed standards relating to second units. For example, septic systems need only be ?adequate? and need not meet the current standards applicable to remodels and new construction. Parking requirements are also relaxed and more realistic. Also worth noting, the reduced costs under the amnesty program will also apply to new second units, but the new units will nonetheless need to meet current code requirements.

Once the program is over, the County has stated that it intends to go after the owners of illegal units. So, if you have an un-permitted second unit, now is the time to make it legal. You can apply by heading down to the Community Development Agency, Room 308, at the Marin Civic Center. You can also find more information by clicking on the County?s website (there are also workshops homeowners may attend).