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Marin County's Largest City Approves Junior Second Units

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San Rafael is poised to become more dense after the city council approved junior second units last night. The Marin Independent Journal reported on the action, saying that the city council gave the OK to the construction of the mini units to create more affordable housing and help residents age in place. The measure contains no minimum lot size and it doesn't require additional parking spaces in order to add this type of housing.

According the the Marin IJ, San Rafael is just the latest Marin County city to hop on the trend. Novato and Tiburon have already embraced junior second unit ordinances; and the cities of Fairfax, Larkspur, and Belvedere are considering similar measures. In recent months, some housing activists have criticized Bay Area suburbs for resisting changes in housing.

That's not to say everyone on the city council was onboard with the concept, the vote was 3-2. In the newspaper, some council members expressed concerns that there were too few restrictions on the units.

Lilypad Homes, a Marin County nonprofit that focuses on affordable housing and promotes the concept, defines junior second units as "consist[ing] of a living, sleeping, food preparation area, and a private or shared bath. They have a private entrance and are separate from the main living area." The newspaper report says such homes average 500 square feet and "are formed from existing space, often taking a bedroom and modifying the area around it to include a separate exterior entry and a food preparation area with a sink, counter area, cabinets and limited electrical service for a refrigerator and a small cooking appliance."

In San Rafael, the city plans to closely monitor junior second units for two years to watch for problems.

· San Rafael Approves Junior Second Units [Marin Independent Journal]
· Housing Activists Say Sue the Suburbs, Starting with Lafayette [Curbed SF]
· Lilypad Homes [Official Site]