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Pleasanton council halts universal design ordinance for more research

City staff to review accessibility standards in new housing for future consideration

The Pleasanton City Council voted last week to send a proposed ordinance, which includes additional accessibility design standards for certain types of new residential developments, back 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 roll-in showers and tubs for the bathrooms, specific widths for accessible entrances and routes throughout the house, and other so-called universal design plans.

However, the overall consensus from the council was that while model ordinance for duplex and triplex units had a well-detailed design checklist, the current conditions of approval for multifamily projects needs more work.

"This is a highly complex issue, as stated for balancing the cost, as well as the benefits of providing housing for members within our community that may struggle with the ability to have housing compatible to their special needs," Mayor Karla Brown said on Sept. 20 as she made the motion to continue the item to a future council date to be determined by city staff.

"I would like to have extra time not only to talk to some of the builders who have expressed a desire to have a conversation, but also to have a better understanding of what it is we're approving. Especially for multifamily housing, that was the most complex to me," the mayor added.

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The ordinance was first brought up during the City Council meeting in April when the council directed staff to bring forward a universal design ordinance for single-family duplex and triplex units and to also develop and implement a universal design checklist. That 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 multifamily projects, which are buildings with 15 housing units or more, to include additional accessibility features and enhancements.

Rob Queirolo, chief building official for the city, pointed out that the universal design ordinance, which is what offers accessibility features and mandates on installing these features, is only applicable to duplex or triplex units. He said it would not apply to multifamily or custom standalone homes.

In the ordinance, 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 at a purchaser's request.

Some of the updated conditions for approval for the multifamily projects, according to Queirolo, include amendments to add at least 4% of all required adaptable units to install audible and visual capability doorbells; to set a 36 inch minimum hallway width standard; and set standards to have roll-in showers or bathtubs and have grab bar backing in the walls so grab bars can be installed if needed.

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But as the conversation continues around residential housing growth in Pleasanton with the upcoming 2023-31 Housing Element cycle, the rest of the council posed several questions around the need for certain features to be installed and, more specifically, 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, ones that are generally relatively cost effective and just for a small proportion of the units," said Ellen Clark, community development director.

"State housing law, in addition to its affordability objectives, also has access to folks with disabilities as part of one of its key planning goals. So that's an equally important objective for (The California Department of Housing and Community Development). We're providing more accessible units for disabled residents," Clark added.

Councilmember Jack Balch took it further in focusing on the longevity of the ordinance and asking staff about the need for these types of features given that, according to the most recent U.S. census, only about 7.5% of residents in the city have some type of disability.

"As I remember from the prior staff presentation, as well, we don't know what the severity of the need is or the type so we don't know necessarily how to foresee what to have as a mandatory for offered because we're also talking about new construction as well," Balch said. "That's the other element at play here."

But Clark said that while they don't have more in-depth data about the need, there are still thousands of residents who could possibly 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 manner of disabilities, including folks with, you know, various types of disability, some with multiple disabilities ... It's really about more access, more opportunity to those units that can accommodate those needs."

But Councilmember Kathy Narum reiterated that it is important to understand the specific language of universal design and pointed to a previous ordinance she and Brown passed almost eight years ago.

She said at that time, they didn't know too much about accessible building codes and it led to an apartment complex getting built in a way that they did not agree with.

"I can't tell you how many nights of sleep I lost, because we didn't understand something and we were encouraged just to move it forward," Brown added.

"I want to understand this before I vote on something but I want to make sure it's right this time. I don't understand the requirements that you have for multifamily," the mayor said. "I understand the requirements that you're recommending, for the universal of single families, the checklist, it's very clear, and I appreciate that tremendously. But for multifamily, I'm not having a clear understanding and it just can't support a decision that I don't thoroughly understand."

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Pleasanton council halts universal design ordinance for more research

City staff to review accessibility standards in new housing for future consideration

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Sep 29, 2022, 10:26 pm

The Pleasanton City Council voted last week to send a proposed ordinance, which includes additional accessibility design standards for certain types of new residential developments, back 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 roll-in showers and tubs for the bathrooms, specific widths for accessible entrances and routes throughout the house, and other so-called universal design plans.

However, the overall consensus from the council was that while model ordinance for duplex and triplex units had a well-detailed design checklist, the current conditions of approval for multifamily projects needs more work.

"This is a highly complex issue, as stated for balancing the cost, as well as the benefits of providing housing for members within our community that may struggle with the ability to have housing compatible to their special needs," Mayor Karla Brown said on Sept. 20 as she made the motion to continue the item to a future council date to be determined by city staff.

"I would like to have extra time not only to talk to some of the builders who have expressed a desire to have a conversation, but also to have a better understanding of what it is we're approving. Especially for multifamily housing, that was the most complex to me," the mayor added.

The ordinance was first brought up during the City Council meeting in April when the council directed staff to bring forward a universal design ordinance for single-family duplex and triplex units and to also develop and implement a universal design checklist. That 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 multifamily projects, which are buildings with 15 housing units or more, to include additional accessibility features and enhancements.

Rob Queirolo, chief building official for the city, pointed out that the universal design ordinance, which is what offers accessibility features and mandates on installing these features, is only applicable to duplex or triplex units. He said it would not apply to multifamily or custom standalone homes.

In the ordinance, 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 at a purchaser's request.

Some of the updated conditions for approval for the multifamily projects, according to Queirolo, include amendments to add at least 4% of all required adaptable units to install audible and visual capability doorbells; to set a 36 inch minimum hallway width standard; and set standards to have roll-in showers or bathtubs and have grab bar backing in the walls so grab bars can be installed if needed.

But as the conversation continues around residential housing growth in Pleasanton with the upcoming 2023-31 Housing Element cycle, the rest of the council posed several questions around the need for certain features to be installed and, more specifically, 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, ones that are generally relatively cost effective and just for a small proportion of the units," said Ellen Clark, community development director.

"State housing law, in addition to its affordability objectives, also has access to folks with disabilities as part of one of its key planning goals. So that's an equally important objective for (The California Department of Housing and Community Development). We're providing more accessible units for disabled residents," Clark added.

Councilmember Jack Balch took it further in focusing on the longevity of the ordinance and asking staff about the need for these types of features given that, according to the most recent U.S. census, only about 7.5% of residents in the city have some type of disability.

"As I remember from the prior staff presentation, as well, we don't know what the severity of the need is or the type so we don't know necessarily how to foresee what to have as a mandatory for offered because we're also talking about new construction as well," Balch said. "That's the other element at play here."

But Clark said that while they don't have more in-depth data about the need, there are still thousands of residents who could possibly 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 manner of disabilities, including folks with, you know, various types of disability, some with multiple disabilities ... It's really about more access, more opportunity to those units that can accommodate those needs."

But Councilmember Kathy Narum reiterated that it is important to understand the specific language of universal design and pointed to a previous ordinance she and Brown passed almost eight years ago.

She said at that time, they didn't know too much about accessible building codes and it led to an apartment complex getting built in a way that they did not agree with.

"I can't tell you how many nights of sleep I lost, because we didn't understand something and we were encouraged just to move it forward," Brown added.

"I want to understand this before I vote on something but I want to make sure it's right this time. I don't understand the requirements that you have for multifamily," the mayor said. "I understand the requirements that you're recommending, for the universal of single families, the checklist, it's very clear, and I appreciate that tremendously. But for multifamily, I'm not having a clear understanding and it just can't support a decision that I don't thoroughly understand."

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