Friday, December 1, 2023

Housing Group Sues Coronado – City Says ADU Policies Comply with State Laws

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The City of Coronado is adamant that its ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) laws meet state mandated standards, but the city is being sued by Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.), for non-compliance.

The lawsuit follows a nine-month investigation of the City of Coronado’s ADU practices. They allege the investigation revealed “that although the city has valid written ADU policies, its senior planning staff privately adopted a practice of refusing to accept any joint application to build an ADU with a new home.”

According to Janine Zúñiga, Sr. Management Analyst with the City Manager’s office, “The City of Coronado has adopted an ADU ordinance that complies with state law, and the City is committed to implementing its policies to meet its obligations under state and local law. The allegations in this lawsuit against the City are simply not true. City staff have not denied or delayed review or approval of an ADU that meets City and state standards. The lawsuit is brought by a special-interest group funded by real estate interests that have little to do with affordable housing, but instead are focused on helping applicants exploit perceived loopholes created by state law that would allow them to create super-sized, single-family homes that sell for a premium. Notwithstanding this lawsuit’s allegations to the contrary, the City has accepted complete development applications of all kinds and will continue to review and process those applications consistent with the requirements of state and local law.”

Matthew Gelfand, the in-house litigator for the Californians for Homeownership nonprofit says that, “It’s especially incumbent on high-opportunity cities like Coronado to comply with state laws intended to increase housing affordability.” Gelfand went on to say that “Coronado is shirking that duty. What we found was disturbing. Not only are City of Coronado staff breaking the law, but they have developed a coordinated system for doing so. Internal communications show that the city developed a process for routing certain ADU applications to high-level city officials, presumably to ensure that they would be turned away. We tried for months to get this resolved without litigation, but the city forced our hand.”

Zúñiga stated that the City Council discussed publicly at its January 19 meeting, “possible strategies to protect the City’s neighborhood character, while also enabling Coronado property owners to develop reasonably sized homes and ADUs. The City Council directed staff to prepare an amendment to the City’s Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance to clarify that development proposals which include a new primary residence and an ADU or junior ADU shall be required to comply with the City’s established regulations, including floor area ratio limits. The City is committed to creating affordable units for working families and lower income households.”

ADUs, often called “in-law units” or “casitas,” are additional units usually built alongside single-family homes, within existing residential neighborhoods. They are fully self-contained, with bathrooms and kitchens, and are built to modern building codes. Under state laws passed in 2019, anyone building a new single-family home in the state can elect to build an ADU at the same time, without the need for additional hearings or discretionary approvals.

ADUs are a key element of California’s strategy for addressing the state’s housing crisis. California has a housing deficit of 2 million to 3.5 million homes, and it ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the number of housing units per capita. This need has become particularly pronounced in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the number of Californians who are forced to live in overcrowded housing units due to the state’s inadequate housing supply.

Californians for Homeownership has been investigating and monitoring local compliance with the new ADU laws statewide. Since the laws were passed in late 2019, the nonprofit has reviewed the ADU policies of over 200 cities and demanded changes in over 140, resulting in widespread changes to local ADU policies to conform to state law. This is the organization’s second lawsuit to enforce state ADU laws.

The lawsuit is Californians for Homeownership v. City of Coronado, San Diego County Superior Court Case No. 37-2021-00002339-CU-WM-CTL. A copy of the filing is available at


Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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