Oakland considers banning ADUs in the hills to avoid fire danger

By Natalie Orenstein, Oaklandside, June 3, 2021

“Desperate to limit the number of people and cars that would need to evacuate the area in a crisis, the Oakland Fire Department and city planners want to ban the construction of new ‘accessory dwelling units,’ or ADUs, in the hills, fearing more backyard cottages would create too much deadly density.

“On [June 2], the Oakland Planning Commission considered a staff proposal to update the city’s ADU law, mainly to bring the policy into compliance with new state rules that make it easier for homeowners to get approval to build the units. But the bulk of the meeting focused on another aspect of the proposal, which would ban all ADUs across the entire area of Oakland considered by the state to be at high risk for wildfires, which is largely in the hills.

“More than 50 people called into the meeting, most of whom bashed the proposal and implored the city to take a more ‘surgical’ approach by considering the unique safety risks of individual streets or certain neighborhoods instead of blocking off the entire hills area.

“Many speakers questioned the lack of details provided by the city regarding how many ADUs are expected to be built in the hills, and how many cars they’d add to the streets.

“But a handful of speakers, most survivors of the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley firestorm, sided with the city.

“After listening to the residents, Planning Commissioners said they didn’t feel confident enough in the staff proposal to send it to the City Council for a vote.

“ ‘My concern is we still are lacking information,’ said Chair Tom Limon. ‘Who in the hills is interested in building an ADU, and what kind? That would be really helpful to know in determining the risks.’ ”

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