Jason and Elizabeth Riddick live in Malibu, California, with their three children. Elizabeth’s mother, Renee Sperling, is 82 years old and suffers from numerous ailments, including glaucoma, arthritis, asthma, and osteoporosis, and is immunocompromised. Renee wants nothing more than to age in place near her family and with her dog, while maintaining her privacy and, given her immunodeficiency, a medically necessary buffer from her grandchildren.
The Riddicks weighed their options and were excited about their decision to build an accessory dwelling unit as an add-on to their home. A perfect solution for the Riddicks, ADUs, better known as “granny flats” or “in-law apartments,” are recognized as a valuable and essential component of California’s solution for the state’s housing shortage. In fact, state law establishes the right to build ADUs, and recent legislative reforms aim to foster their development by severely limiting local government restrictions.
Despite the state law, the written support of the Riddicks’ HOA and all surrounding neighbors, and $40,000 spent on geologic surveys and other permit requirements, the Malibu Planning Commission denied their application.
The Planning Commission claimed that while their modest ADU proposal complies with state law, it doesn’t comply with Malibu’s Local Coastal Program—the same commission whose staff told the Riddicks early in the process that their project is “like a posterchild for why the ADU law was created.”
Unfortunately, Malibu is not alone in opposing California’s new housing laws. San Marino, Coronado, Oakland, Encinitas, and San Diego County, for example, have arbitrary, discriminatory, or illegitimate ADU restrictions, and each day brings more opposition to ADUs from local governments and overreaching bureaucrats. PLF recently authored a report, Still No Place to Live, detailing continued local resistance in California.
Because state law dealing with ADUs fully preempts local restrictions, the Riddicks appealed to Malibu City Council. Now, with free-of-charge representation from PLF, the Riddicks are fighting in state courts to restore the right to use their property in a way that best serves their family.
A July 2022 ruling from the Los Angeles County Superior Court held that the City cannot use its coastal policies to block the Riddicks’ ADU, and ordered the city to process the application under the state law standards–standards which the Riddicks’ project easily and undisputedly meets.