May 19, 2020

California’s high court asked to hear “granny flats” case

San Francisco; May 19, 2020: A San Marino homeowner has asked the state supreme court to hear her challenge to the city’s restrictions on accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.

As California’s housing shortage worsens, accessory dwelling units — often called “granny flats” — offer families an affordable way to provide additional housing, especially for elderly relatives. They also provide significant benefits to the community by increasing capacity for the development of new affordable housing. As a result, California has declared that ADUs are critical to the state’s strategy for addressing the housing crisis.

Cordelia Donnelly wanted to add a small apartment above her garage — something that state law explicitly allows by right. Although Donnelly’s plans were well within the state guidelines for ADUs, officials in the Southern California city blocked her request to build, an action that a California appellate court upheld.

“San Marino can’t evade state law recognizing a right to build accessory dwelling units,” said Tony Francois, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation. “The California Supreme Court has the opportunity to clarify that cities can’t make more restrictive housing laws just because they want to exclude certain people from living there.”

Pacific Legal Foundation represents Cordelia Donnelly free of charge in her appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Case Documents

Pacific Legal Foundaation case document
Donnelly v. City of San Marino - Petition for Review
May 19, 2020 Download

About Pacific Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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