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.


Donnelly v. City of San Marino - Petition for Review
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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm 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 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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