Malibu, California; November 18, 2021: Malibu homeowners Jason and Elizabeth Riddick filed a lawsuit against the city today after it rejected their request to construct an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their property. By denying the permit, the city violated state law, which recognizes that property owners have a right to build ADUs like the one the Riddicks hope to create.

As an important part of the state’s approach to addressing the housing crisis, the California legislature passed bills in the past five years to make it easier for homeowners to build ADUs — small homes located on the same lot as an existing single- or multi-family home, such as a garage apartment, a basement unit, or a backyard cottage.

The legislation was intended to address situations just like the Riddicks’. Elizabeth’s 82-year-old mother, Renee Sperling, wants to age in place near her family. An on-site apartment would allow her to maintain her independence, with her family nearby to provide the care she needs.

“California faces a severe housing crisis, and ADUs are an essential part of the solution,” said David Deerson, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents the Riddicks free of charge. “The state legalized the construction of ADUs for situations exactly like the Riddicks’. The city can’t ignore state law and deny property owners the right to use their property.”

Since the legislature amended state law to allow ADUs, some localities have increased approvals of ADUs, but others like Malibu are resisting. PLF published a report showing that the number of permits for ADUs issued by Los Angeles County skyrocketed. But several other jurisdictions, like San Diego and Riverside Counties, still wait too long to approve new permits, far beyond the 60 days required by state law.

Riddick v. City of Malibu was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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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 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 14 victories out of 16 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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