Planning Commission special meeting on ADU’s results in a list of recommended changes

Malibu sign on PCH. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

In an incredibly complicated process, Malibu is faced with integrating new state laws on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) — the addition of a small house or apartment to an existing residential property. The state wants a streamlined process that makes it easier for property owners to add a separate living unit that can either be rented out or used to accommodate family, like an elderly parent, thus helping to ease the supply of affordable housing in California. 

However, Malibu’s “no growth” and “slow growth” constituents have concerns that ADUs will only increase housing density and traffic, and make it more difficult to evacuate in the event of wildfire. The planning staff has taken the stance that “State ADU legislation does not supersede the requirements of the California Coastal Act and by extension the City’s LCP.” Therefore, they made as few changes as possible to the LCP.

This despite the fact that the recent head of the Coastal Commission, John Ainsworth, instructed coastal cities to make sure to not misuse their existing LCP to block affordable ADU housing, and instead, to modify their LCP to support small-scale ADUs while also protecting coastal resources. 

The State ADU Law would allow Malibu to potentially satisfy its entire 79 affordable Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) Plan through the construction of ADUs. 

Under the new state rules, once the Planning Department deems a homeowner’s application for an ADU to be complete, it will only have 60 days to process it without public hearings, appeals, or staff reports. However, in a Malibu case that already went to court, the City of Malibu got around this requirement by never declaring an application “complete.” The case is now being appealed.

While hundreds of California communities, including nearby Agoura Hills, Calabasas, and the unincorporated parts of LA County, already have their new ADU ordinances in place, Malibu is among the last of the coastal cities to adopt an ADU ordinance. No survey has been done to determine the demand for ADUs in Malibu, so no one knows if five or 500 ADUs would eventually be built under the new laws.

The proposed Local Coastal Plan (LCP) and Malibu Municipal Code changes needed to comply with state laws on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) got their final review at a special meeting of the Planning Commission last week and will go next to City Council for final approval. An ADU created from a new or converted building would be addressed by changes to the city’s LCP, while an ADU created inside an existing home will be addressed with changes to the Malibu Municipal Code.

Only three public speakers appeared at the meeting, with one of them complaining that the city was “going against the spirit of this good public policy” by still making an ADU difficult for people to build when it was supposed to be easier.

The original proposed 268-page policy and report can be read in its entirety at

The city will not allow any ADU to be used as a short-term rental unit. It must have its own private entrance and cannot be built in a front yard.

At the end of the long meeting, the following modifications to the ADU ordinance are to be recommended to City Council: change the maximum height from 16 feet to 24 feet, count the square footage of any basement towards the total square footage, allow an ADU to be 400 square feet to 1,200 square feet in size, don’t allow any reduction in parking, require rental reports, keep the same setbacks as in the LCP, clarify five-foot setbacks, don’t require two means of street ingress/egress. If there is only one means of ingress/egress, the ADU must be on a 20-foot wide street.