Editorial: Focus on the big picture

Allowing more accessory residential units to be built in Ashland neighborhoods offers one way to increase the city’s supply of affordable rental units. City planning officials shouldn’t let small details get in the way of the big picture.
The Planning Commission on Tuesday discussed amendments to streamline the permitting process for ARUs several zones, including single-family residential, suburban and rural. The amendments would eliminate the requirement for site design review, requiring only a building permit to add a dwelling unit of less than 500 square feet to an existing house in residential zone.
The goal is to encourage more homeowners to build accessory units, but the commissioners disagreed over parking requirements. The draft amendments don’t require off-street parking if there is on-street parking available within 200 feet of the property.
Contrary to the belief of some property owners, on-street parking is open to all. No one owns it. So allowing occupants of ARUs to park on the street isn’t taking anyone’s space. While it’s conceivable that parking could become a problem in a block with multiple ARUs, it’s probably not likely. If the city needs to relax requirements to encourage more ARUs, that doesn’t suggest property owners are waiting in line to build them.
Off-street parking is certainly preferable, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. These amendments, while not the single answer to the city’s housing shortage, are a small step in the right direction. The Planning Commission should focus on making the change happen, not looking for reasons to say no.

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