Second-unit setbacks relaxed

Issue divides council’s progressive majority over older-neighborhood protection

Residents of Chico’s older neighborhoods opposed to a proposed change in the Municipal Code were disappointed Tuesday (June 16), when the council narrowly (4-3) approved the change.

The matter involved what are sometimes called “Aunt Minnies,” or second dwelling units. Currently they must be set back at least 30 feet from the primary residence. The change will allow them to be built as close as 10 feet, but will require paying $1,500 and obtaining a use permit to do so.

Opponents worried that the change would allow more second units, attracting more student renters and thereby lowering property values and neighborhood quality.

The issue divided the council’s progressive majority, which had campaigned on preserving older neighborhoods, with Tom Nickell joining Scott Gruendl and Larry Wahl in opposition. In the end, though, a majority thought the use-permit requirement, as well as tighter design standards, would prevent abuse of the relaxed setback while creating more living units in the central city.