Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning


City and Regional Planning


Chris Clark


The City of Santa Maria, located between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara in California, is experiencing rapid population growth, cultural transformation, and growth in household size. The growth rate of the city has been a consistent 20% for the past 20 years. Culturally, more than 70% of the almost 100,000 city residents predominantly identified as Hispanic or Latino in the 2010 census. The household size has consistently increased for the past 20 years; currently it is 3.52 people per household.

An issue which is becoming a growing problem for the city is the prevalence of illegal housing in the form of garage conversions. Motivations for illegally converting are primarily centered on actual economic gain for the homeowner and affordable rent for the participant. Few cities allow for the construction of additional residential units on parcels which are zoned for single family, the majority prohibit additional units. The most prominent of these cities which allow for second units is Santa Cruz. The second unit program in the City of Santa Cruz allows for garage conversions and detached second units but on-site parking must be provided for the additional unit. Santa Cruz argues the second unit program provides affordable housing, prevents sprawl, and is a form of in-fill development.

The Santa Cruz second unit program is utilized as the framework for developing a second unit program for the City of Santa Maria which allows for garage conversions to occur. City records from 2000-2010 indicate that more than 1% of the total housing units were found to have an illegal garage conversion. The actual rate of active garage conversion is likely to be higher, more than likely in the neighborhood of 3% to 5%.
The proposed ordinance is influenced at the Federal and State level by respective decisions by the Supreme Court and California Court on definition of what constitutes a family. California‘s Second Unit Law and legislative amendments establishing ministerial approval for affordable housing provides for legal options to increase the present housing supply.