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Earlier this year architects and others involved in planning and/or building home additions or detached dwellings learned that a policy change late last year was making projects cost a great deal more than had previously been the case.

Up until the policy changes, the city had been performing upgrades in service lines falling in the street, had not been requiring up-sizing of lines to most projects, had not been requiring new taps or separate meters for detached dwelling units.

In the case of detached dwelling units (also known as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), it was usually just a matter of extending water and wastewater service from the existing residence to the ADU, installing a submeter for the water if the landlord desired to keep track of the water usage in the separate unit.

With last year’s policy change, accessory dwellings became required to have separate city water meters, and upsizing of service lines, all to be provided by the applicant. In order to receive a Building Permit Applicant it became required to hire an engineer to provide a tap plan (costing from $1500 to $3K), and hiring private, bonded and licensed contractors to perform the actual work $10 to $30K for an average of $20-$30K additional cost for an ADU. Additionally, if sewer service were only a 4” line, it had to be upgraded to a 6” line, again requiring the applicant to pay for an engineered tap plan and bonded contractors.


Many in the architectural and contracting communities began a concerted effort to work with both elected officials and the Water Utility staff to affect a change in these policies, and we have been successful. At present, there are three memos from Water and Wastewater Director Greg Meszaros which address most of the concerns [enter LINK to .PDF of the memos]. The following is a summary of the new rules:

  1. A single family residence may now add a detached dwelling unit without having to have a separate meter. Additionally, a submeter between the house and the detached dwelling unit will not be required. I have not presently been able to learn whether or not a submeter would be allowed, although this would certainly be desirable in my opinion.

  2. A ¾” water service line in the street will not be required to be upgraded unless the detached unit causes there to be in excess of 4½ Baths or 48 fixture units on the site.

  3. A detached dwelling will no longer trigger the requirement to enlarge the Sanitary Sewer from 4” to 6”; i.e. if the existing site has a 4” sewer, it can be connected to for the new detached dwelling.

Note that at present the new rules appear to apply only to Accessory Dwelling Units. Some of us are working on future policy changes and code amendments that would cause these new requirements to apply also to duplexes, additions, and other residential construction types.

Girard Kinney, AIA

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