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Riverside's historic charm meets modern housing solutions: The ADU Debate

Real estate professionals, preservationists, historians, and residents are encouraged to attend an advisory discussion on guidelines for ADU development in historical neighborhoods.

One doorway, two doors.

Riversiders are proud of our historic districts. Downtown, The Eastside, and the Wood Streets are rare examples of intact large-scale historic neighborhoods in suburban California. They give the city soul and charm and connect us to a generations-old California lineage.

Balancing our historical identity and a chronic and urgent need to find places for people to live affordably is as crucial as it is difficult. Zillow’s recent study on rent affordability puts Riverside in the country’s top five least affordable markets. Deep-seated and systemic economic issues are supremely complicated, and mitigating factors, like parking, in already crowded historical architectural districts make a difficult problem seem impossible.

One immediate solution employed to help manage rapidly increasing rents is the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). ADU is a new name for an old tactic. The basic idea is to modify existing structures and properties to accommodate multiple occupants, historically manifested as Garage Apartments, Granny Flats, and Mother-In-Law Cottages.

Because of the charm and scarcity of intact historical neighborhoods and past regulatory environments that allowed for shoddy and obtuse modifications, ADUs have become a topic of controversy. There is an understandable and respectable movement of resistance to ADU development. The preservation and quality of life concerns are valid and should be seriously considered.

I avoid happy mediums because they often look like mushy middles. I also carefully consider on which hills I am willing to perish. In the case of ADU development, however, a bit of both sidesism is justified. It would be short-sighted and a true disservice to our historical neighborhoods to allow investors to alter the remaining aesthetic unity and affect the quaint charm of our historic neighborhoods. It would also be callous to quash a careful and considered implementation of an immediate solution to the crushing problem of access to affordable housing.

Jared Jones co-founded ADU MAKERS, a Riverside-based real estate company specializing in ADUs. He was born and raised and based here in Riverside. He loves the charm and history and shares many concerns with the residents of historic neighborhoods. “We are concerned that these places are preserved well,” Jones said. He also lauds the City’s efforts to make careful progress. “The City of Riverside is leading the way for ADU development in the Inland Empire. As long as the City is thoughtful, we can have the best of both worlds with aesthetically pleasing affordable units in great neighborhoods.”

Many policy issues regarding ADU development have been settled at the state level. Riverside seeks to engage residents in the finer details of civic policy regarding aesthetic standards. On Wednesday, April 10, in the Community Room at the Main Library, there will be an opportunity for community input on guidelines and regulations governing what ADU development will look like and to ensure the adverse effects on the quality of life for current residents are minimized. Residents, preservationists, historians, real estate experts, and developers are encouraged to participate.