Dan Fitzpatrick has over 40 years of experience in planning and development. He has served in the public sector as Fresno’s Redevelopment Agency Director and has expertise in master plan and infill development. Mr. Fitzpatrick has also served as Chief Administrative Officer and Assistant CAO for the County of Fresno. Mr. Fitzpatrick holds a Masters in Government and lectures on government and planning issues at various colleges and universities in California.
We are fortunate to have Dan on board to help us in our advocacy work at the American Tiny House Association. Dan worked diligently to recode Fresno’s secondary dwelling unit ordinance to include tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages in all residential neighborhoods in Fresno, California. While some communities have ordinances allowing tinys on foundations, this is a first for tinys on wheels that are not required to be caregiver cottages.
California Tiny House and the City of Fresno, held a press conference in front of Fresno City Hall to publicize the recent enactment of an ordinance which permits tiny homes on wheels as 2nd dwelling units on residential lots throughout the city. The new ordinance can be found at: http://www.californiatinyhouse.com/new-zoning-code/
Fresno Bee article and video:
TV and Radio links:
I followed a few of the links until I found one that had the actual text of the Fresno ordinance. And it is nowhere the good news I’d been hoping for.
To fully understand the ordinance, you should also read the “ANSI 119.2” and “ANSI 119.5” standards, which are included by reference. But doing so is not easy! In order to not distract from the things I really want to say, I’ve expanded on the access difficulty after the meat of my comments.
Back to the ordinance. Of particular note to the people who have built their own THOW is the requirement that the primary residence and the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) be owned by the same person. Since the ordinance also requires that the owner reside in one of the residences, this should prevent speculators from purchasing Fresno residential properties, slapping a RVIA Certified THOW on as an ADU, then renting both units. And that is, from my housing/ecomonic justice, a good thing. However – and this is a big one – it means that people who bring their own THOWs aren’t welcome – unless they’re willing to give up the housing security of owning their THOW by selling it to the property owner!
There is also the bit about restrictive covenants. In order to have an ADU, the property owner must enter a restrictive covenant requiring owner occupancy of either the principal residence or the ADU. I question how it is possible to have a restrictive covenant cover a THOW since THOWs aren’t real property.
What I believe this ordinance enables (ignoring the restrictive covenant problem) is a way for the RVIA to weasel its way into the ADU market, without allowing us common folk from benefitting (unless we’re willing to leap high hurdles of skeptical regulators AND we can find a way around the common ownership restriction.)
<<end of the points I intended to raise on the Fresno Ordinance.
Tangent on inclusion of 3rd party standards in the Fresno Ordinance, nay ANY public law:
The ordinance refers to two ANSI Standards: 119.2 and 119.5. Finding these online was not a good experience. I found 119.5 (It relates to Park Model Recreational Vehicles) and is hosted on the RVIA site, where the text is available only for a fee.
119.2 was harder to find, but in the course of my searching, NFPA 1192 came up occasionally. At first I didn't notice it, but then I got curious, looked in to it, and it turns out that ANSI 119.2 is simply another "common" way of referring to NFPA 1192. Again, this is hosted on the RVIA site for a fee, but Elaine (who manages this site) found this link: : http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=1192. From there, click on the "Free Access …" link.
Now you should to see it, but it's not what I would call user friendly! It pops up in a window that you can't move or resize, and presents the text in 60 pages. Navigation consists of "First", "Previous", "Table of Contents", "Next", and "Last" buttons, so you can only view it one page at a time. And unless you have a very tall display, you'll have to scroll within the pop up window for each page.
Feeling a bit sneaky, I brought up my handy dandy screen capture utility, intending to capture the text as an image, then send the image through my text recognition utility, ending with 60 pages of text which I could then stitch together into one document. Unfortunately, NFPA did something with the pop-up display screen which prevents my screen capture utility from using its "Capture a scrollable region" feature. Meaning each "page" in the popup would have to be captured in two image captures, then I'd have to stitch those two images together before proceeding with the text recognition. So 120 captures with either manual scrolling or pushing the "next" button between each capture. 60 image edits to combine the two (top and bottom) overlapping images of each page, 60 text recognitions, then the final edit. I didn't bother.
I don't have a quick way to test this, but it wouldn't surprise me if the presentation of the text to people with visual impairment (using the common accessibility features in browsers and screen readers) would be far more frustration than my experience – perhaps even impossible.
I did try to see if 119.5 was also available in this form. It isn't. I've yet to find a way to view the text without paying a fee which goes FAR beyond the costs of electronic document delivery and (apparently) is pocketed by the RVIA.
Frustrated by this, I did a brief survey of other, unrelated laws in my home town, and there are many parts of my town's codified law that include 3rd party standards by reference. And unless they were NFPA standards, I could find no free, nor even at reasonable cost, way of viewing the standard.
This isn't right. Since we are subject to these laws, ALL parts of the law should be available for public examination. And in this connected day and age, we should be able to do it from our living room, or our phone while on the bus commuting. I probably could examine ANSI 119.5 for free – if I was willing to go to Fresno City Hall and ask. But such is not the spirit of free and open access to public records.
Reply from Dan Fitzpatrick, California State Chapter Leader
Original Comment: First, there is, I believe, a typo on the ordinance! It refers to ANSI standards 119.2 and 119.5, but 119.2 doesn’t exist! In tracking down 119.5, I finally found it available – for a hefty fee – from the RVIA. On the same “standards” page on the RVIA website was “Std for Rec Veh NFPA 1192 – 2015”. I’m guessing that this is what was meant in the ordinance. 1192 also is available only for a fee.
Reply: ANSI is the American Standard Institute (https://www.ansi.org/) not RVIA. ANSI 119.2 and 119.5 are building standards for RV and Park models respectively. Most THOW are Park models and are covered by ANSI 119.5. You can find the most recent ANSI 119.5 as a PDF file on line (2009 version). If you want RV or Park model “certification” you can go to RVIA or Pacific West Associates and meet their requirements.
Original Comment: Is it legal for an ordinance to require compliance with a standard when the definition of a standard is available only from a 3rd party and only for a fee? It seems to me that that violates the spirit, if not the law, of being able to see what your government is requiring you to do!
Reply: If you go to the ANSI web site, you will find that they are a nonprofit organization which provides building standards for such products as RV’s and THOW. ANSI provides standards for THOW, just as International Code Council publishes standards (commonly known as the Uniform Building Code), that is the bible for stick built housing. Municipal governments are not going to approve housing units for human habitation that do not meet building standards and will always reference the building standard governing a particular housing product.
Original Comment: Back to the ordinance. Of particular note to the people who have built their own THOW is the requirement that the primary residence and the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) be owned by the same person. Since the ordinance also requires that the owner reside in one of the residences, this should prevent speculators from purchasing Fresno residential properties, slapping a RVIA Certified THOW on as an ADU, then renting both units. And that is, from my housing/ecomonic justice, a good thing. However – and this is a big one – it means that people who bring their own THOWs aren’t welcome – unless they’re willing to give up the housing security of owning their THOW by selling it to the property owner!
Reply: The ordinance says that the owner of the property must reside in one of the units. A permanently affixed ADU would have to be owned by the same party. But, the title to the THOW can be in a 3rd party’s name, but the site it sits on must remain in title to the property owner. With that said, the ordinance could be clearer as it relates to the unique product of THOW vs a stick built unit permanently affixed to the property.
Original Comment: There is also the bit about restrictive covenants. In order to have an ADU, the property owner must enter a restrictive covenant requiring owner occupancy of either the principal residence or the ADU. I question how it is possible to have a restrictive covenant cover a THOW since THOWs aren’t real property.
Reply One would simply enter into a covenant that while a THOW is on the site on the property, the property owner must live in one of the units. If the THOW moves off the property, it is a moot point and thus the ordinance is no longer applicable.
Original Comment: What I believe this ordinance enables (ignoring the restrictive covenant problem) is a way for the RVIA to weasel its way into the ADU market, without allowing us common folk from benefitting (unless we’re willing to leap high hurdles of skeptical regulators AND we can find away around the common ownership restriction.)
Reply: No housing unit meant for human occupancy will be permitted in most any jurisdiction in the USA, without meeting applicable building standards as well as standards under zoning, utility hookups, and sanitation. The municipal government will always be regulating and monitoring compliance with their respective codes. Our job is to make the regulations reasonable for THOW and other tiny home products and in keeping with standards for other type of construction, e.g. stick built, modular, manufactured, etc.
— posted by Elaine Walker, written by Dan Fitzpatrick —