Part 2 - Defining Your Structure

A guide to navigating the zoning, bylaws, codes & regulations affecting Tiny Homes in Los Angeles

By Teresa Baker
LATCH Collective LLC
August 2016

Author’s note: This article is a work in progress, this being the first draft, and part 2 out of a series to come. My intent is that the Tiny House community in Los Angeles might help me write a more thorough resource by sharing their knowledge and ideas. I also hope to team up with legal assistance to check my understanding of these regulations, and to look for further options potentially missing. My goal is to produce a helpful, heavily researched guide to legally living Tiny in Los Angeles that can be used by anyone in the community and further improved by professionals. Please use the feedback form at the end of this post to submit improvements.

(Introduction and Part 1 can be found here.)

DEFINE YOUR STRUCTURE

     The first step towards understanding how to live legally in your Tiny Home is to define its structure. There are many types of dwelling structures which people attach the label of “Tiny Home” to, varying considerably in square footage and structural makeup. Until your local municipality or the County of Los Angeles defines “Tiny Homes” specifically within their zoning, as Fresno has done, choosing a legally-recognized title for your structure will then help define where that structure is allowed and what building codes it needs to follow. This is not an attempt to persuade you to identify with definitions other than “Tiny Home,” but instead a starting point for understanding what regulations to follow to build a legal home. The State of California has released an informational bulletin on Tiny Homes which offers specific structural definitions in order to understand what codes and standard a structure need follow. It warns that if the home cannot fall into one of these definitions, it is a “nonconforming structure in which occupancy is illegal and subject to prosecution.”[1]  It is important not to initially dismiss any structural options – you may find a path that meets your needs which you have not before considered as you weigh the positives and negative realities of each structural definition. For the purpose of this article, the first step in Tiny Home self-identity begins at a fork in the road: trailer or no trailer?

TINY HOUSE ON WHEELS

     One major benefit of living in a Tiny House on Wheels (THOW) is the flexibility of being able to tow your home to the next neighborhood or city, whether the move is employment-driven, family-related or a needed change of scenery. Mobile structures generally do not require a local permit to build, which avoids the fees and paperwork burden involved with the municipal permitting process. If you do encounter problems with your local government or unfriendly neighbors, there is the option of moving your home to a more Tiny-friendly location. A downfall of THOWs is the restrictive height, width and weight requirements – in California there is a maximum legal width of 8’6” and height of 14' (though many routes may have height limits of 13’5”)[2]. To tow a structure wider than this on the road requires a special permit, but depending on your frequency on the road, getting a single trip wide load permit might not be an unreasonable cost burden – the cost of a wide load special permit in California is around $16.[3] Perhaps the most significant downfall of THOWs involves the substantial restrictions on where one is legally allowed to park the unit while living in it full time (more on this later).

     A Tiny House on Wheels will need to be defined by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to register it and receive license plates, or to receive a permit allowing it on the highway.[4] The process of defining your structure for the DMV varies by location, so prepare yourself with an idea of what best suits your home-on-wheels, but also plan to be flexible. California’s recently released informational bulletin addressing Tiny Homes explains the allowed occupation of a Tiny Home on wheels, if less than 400 square feet usable space (excluding any loft), as long as it…

a)  Is in compliance with applicable laws.
b)  Is used in an approved location.
c)  Is not considered a (permanent) dwelling that would be under the jurisdiction of Department of Housing and Community Development.
d)  Fits the definition of either a recreational vehicle (RV), camping cabin (CC) or park trailer (PT).[5]

     Note point c) and d) show that as far as the State is concerned, a THOW is not a permanent dwelling; the state instead pushes an emphasis on the part time or recreational permitted dwelling within THOWs.  If you plan to legally live in your THOW as your primary dwelling, the location of your home may also require a structural definition suited to dwelling units which differ from the structural definition given by the DMV. Herein lies the challenge for most THOWs in Los Angeles County; there is not yet a permanent dwelling definition. Until one is developed, THOW owners will have to use one of the following structural definitions for their homes: the defined options given by the State’s bulletin on Tiny Houses (recreational vehicle, camping cabin, and park trailer), options for RVs and trailers with living accommodations mentioned by the California DMV (Conventional RV; Fifth Wheel, Folding Camping Trailer, Motor Home, Van Camper, Van Conversion, and Truck Camper), as well as other options such as home-built utility trailer, custom vehicle, specially constructed vehicle, and trailer coach.

  1)   Recreational Vehicle

     A miniature house attached to a trailer bed is aesthetically very different than the typical Recreational Vehicle (RV) found at campgrounds across the country, but many Tiny Home builders choose to be defined as RVs.  The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)  defines an RV as “vehicular-type units that are primarily designed as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or seasonal use that either has its own motive power, or is mounted on, or towed by another vehicle.”[6] The California Health and Safety Code defines a Recreational Vehicle as a motor home, travel trailer, truck camper, or camping trailer, with or without motive power, designed for human habitation for recreational purposes. To be recognized as an RV by the State of California, the structure must contain less than 320 square feet of internal living room and be built on a single chassis; it can be self-propelled, truck-mounted, or permanently tow-able and does not need a building permit.[7]

     Many THOW dwellers desire to identify as an RV so they can follow the RVIA building codes that are less restrictive and more aligned with the needs of a small space than those associated with permanent dwellings. To become an RVIA certified RV, the structure goes through an inspection process that is not available to Do-It-Yourself builders – only to certified RV manufacturers (this status as a certified manufacturer is expensive and difficult to achieve). You cannot build a DIY tiny house and expect to become a certified RV. A certified RV manufacturer will provide the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and a title so that it is possible to register your home with the DMV. In California, you will register your RV-identified tiny home with the DMV with this VIN number like you would a standard car.[8] If a certified RV builder is a member of the RVIA, the Tiny Houses they build should have an RVIA decal, which will make it easier to be accepted by RV parks and obtain RV insurance.[9

     Some may want to consider buying and refurbishing an actual, conventional, professionally manufactured RV. The perks of this type of structure would be the lightweight materials and greater ease of movement. This could appeal to those with whom the ability to move frequently is a top priority. Moving a Tiny Home can be costly, exhausting, and stressful. As Alex from Tiny House Talk puts it, “For me travel trailers, RVs and motorhomes are for those of us who want to be on the go. See the world. Travel the country. And tiny houses are for those of us who want to stay in one place, hold a job somewhere, run a business and enjoy living the simple life.”[10] It is possible to design a THOW with frequent travel as the inspiration, but for most designs, travel will still be a tolerable experience instead of a relaxing or enjoyable one.

      There are multiple types of structures within the RV family - park trailers, camping trailers, fifth wheel trailers, motorhomes, travel trailers and truck campers. The DMV will identify your RV as either Class A, Class B, or Class C, which will determine what class of drivers license you will need to tow the RV.[11] & [12] 

i.  Park Trailer / Park Model RV

     A Park Trailer as called by the State, is also known as a Park Model RV by the RVIA, and is a sub category of RV.[13] If you look up an image of a Park Trailer, you will see that it very much resembles a Tiny Home, and indeed they are the RVIA’s reaction to creating an RV that is more in line with the Tiny Home Movement. The State of California defines a Park Trailer as “a trailer designed for human habitation for recreational or seasonal use only” that contains 400 square feet or less of gross floor area (excluding loft areas), does not exceed 14 feet in width, and is built upon a single chassis.[14] In these ways, it is similar to a conventional RV. Because of its wider width allowance, a Park Trailer requires a special permit to be issued when transported upon public highways. They are often designed with built-in porches, decks and/or storage areas and winterized.[15] This structure type is beneficial for those wanting more design freedom, with the ability to have a wider home. . It might also be easier to receive city utility connections as a PT, as they are much more similar in appearance to a mobile home or traditional home than RVs are. Though the Park Trailer tends to be aesthetically very similar to a home, it is still not legal to live full time unless parking in a location allowing full time camping or RV living – “They are not permanent residences and should never be used as such.”[16] 

ii.  Travel Trailer

     A “Travel Trailer” is a non-collapsible, light-weight trailer with simple amenities, and a subcategory of RV.[17] They are mounted on wheels, pulled by a vehicle, and are limited in size and weight as to not require special highway movement permits.[18] This could be a structural definition option for those with very tiny homes (less than 16 feet in length) who are able to find parking where full time RV dwelling is allowed.

iii.  Motorhome

     The State of California recognizes two types of Motorhomes. One is larger and built on a truck chassis with a gasoline or diesel engine and is capable of travelling long distances due to a large fuel capacity; the smaller or mini-motor home is built on a modified van chassis and usually has a section that overhangs the cab.[19}

iv.  Truck Campers

     A Truck Camper, also called a Pickup Camper or Cab Over Camper, is defined by the DMV as “a detachable section designed to be transported on a pickup truck.”[20] Larger varieties of Truck Campers may require trucks with dual-rear wheels. This home is not built on a trailer, but instead the vehicle to which it is attached acts as its wheels. 

  2)  Trailers

     Instead of defining your THOW as an RV, you might be able to define it as a trailer, at least with the DMV. It should be easier receive classification for an owner-built (do-it-yourself) Tiny Home compared to an RV classification because of the requirement of RVs to be built by a certified RV manufacturer. It may or may not be easier to find a legal parking situation for Trailers veering from the RV definition – RVs are specifically not meant to be lived in full time, but trailers do not specifically allow full time living and are farther away from the traditional notion of a home.  California’s DMV has a Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) program, where qualifying trailers are issued a permanent identification card rather than the traditional registration card with yearly sticker on a license plate.[21] To register a trailer, an Application for Title of Registration is filled out at the DMV.[22]

i.  Camp Trailer 

     A Camp Trailer is defined by the State as “a vehicle designed to be used on a highway, capable of human habitation for camping or recreational purposes that does not exceed 16 feet in overall length from the foremost point of the trailer hitch to the rear extremity of the trailer body and does not exceed 96 inches in width and includes any tent trailer.”[23]  The State specifically expresses the difference of this structure from trailer coach. A Fifth-wheel travel trailer is a vehicle designed for recreational purposes to carry persons or property on its own structure and so constructed as to be drawn by a motor vehicle by means of a kingpin connecting device. [24] Fifth-wheels vary in length from 17 to 40 feet and is classified as a Camp Trailer when within length and width requirements. A Folding Camping Trailer, which has collapsible sides that are folded down for compact travel and can be towed by an average size vehicle, is also considered a camp trailer.[25] Any of these names could potentially be a fitting structural definition option for those with owner-built very Tiny Homes (less than 16 feet in length).

ii.  Trailer Coach

     In 2014, Guillame and Jenna from Tiny House Big Journey had luck licensing their THOW as a Coach Trailer from their Los Angeles based DMV.[26] The State defines a Trailer Coach as “a vehicle, other than a motor vehicle, designed for human habitation or human occupancy for industrial, professional, or commercial purposes, for carrying property on its own structure, and for being drawn by a motor vehicle.”[27] A trailer coach cannot exceed 8 ½ feet in width or 40 feet in length.[28]  Fifth Wheels and other Travel Trailers that exceed the maximum length and/or width requirements are considered Trailer Coaches.[29] Trailer coaches are not qualified for the PIT program.[30] LA County requires that before using a trailer coach for living or sleeping purposes a person shall obtain a permit to do so from the Building Official.[31] A Trailer Coach is an especially fitting structural definition for those Tiny Homes which double function as a workspace, such as a photography studio/Tiny Home.

iii.  Home-built Utility Trailer

     Another option for THOWs not outlined within the State’s informational bulletin are Home-built Utility Trailers.  A Utility Trailer as defined by the DMV is any trailer or semi-trailer used to transport property. While it is not specifically defined for housing, the DMV states that “the addition of living quarters to a trailer does not permanently alter that vehicle for human habitation. The living quarters are secondary or incidental to the primary function of the vehicle, which is transporting property.”[32] They are able to receive a license plate and be road legal. This could be an option for those desiring a mobile lifestyle wanting a do-it-yourself Tiny Home. These are actually classified as Custom-Built Vehicles and a special registration process – see point 3) below. There will be challenges regarding where to park and legally live full time in this structure.

  3)  Custom-Built Vehicle

     Certain owner-built (DIY) Tiny Homes may best fit the category of a Custom-Built Vehicle, especially the subset of the Tiny Home Movement involving buses or vans converted into dwelling units. This is a vehicle “built for private use, not for resale, and not constructed by a licensed manufacturer or remanufacturer,” and when reconstructed “does not resemble the original make of the vehicle that was dismantled.”[33] To register a custom-built vehicle, an Application for Title or Registration along with a Statement of Construction and Statement of Facts is brought to the DMV.[34]  Options for Custom-built vehicles include Specially Constructed (SPCNS) Vehicles, House Cars, Van Campers, and Van Conversions.

i.  Specially Constructed Vehicle (SPCNS)

     SPCNS vehicles are assembled from new, used, or a combination of new and used parts, a kit, or vehicles reported as dismantled (junk), and when reconstructed cannot resemble the original production vehicle.[35] 

ii.  House Car

     The California Vehicle Code defines House Car" as "a motor vehicle originally designed, or permanently altered, and equipped for human habitation, or to which a camper has been permanently attached."[36] Note that there is no “temporary” or “seasonal” restriction within this definition.

iii.  Van Camper

     Van Campers are equipped with most of the amenities found in motor homes, but bed size and space to maneuver are limited. Vehicles usually have a raised roof for additional headroom.[37]

iv. Van Conversion

     A van conversion normally has a bed, dinette, sink, and a small water supply but is not as fully equipped for camping as a van camper. [38]

  4)  Camping Cabin

     The State’s owner-built (DIY) option for THOWS offered within its bulletin the highly restrictive definition of a Camping Cabin.[39] A Camping Cabin is defined as a “relocatable hard sided shelter with a floor area less than 400 square feet without plumbing … may contain an electrical system and electrical space conditioning equipment… but is otherwise limited with respect to internal appliances and facilities.”[40] Notice the many overly restrictive aspects of this option. The limit on the time a person can occupy the unit is limited to 30 days each year.[41]  Identifying as a Camping Cabin (CC) in the short term might work for some situations, such as for DIY builders with an off-grid, no plumbing design who are desiring to identify as a Camping Cabin until a better suited Tiny House definition comes to light, allowing long term occupancy of the unit.

     Most options for structurally defining your tiny home mentioned thus far are required to be under 400 square feet of usable space. There is also the option of a mobile THOW larger than 400 square feet. Though some would argue that 400 square feet is the cutoff for a Tiny Home, the Tiny Movement is, for the most part, supportive of the lifestyle regardless of the specific square footage measurement. The State’s informational bulletin mentions Mobile Homes and Factory Built Housing as other options for Tiny Houses which can be larger. These options are familiar to most, as they’ve existed as a mobile, smaller square footage housing options for decades.

  5)  Manufactured Home

     A manufactured home is built on a permanent chassis to assist in transportability, but is typically not moved from its initial installed site.[42] Some manufactured homes still have the tin-can look of years gone by while some have been modernized to look like a standard home, but the codes allow little to no room for exterior alterations or creativity.[43] They are over 320 square feet of gross floor area, more than eight feet in width, and more than 40 feet in length.[44] Manufactured homes are licensed and titled by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (DHC) and receive an HUD Data Plate.[45] Manufactured homes are considered personal property and tend to have a decreasing value over the life of the home.[46] What usually distinguishes Tiny Houses from Manufactured homes is the aesthetic appeal of tiny homes which mimic the architectural features and building materials of a traditional home. However, it is possible to design a Manufactured Home to mimic these aesthetics.

  6)  Factory-built Housing (FBH) on chassis

      The State’s informational bulletin on Tiny Houses explains Factory-built Houses (FBH) as a “residential structure constructed in an off-site location for placement on a foundation,” which “generally must comply with the same standards as those applicable to conventional housing units.”[47]  FBH are residential buildings, dwelling units, or individual dwelling rooms that are either wholly manufactured or in substantial part manufactured at an offsite location to be assembled onsite, and may or may not be constructed and transported on a chassis, meaning it may be possible for a THOW to pursue identity as an FBH. These are also called Modular Homes or Prefab Homes. Since a FBH unit is a residential structure, it is designed and allowed to be lived in full time. FBH are more often than not, attached to private land and considered real estate. [48] Unlike manufactured homes, FBH is considered real estate and will likely maintain or increase in value over time like a site-built home.[49] The State’s bulletin on Tiny Homes warns that HCD has not yet approved any Tiny Home FBH units, and the ability in the future to approve such units would depend on their compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.[50] The inclusion of FBH in the State’s Tiny House Bulletin suggests the possibility of a future design that complies with all requirements, even if no home so far has been approved. As the name “Factory Built” suggests, this housing identity is likely not suitable for DIY owner-built homes, but more research is required to understand requirements on who could be allowed to build a FBH.

  7)  Mobile Home

     Mobile home is an appropriate title only for those factory built homes that are built before June 15, 1976, and that not built to a uniform construction code. The Health and Safety Code explains how there is an existing confusion among consumers, enforcement agencies, lenders, and others in the housing industry regarding terminology and the difference between "manufactured housing" and "mobilehomes." [51] It specifies that all single-family factory-constructed housing built on or after June 15, 1976, that is in compliance with HUD standards and the federal National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 should be called manufactured housing or manufactured homes, not "mobilehomes.”[52]

NO TRAILER – SITE CONSTRUCTED TINY HOUSE

     Before committing to a design where rubber meets the road (literally) with your home, let’s go back to that initial fork in the road and examine the alternatives to building on a trailer. Choosing to build a site-constructed Tiny Home on a permanent foundation instead of on a trailer bed could be a more straightforward path to obtaining the peace of mind accompanying a certificate of occupancy – the final approval given by local government to legally dwell in your home. This path allows you significantly more design freedom than a THOW, as your home will not be restricted by width, height and weight considerations required for highway travel.

     Within its bulletin on Tiny Homes, the State explains: “A Tiny Home that is site-constructed or mobile, and does not fit the definition of an MH, FBH, RV, PT or CC, is a dwelling unit and must comply with the CBSC in order to be legally occupied.”[53] Simply put, as far as the State is concerned, Tiny Homes can legally be “Tiny Homes” and considered permanent dwelling units as long as they meet California Building Standards Commission requirements. These requirements include being placed on a foundation or otherwise permanently affixed to real property, having a minimum ceiling height of 7 feet 6 inches (with several exceptions), a minimum of one room with at least 120 square feet of gross floor area, and a net floor area of not less than 70 square feet for all other habitable rooms.[54] On top of CBSC housing requirements, the municipality’s zoning regulations will also need to apply, and will differ in their requirements for minimum square footage, lot set-back, and other design standards.

     Site-constructed houses require building permits - visit The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety  for the permit process with the City of Los Angeles, keeping in mind that each municipality within LA County will have unique building permit processes and requirements. A downfall of site-constructed homes is that building permits are both expensive and time-consuming. There will most likely be limits as to how “tiny” a permanent dwelling can be within the municipal zoning - the minimum square footage for single family residents in Los Angeles County is 800 square feet,[55] but there are also options for bypassing this requirement. The following section will look at options for site-constructed Tiny Homes as permanent dwelling units including getting a variance for a dwelling unit, secondary dwelling units, building according to the small lot subdivision ordinance, efficiency dwelling units, and permit-less workshops.

 1)  Primary dwelling unit with variance or deviation

      As long as most State CBSC housing requirements are followed, you might have luck getting a variance or deviation from the municipal zoning code requirement that is prohibiting you.[56] The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning allows for a modification to the minimum square footage and width requirements with a modification of these minimum requirements through the site plan review application.[57] For the City of Los Angeles, applying for a variance involves explaining how a specific requirement, for example the minimum square footage requirement, presents practical difficulties, how your situation is special, why a variance is necessary and why it would not be detrimental to others, as well as public input from those within 500 feet of your lot.[58] If desiring a permanent foundation Tiny Home that is not too much smaller than minimum square footage requirements, building a primary dwelling unit with a variance could be the most straightforward to achieving a certificate of occupancy.

  2)  Second Dwelling Unit (SDU)

      Building a Tiny Home as the primary unit on a residential lot has major cost restrictions, as there are not ample empty residential lots available for new construction in Los Angeles, and the cost of land is high. A more attainable option could be to build a home as a second dwelling unit on a lot with an existing primary unit. SDUs are created within single-family lots, and include independent kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping areas, but are expected to be subordinate in their appearance, size, and location to the main house.[59] The State of California requires its municipalities to have a system for streamlined approval of SDUs.[60] If a municipality does not develop its own standards, then the State has a set of default standards for approving SDUs.[61] California is currently a very “pro” SDU as a remedy for a high demand of housing - the State has mandated that any local second-unit ordinances provide the creation of second units without arbitrary, excessive, or burdensome requirements that unreasonably restrict the ability of homeowners to create SDUs in the zones which they are authorized.[62] LA County’s minimum square footage requirement for an SDU is 220 square feet.[63] The City of LA's ordinance for SDUs is being repealed and rewritten as an attempt to be supportive of second units and remove barriers to their construction, and to offer a process for legalizing existing non-conforming SDUs.[64]

   3)  Housing defined under a special ordinance

     Check your municipality for special ordinances that allow you to bypass requirements or follow different requirements under special circumstances. For example, the City of LA’s “Small Lot Subdivision” ordinance allows for smaller square footage requirements as well as minimizes lot set-back requirements.

  4)  Limited Density Owner-Build Dwelling

     Another opportunity may exist for those living in rural LA County, your municipality may allow the option for you to live in your Tiny Home without connecting to the normally required electrical, mechanical, and plumbing facilities and equipment, as the state has created an opportunity for local ordinances to allow the construction of what the State calls Limited Density Owner-Built Dwellings.[65] If research is shared among Tiny Home advocates in LA County, we will better understand potential opportunities for Tiny Homes under special ordinances within each municipality.

   4)  Efficiency Dwelling Unit

      Another option to bypass traditional housing standards for site-constructed homes is to define your home as an Efficiency Dwelling Unit. An Efficiency Unit is a dwelling unit containing only one habitable room.[66] Efficiency Dwelling Units are permanent dwellings allowed to have less minimum square feet; they need to have a living room of at least 220 square feet with the basic kitchen setup requirements.[67] Contact your municipality’s planning department to inquire about local zoning and requirements for efficiency dwelling units to better understand if this is an option.

  5)  Workshop, shed, or playhouse

     If you desire a very tiny home, consider that a building permit isn't required for a structure of 120 square feet, shorter than 12 feet in height.[68] It is important to stress the reason for the lack of permit requirement – this size of structure is considered a shed or workshop, and full-time living in this small of a space is not legally allowed. This type of micro-home would not legally be able have utility hookups or any furniture indicative of full time dwelling, meaning the occupier would be choosing to be stealthily living in their Tiny Home (read more about this way of life in following additions to this article).

ANOTHER OPTION IN-BETWEEN?

     If reviewed carefully, we can find an often overlooked path, back at our initial fork in the road. It is possible to have mobility without having a trailer. By building a DIY house on skids, piers, or runners, it is a conventional dwelling unit and allowed for full-time dwelling. These structures are still mobile, as they can be transported by trailer when desired. The attachment of skids, piers or runners to their home could be considered a permanent foundation. Not all zoning will allow these structures but there is much less complication to finding a way to permanently live in this type of unit within urban residential areas than in a THOW.

  1)  House on Pier-and-Beam

     It is possible to have a Tiny Home that is transportable but permanently affixed to a trailer. Pier and Beam, also called post and beam, is an option for a permanent foundation that will allow a structure to be considered a permanent dwelling unit. The pier and beam foundation relies on improved soil-bearing capability well below the surface of the ground to bear the weight of the house above.[69] When moving to the next location, a professional structural mover is hired. The house is raised on jacks, dollies are maneuvered beneath it, and the beams supporting the house are lowered into the dollies, which have a suspension system that adjusts to the road so that no part of the house is unduly stressed.[70] This an option that would work for those who desire the possibility of moving their home but do not intend to move frequently, as moving most pier and beam homes would be a costly process. Moving a Tiny Home is simpler and more affordable than most traditional Pier-and-Beam houses.

  2)  House on Skids

     A House on Skids is another way to have a transportable home not permanently affixed to a trailer bed. Skids, also called runners or a girder base, are large rails underneath the home, similar to a sled, which can be lifted onto a trailer for long distance transporting. The skids are directly bolted to a slab or other foundation, and from here a house is built up. Moving a home requires unbolting the home and lifting it off the foundation. Andrew from Tiny House Build notes, “This would make the home simply a 'load on a trailer' while in transit and a permanent house once attached to the foundation. This is done all the time with full size houses, so the same concept can be applied to tiny homes as well.”[71] While still limited to the width of a road, this option requires hiring someone to move your home for you, but is a simpler process than moving a house on pier-and-beams.

     Both the Pier and Beam and House on Skids options allow for the possibility of building wider, which would entail paying wide load fees (a single trip wide load permit for up to 15  feet is $16 in California[72]). With a House on Skids, there is less autonomy in picking up and leaving with your home than a THOW, but towing one’s own home is likely a stressful ordeal. If you plan on moving infrequently, hiring a professional to move the home could be less of a headache than towing it yourself.  Whereas a THOW is clearly mobile, a Tiny House on skids looks more like a permanent house, but it is still up to local regulations if a House on Skids is considered temporary housing, an industrial building, or if it can be considered a permanent dwelling unit.[73] There is not a lot of readily available resources on housing on skids – more research is needed into their legality as a structural option for permanent dwelling within LA County.

  3)  Factory Built Housing (FBH) – off frame

     As previously described, Factory-built Housing are residential structures designed and constructed off site, and then moved to its permanent foundation for construction to be finished. [74] An off-frame FBH is either built with removal of the chassis frame in mind, or without a chassis, and usually requires cranes to assist with home placement.[75] Again, the State's informational bulletin on Tiny Homes warns that HCD has not yet approved any Tiny Home FBH units, and the ability to approve such units in the future would depend on their compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements.[76]

THIS GRAPHIC HELPS SUMMARIZE THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR DEFINING YOUR STRUCTURE:

REFERENCES

[1] STATE OF CALIFORNIA - BUSINESS CONSUMER SERVICES AND HOUSING AGENCY, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, DIVISION OF CODES AND STANDARDS. “TINY HOMES” BY R. WEINERT. SACRAMENTO:  9 MAY 16. (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01). (MH, FBH, SHL, MP/SOP, RT, OL)-REVISED.

[2] SC&RA. OVERSIZE/ OVERWEIGHT PERMIT MANUAL. WEB. AUGUST 16 2016. HTTP://PERMITS.SCRANET.ORG/WP-CONTENT/UPLOADS/2015/10/CALIFORNIA.PDF

[3] FOR THE MOST ACCURATE FEE ASSESSMENT EMAIL OVERSIZE.OVERWEIGHT.PERMITS@DOT.CA.GOV OR VISIT HTTP://WWW.DOT.CA.GOV/HQ/TRAFFOPS/PERMITS/CONTACT.HTM FOR FURTHER CONTACT INFORMATION.

[4] SEE CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE INFORMATION FOR VEHICLE CODE EXPLAINING WHAT VEHICLES ARE SUBJECT TO REGISTRATION

[5] STATE OF CALIFORNIA.  (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[6] RVIA. 2015. “PARK MODEL RECREATIONAL VEHICLES.” WEBPAGE. ACCESSED AUGUST 20 2016.

[7] STATE OF CALIFORNIA. (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[8] CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “OTHER VEHICLE REGISTRATION IN CALIFORNIA.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[9] TINY HOUSE COMMUNITY. “FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – TINY HOUSE ON WHEELS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[10] TINY HOUSE TALK. “TOP 5 REASONS FOR A TINY HOUSE INSTEAD OF A CAMPER.” BY ALEX PINO. 10 JANUARY 2012.

[11] DMV.ORG. “WHAT QUALIFIES AS AN RV OR MOTORHOME?” BY KATHY TEEL. 21 JULY 2012.

[12] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “LICENSE CLASSES LICENSE REQUIREMENTS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[13] CALIFORNIA HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 18010(B)(2).

[14] CALIFORNIA HEALTH & SAFETY CODE § 18009.3 (A).

[15] RVIA. “PARK MODEL RVS (AKA RECREATIONAL PARK TRAILERS): DEFINITION AND USE.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.  

[16] RVIA. “PARK MODEL RVS (AKA RECREATIONAL PARK TRAILERS): DEFINITION AND USE.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.  

[17] DMV.ORG DMV MADE SIMPLE. “WHAT QUALIFIES AS AN RV OR MOTORHOME?” BY KATHY TEEL. 21 JULY 2012.

[18]STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “14.005 TRAILER DEFINITIONS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[19] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. RECREATIONAL VEHICLES AND TRAILERS HANDBOOK (SACRAMENTO, CA: 2011), 13.

[20] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DMV RECREATIONAL VEHICLES AND TRAILERS HANDBOOK, 13.

[21] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “PERMANENT TRAILER IDENTIFICATION (PTI).” DECEMBER 2009, 14-2.

[22] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CALIFORNIA. “APPLICATION FOR TITLE OR REGISTRATION.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016. 

[23] CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE §242.

[24] CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE §324.

[25] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “TYPES OF RVS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[26] TINY HOUSE GIANT JOURNEY. “OUR MAIDEN VOYAGE.” BY JENNA DUTIHL, 28 MAY 2014.

[27] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “VEHICLE DEFINITIONS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 17 AUGUST 2016. A TRAILER COACH IS DEFINED IN CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE §635.

[28] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DMV. “PERMANENT TRAILER IDENTIFICATION (PTI),” 14-7.

[29] CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE §635.

[30] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DMV. “PERMANENT TRAILER IDENTIFICATION (PTI),” 14-7.

[31] LOS ANGELES COUNTY CODE . CHAPTER 69 – TRAILER CODES. § 6903.

[32] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DMV. “PERMANENT TRAILER IDENTIFICATION (PTI),” 14-6.

[33] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR HOME MADE SPECIALLY CONSTRUCTED OR KIT VEHICLES.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[34] CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT FOR MOTOR VEHICLES. “APPLICATION FOR TITLE,” REG 343“STATEMENT OF CONSTRUCTION,” REG 5036; “STATEMENT OF FACTS,” REG 256 .

[35] CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE §5500 OR §11520. FOR DETAILS ON CERTIFYING SPCNS VISIT HTTPS://WWW.DMV.CA.GOV/PORTAL/DMV/DETAIL/PUBS/BROCHURES/FAST_FACTS/FFVR23 .

[36] CALIFORNIA VEHICLE CODE §362

[37] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “TYPES OF RVS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[38] STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. “TYPES OF RVS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 20 AUGUST 2016.

[39] STATE OF CALIFORNIA.  (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[40] HEALTH & SAFETY CODE §18862.5.

[41] STATE OF CALIFORNIA HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT. “ARTICLE 7 – INSTALLATIONS AND FEATURES” IN CHAPTER 22 SPECIAL OCCUPANCY PARKS.

[42] NADA GUIDES. “MANUFACTURED, MOBILE AND MODULAR HOMES DEFINITIONS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 22 AUG 2016.

[43] MODULAR HOMEOWNERS. “DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PREFAB AND MANUFACTURED HOMES.” BY J.ELITZER. WEBPAGE ACCESSED 22 AUGUST 2016.

[44] CALIFORNIA HCD – VEHICLE INDUSTRY NEWS. “PARK TRAILER/MANUFACTURED HOME LABEL/DATA PLATE.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 22 AUGUST 2016.

[45] CALIFORNIA HCD. “PARK TRAILER/MANUFACTURED HOME LABEL/DATA PLATE.”

[46] MODULAR HOMEOWNERS. “DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PREFAB AND MANUFACTURED HOMES.”

[47] STATE OF CALIFORNIA.  (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[48] NADA GUIDES. “MANUFACTURED, MOBILE AND MODULAR HOMES DEFINITIONS.”

[49] HTTP://MODULARHOMEOWNERS.COM/DO-YOU-KNOW-THE-DIFFERENCE-BETWEEN-PREFAB-AND-MANUFACTURED-HOMES/

[50] STATE OF CALIFORNIA. (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[51] HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE §18000(B)(2)

[52] HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE §18000(B)(2)

[53] STATE OF CALIFORNIA - BUSINESS CONSUMER SERVICES AND HOUSING AGENCY, DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, DIVISION OF CODES AND STANDARDS. “TINY HOMES” BY R. WEINERT. SACRAMENTO:  4 FEBRUARY 16. (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[54] STATE OF CALIFORNIA. “TINY HOMES.” (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

[55] LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF REGIONAL PLANNING. “RESIDENTIAL AND AGRICULTURAL FAQ.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 22 AUGUST 2016.

[56] SEE LAMC 12.28 FOR APPLICATION FOR SLIGHT MODIFICATION TO REDUCE REAR YARD; SEE LAMC 12.27 FOR VARIANCE FOR INCREASING DENSITY TO PERMIT AN ADDITIONAL UNIT WHERE ONLY ONE UNIT IS ALLOWED.

[57] LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF REGIONAL PLANNING. “SITE PLAN REVIEW APPLICATION.” DOCUMENT ACCESSED 22 AUGUST 2016.

[58] CITY OF LOS ANGELES. “ZONE VARIANCE.” LAMC 12.27.

[59] VINIT MUKHIJA, DANA CUFF AND KIMBERLY SERRANO. BACKYARD HOMES AND LOCAL CONCERNS: HOW CAN LOCAL CONCERNS BE BETTER ADDRESSED? CITY LAB. LOS ANGELES: 2014.

[60] AB §1866 WHICH AMENDS GOVERNMENT CODE §65852.2

[61] CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENT CODE §65852.2(B)(1).

[62]  STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT. “MEMORANDUM FOR PLANNING DIRECTORS AND INTERESTED PARTIES.”  SECOND UNIT LEGISLATION EFFECTIVE JANUARY1, 2003 AND JULY 1, 2003. BY CATHY E. CRESWELL (SACRAMENTO: CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT), P. 3.

[63] LA COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF REGIONAL PLANNING. “SECOND UNIT ORDINANCE.” CHAPTER 22.52 PART 16 (22.52.1700-22.52.1770)  ; LOS ANGELES COUNTY CODE. “SECOND UNITS – DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS.” 22.52.1750 B.4)A) .

[64] CITY OF LOS ANGELES. “SDU REPEAL ORDINANCE.” LAND USE_KM_554EA-20160623131152 . TO FOLLOW PROGRESS ON THE SECOND-DWELLING UNIT ORDINANCE REPEAL PROCESS FOR LOS ANGELES SEE CF 14-0057-S8 AND ITS CITY CLERK FILE.

[65] STATE HOUSING LAW. “LIMITED DENSITY OWNER-BUILT DWELLINGS.” TITLE 25, CHAPTER 1, SUBCHAPTER 1 §8; HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTION 17958.2.

[66] 25 CCR § 7301  

[67] SECTION R304.5

[68] LOS ANGELES COUNTY – DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS. “WHY DO I NEED A PERMIT?” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 22 AUGUST 2016.  

[69] BUILDERS WEBSOURCE. “5: FOUNDATIONS.” WEBPAGE ACCESSED 22 AUGUST 2016.

[70] HOME AND GARDEN. “THE CASH-AND-CARRY HOUSE.” BY KATE MURPHY, 16 NOVEMBER 2011.   

[71] TINYHOUSEBUILD.COM. “SHOULD TINY HOUSES BE AFRAID: HUD PROPOSAL FR-5877-P-01.” BY ANDREW MORRISON, 21 MARCH 2016.

[72] SPECIALIZED CARRIERS & RIGGING ASSOCIATION. “OVERSIZE/ OVERWEIGHT PERMIT MANUAL: CALIFORNIA.” (SACRAMENTO, CA: 2015).

[73] THE TINY HOUSE. “SKIP THE TRAILER.” BY ETHAN WALDMAN, 29 APRIL 2016.

[74] FOUND IN HSC §§19960, ET SEQ., AND TITLE 25, CCR §§3000, ET SEQ.

[75] HSC §19990.

[76] STATE OF CALIFORNIA. (INFORMATION BULLETIN 2016-01).

 

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