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Scenic St. Petersburg

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Accessory Dwelling Units

Beginning in 2021, the City of St. Petersburg began contemplating changes to the Zoning code regulating accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) throughout the city. An ADU is commonly referred to as a garage apartment or mother-in-law suite, and explicitly defined with the City of St. Petersburg’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations, as “An ancillary or secondary living unit that has a separate kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area, existing either within the same structure, or on the same lot, as the primary detached single-family house.”

The City of St. Petersburg has a long legacy of recognizing ADUs within its land use and zoning codes. While many ADUs were constructed prior to establishment of the City’s first zoning code in 1925, they would continue to be legally recognized as a permitted, accessory use in many zoning districts through 1977.  The 1977 land development code update represented the City’s most significant deviation from its historic development pattern by moving toward a vehicle-based, suburban model of land use and zoning regulation that further segregated land-use types and prohibited the construction of new ADUs within all residential neighborhoods. From 1977 through 2007, existing ADUs were recognized only as a grandfathered use. 

In 2001, a long-range visioning and planning process known as the Vision 2020 Plan was initiated. The Vision 2020 Plan was eventually adopted, incorporated into the City’s Comprehensive Plan as the Vision Element, and executed as text amendments to City Code, Chapter 16, and map amendments to the Official Zoning Map and Future Land Use Map. These amendments included the re-establishment of ADUs as a permitted, accessory use within many of the City’s traditional neighborhoods. 

In the Fall of 2019, an updated long-range visioning and planning process was commenced to evaluate the status of the existing Vision 2020 Plan and include new feedback from a changing community about their priorities and aspirations for the future of St. Petersburg. Known formally as “StPete2050: A Vision Plan for St. Petersburg,” the Plan is organized around ten community themes, including Housing. One component of the Plan included a community survey with over 4,000 responses. One response relating to the Housing theme was to, “Allow accessory dwelling units in all zoning districts that allow single-family homes.” 

The proposed changes to the Land Use and Zoning categories would allow the construction of ADUs even in the Coastal High Hazard Area  Public concern was raised about changes in neighborhood character, along with increased density and associated evacuation risk, as well as the potential for increases in insurance rates. 

Regardless, in July 2022 the City Council re-established ADUs as a permitted, principal use (accessory to primary residence) within all neighborhood zoning categories, essentially eliminating single-family zoning citywide.  The only remaining single-family neighborhoods are now the few deed-restricted communities in the city.

Additional material related to this topic is available here.