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On January 25, 2022, the City Council adopted code revisions intended to incentivize Cottage Preservation by providing a voluntary option for homeowners seeking to remodel, and preserve traditional beach cottages. In the past, homeowners have run into complications when seeking to make a small cottage more livable by adding an extra bedroom or bathroom, leading to the decision to demolish the cottage and redevelop the site. The cottage preservation program allows larger additions (up to 50 percent of the existing floor area or a maximum of 750 square feet). Eligible projects would also receive relief from a building code valuation threshold requiring building code compliance as new construction.

Cottage Preservation Program Presentation - Click Here



What are the incentives?

Increased Allowed Additions for Nonconforming Properties Due to Parking

 Problem: Typically, cottages do not provide all the code-required parking (e.g., insufficient number or inadequate size) and as a result, additions are limited to 10 percent of the existing floor area. This 10 percent limitation is typically not sufficient to accommodate the addition of a new master bedroom or justify the cost of a remodel.

Incentive:  Cottage preservation projects are permitted larger additions (up to 50 percent of the existing floor area or a maximum of 750 square feet) without providing the minimum code-required parking. See NBMC Section 20.38.060.A.3.

Building Code Exception

Problem: The City’s Municipal Code (Section 15.02.060) requires a dwelling to be subject to building code regulations as a new structure when the valuation of the permit for a remodel or renovation exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the dwelling. As a result of this 50 percent valuation threshold, many small remodeling and addition projects require substantial improvements beyond the original scope of work in order to comply with building code regulations as if the house is new construction. Due to this increased scope of work and cost, many property owners decide that it is not financially feasible to maintain their existing residential cottages and instead, decide to demolish and rebuild.

Incentive: For cottage preservation projects, only the components of the structure that are affected by the renovation/addition will have to comply with new building code requirements. For example, in the case of a new bedroom addition over the garage, the addition and portions of the existing garage that are affected by the addition, will have to comply with current building code requirements; however, the existing one-story component of the house to remain would no longer have to be fully retrofitted to comply with building code standards as a new home constructed today.

Unfortunately, if a property is located within a special flood hazard area as mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a separate valuation threshold will continue to apply as required by FEMA. See NBMC Section 15.02.060.

What constitutes a cottage for the purpose of this program?

There is no definition that accurately describes what constitutes a cottage. However, as used by the community, the term “cottage” refers to the smaller residential dwellings or structures that are representative of the traditional development patterns in the City, particularly in old Corona del Mar, Balboa Island, and the Balboa Peninsula. These structures are typically one-story, with the exception of a small second story above parking in the rear of a lot. Many cottages vary in architectural style and year of construction. Therefore, for the purpose of this program, the cottage preservation incentive will be granted for those projects that agree to maintain a building envelope representative of traditional cottages.

The building envelope for cottage preservation eligibility would be limited as follows:

  • Front half of lot limited to one story and a maximum height of 16 feet;
  • Rear half of lot limited to two stories and a maximum height of 24 feet; and
  • Third floors and third floor decks would be prohibited.




What does a property owner have to do to take advantage of the program?

This is a 100 percent voluntary program that affords property owners the increased opportunity to remodel and expand their cottage properties in exchange for preserving the cottage building envelope and overall form of the development of the property (i.e., one-story and 16 feet high within front half of lot and two-story, 24 feet high within rear half of lot).

To ensure this building envelope is retained and the property owner does not subsequently add additional floor area that violates the prescribed building envelope, a deed restriction would be required. However, the deed restriction would not require that the cottage be preserved indefinitely. Should a property owner desire to redevelop the property in the future, the deed restriction would allow redevelopment of the property in compliance with development standards in effect at the time, including providing code-required parking.


For more information, contact a planner at 949-644-3204 or visit the Permit Center at 100 Civic Center Drive, Bay 1C, Newport Beach, CA 92660.