New Rules Allow More ADU's Across CA


Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are known by many names: granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units and more. No matter what you call them, ADUs are an innovative, affordable, effective option for adding much-needed housing in California.


Ground breaking State legislation initially took effect January 1, 2017, giving California cities more flexibility and latitude for allowing homeowners to build ADUs. Since then, both state and local legislation has been evolving to further ease requirements and costs for homeowners to incorporate ADU’s and JADUs (Junior Accessory Dwelling Units).


Here's a 2021 update for you on current legislation:


Reduced Costs and Burdens for Developing ADUs

  • ADU applications must be approved within 60 days, without a hearing or discretionary review

  • For ADUs permitted by 2025, cities/counties cannot require the owner to live at the property

  • No impact fees are required for ADUs under 750 sqft; proportional fees apply to larger ADUs

  • An ADU can be developed at the same time as a primary dwelling, with no additional hearing

  • A city/county must delay code enforcement on an unpermitted ADU to allow it to be legalized

  • Single-family HOAs must allow development of ADUs, subject to reasonable standards

  • Single-family homeowners can also develop JADUs—units under 500 sqft within a residence

ADUs Subject to Automatic Approval — No Local Limits Cities/counties must permit certain categories of ADUs without applying any local development standards, if proposed on a single-family lot. ADUs eligible for this automatic approval include: • An ADU or JADU converted from existing space in the home or another structure (e.g., a garage), so long as the ADU has exterior access and setbacks sufficient for fire safety • A new detached ADU under 800 sqft in size, 16 feet in height, with 4-foot side/rear setbacks • Multiple of the above options to create one internal JADU and an internal or detached ADU

ADUs Subject to Ministerial Approval — Minimal Local Limits Cities/counties must generally approve attached or detached ADUs under 1,200 sqft unless they adopt local development standards. If adopted, local standards have the following limitations:

• No minimum lot size requirement • No maximum unit size limit less than 1,000 sqft for a two-bedroom ADU • No requirement for replacement parking when a parking garage is converted into an ADU • No required parking for an ADU created through the conversion of existing space or located within a half-mile walking distance of a bus stop or other public transit • No height limit under 16 feet or side/rear setback requirements over 4 feet • No setback requirements for conversions/replacements of existing legal structures • Design standards must be objective and are assessed by staff, not elected officials • FAR and similar restrictions must be relaxed to allow development of an 800 sqft ADU

Adding Units to Multifamily Properties The following types of residential units can be added to multifamily buildings, with no local limits:

New units within the existing non-living space of a building (storage rooms, basements, garages, etc.), with one new internal unit allowed for every four existing units • Two new detached homes, with 4-foot side/rear setbacks, up to 16 feet in height What are the benefits of ADUs?

  • ADUs are an affordable type of home to construct in California because they do not require paying for land, major new infrastructure, structured parking, or elevators.

  • ADUs can provide a source of income for homeowners.

  • ADUs are built with cost-effective wood frame construction, which is significantly less costly than homes in new multifamily infill buildings.

  • ADUs allow extended families to be near one another while maintaining privacy.

  • ADUs can provide as much living space as many newly-built apartments and condominiums, and they’re suited well for couples, small families, friends, young people, and seniors.

  • ADUs give homeowners the flexibility to share independent living areas with family members and others, allowing seniors to age in place as they require more care.

  • JADUs, which are no more than 500 square feet and are typically bedrooms in a single-family home that have an entrance into the unit from the main home and an entrance to the outside from the JADU. The JADU must have cooking facilities, including a sink, but is not required to have a private bathroom.

If an ADU could meet your current or future need and you'd like assistance locating a suitable property, reach out to me and let's get you started!


Helping you make smart real estate investment decisions, as always.

Tamara Z


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