ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS (ADUs)
WHAT ARE THEY? WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?
It is no revelation there is a current housing shortage crisis in the Bay Area of California. We read about it. We see it in the news. We hear local politicians speak about it. However, we most importantly experience it personally. The median monthly cost of a one-bedroom apartment has skyrocketed over the past decade and the cost of local residential real estate has paralleled. It is a simple matter of microeconomics. The demand for housing (predominately affordable housing) has significantly surpassed the supply.
In 2017, California enacted Senate Bill 1069 and Assembly Bill 2299 (collectively “SB 1069”) in an effort to provide relief from California’s housing shortage. SB 1069 essentially reduced local authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) regulatory requirements, limits and provided exceptions to certain code related restrictions for ADUs, in an effort to create additional housing opportunities.
WHAT ARE ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS (ADUs)
ADUs are sometimes referred to as: in-law units, granny flats or secondary units. The applicable designation is Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), which essentially means an accessory secondary dwelling unit (with independent living facilities) that is incidental to that of the primary dwelling unit or residence and that is located on the same lot. This creates the opportunity to create a secondary unit to an existing or new single-family house on a single-family residential lot. An ADU can potentially be accomplished in several methods:
All ADUs are subject to review and approval by the appropriate authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and prevailing planning and building codes and ordinances. The process for approval typically commences with a traditional pre-design phase, which includes an assessment of the AHJ requirements for ADUs in relation to the site-specific existing conditions. This will vary significantly on a site-by-site basis. Each AHJ typically has adopted specific ordinances and requirements for the approval of ADUs. In San Francisco, there are very specific requirements in regards to bicycle parking, access to open space, natural daylighting, setbacks and front yard improvements. Also, if the property is under the management of homeowner association (HOA), the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) must be carefully reviewed.
Following pre-design, traditional design phases would commence (schematic design, design development, construction documents), along with permitting. Depending on the selected project delivery type, bidding or negation with selected general contractor(s) would also be involved. ADUs are required to be reviewed and approved by the AHJ. As with any traditional project, each jurisdictions approval process and permit submittal requirements will vary. Again, as with a traditional project, a certificate of occupancy must be obtained by the AHJ prior to occupancy of the ADU.
WHAT ARE THE SIZE LIMITATIONS?
The size of the ADU will vary based on the site-specific conditions and AHJ requirements. As with any project, each site and jurisdiction will present its own set of unique challenges and applicable solutions. However, in terms of minimum and maximum figures, ADUs must typically minimally allow for an efficiency unit, as defined by Health and Safety Code section 17958.1 and typically cannot exceed fifty-percent of the existing living area and not exceed a floor area of 1,200 square feet. Again ultimately, each specific site must be carefully evaluated per specific conditions and AHJ requirements.
WHAT IF THERE IS ALREADY AN EXISTING UNPERMITTED ADU ON THE PROPERTY?
As of January 1, 2019, homeowners in California who created ADUs without securing the required approvals and permits from the AHJ may have the potential opportunity to bring the ADU into compliance. The specific requirements for compliance will again vary based on the site-specific conditions and jurisdiction. Several local jurisdictions have composed checklists for the compliance process.
SOME BASIC ITEMS TO EVALUATE
Each specific ADU project will present its own unique site-specific challenges. Some potential items to evaluate are:
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