A Rose By Any Other Name

accessory dwelling unit california
A Rose By Any Other Name

by Abeer Sweis
July 19, 2018
ADU. Accessory Dwelling Unit. Not as romantic sounding as Carriage House, or as quirky as Grannie Flat, or as loaded as Mother-in-law Unit. But all are different names for the same thing, a space for dwelling that is separate or attached to a single family home on a piece of property. Once very popular, ADUs fell out of favor in the middle of the last century. With the rise in property costs, multigenerational living, the “sharing economy” and the desire to repurpose the garage, the popularity of ADUs is again on the rise.

At SweisKloss we are in the midst of designing three ADUs right now. In our favor is the revised city code that allows for Accessory Dwelling Units. The scarcity of affordable housing in California has caused the state legislature to rethink the restrictions on ADUs, so as of January 1, 2017, the new state ADU laws required cities to change their regulations to be more accommodating to ADU design.

The new ADU laws prohibit cities from being overly restrictive. For example, a common ADU restriction is required parking. Now, there are a few exceptions to the parking requirement including having access to public transit within a half-mile or car share within a block. Another common restriction involved excessive fees. Now, fees on adding an ADU must be proportional to the ADUs impact and not commiserate with fees on the property as a whole. ADUs must comply with building and fire codes; the same codes that apply to the main residence on the property. No longer are applicants for ADUs required to jump through special hoops.

Although different cities allow for various square foot limits, under the new law here in Santa Monica, the maximum allowable size for an ADU on a lot larger than 6,000 square feet has increased from 650 to 800 square feet (for parcels 6,000 and smaller the maximum size remains at 650 square feet). And an ADU can have a second story that is as large as the footprint of the floor below. All of the additional fees, over and above the standard permitting fees, have been eliminated. As for renting out the ADU, either the primary residence or the ADU must be owner-occupied, the other may be rented out. Both may not be rented out at the same time.

Until recently, most of the house sharing options had code limitations or they were “guesthouses” which are not rentable and could not legally contain a kitchen.

All of this is great news to many homeowners who have been looking for a way to share their home, but not their living space, with friends, family, or for renting out for additional income. Just like a rose, these new ADU requirements are just as sweet.

Abeer Sweis