California ADU Laws - Highlights

Visit the California Department of Housing and Community Development for the latest information


2020 ADU Law is Statewide

Changes to the 2020 ADU laws are statewide in California and all local jurisdictions (cities, counties, etc.) must comply with these new laws beginning January 1st, 2020.  Cities are allowed to create their own ADU Ordinance, but it must comply with the new Statewide rules. If a City does not create a new Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance, then state law will apply. 

Changes to Impact Fees

For ADUs under 750 sq. ft. cities will no longer be able to charge impact fees. For ADUs larger than 750 sq. ft. impact fees shall be proportional to the size of the ADU in relation to the primary dwelling.

Shorter Approval Periods

In cases where there is an existing single family dwelling on the lot, Cities must provide ministerial approval (or denial) of ADUs within 60 days of receiving the application. The prior rule was 120 days.

Larger ADUs

Beginning January 1, 2020, you can build a detached ADU up to  800 sq. ft. that is 16′ tall without any local discretionary approvals. ADUs created by conversions are also granted automatic approval. If a local municipality creates their own ADU ordinance, it must permit an ADU of up to 850 sq. ft .or 1,000 sq. ft. for an ADU that contains more than one bedroom.

Now improve your property with two ADUs!

You are now permitted two ADUs on a single family zoned property, one full Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and one Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). A JADU is a 500 sq. ft. max ADU created by converting part of an existing residence (such as a spare bedroom or attached garage).

Reduced Setbacks

Setbacks for new ADUs have been reduced to 4′ for side and rear yards.

ADUs Can Be Added to Multi-family Dwellings

You can now convert portions of existing multi-family structures that are not used as livable space, such as storage rooms, garages, carports, mechanical rooms, attics or basements to Accessory Dwelling Units . At least one ADU can be created though this method and up to 25% of the existing unit count. For example, if you have an 8-unit apartment building you may be able to add up to two new ADUs by converting existing non-livable space.

If you don’t have existing space(s) to convert, but have some leftover land, you can build up to two ground-up, detached ADUs (16’ height limit with 4’ rear and side yard setbacks) on a property with an existing multi-family dwelling.

Parking Exceptions

Parking is no longer required for existing accessory structures  such as a garage or carport which are converted into ADUs or for an existing space within your house that is converted into an ADU. Additionally, no replacement parking is required for the main residence when a garage or carport is demolished or converted to create an ADU.

Parking requirements for ADUs are still one parking space per unit or per bedroom (whichever is less) if you are located more than half a mile from public transit.

Retain Setbacks for Existing Structures

New state law permits you to remove an existing structure and replace it with a new ADU that matches its footprint, maintaining the existing reduced setbacks. This is significant if you have a garage or carport you want to convert, but determine it is more costly to repair the old structure than it is to replace it. 

No Owner Occupancy Requirements Until 2025

One of the new ADU bills (SB-13) signed into law puts a five year moratorium on owner-occupancy requirements that often hinder ADU development. Rent out both your home and ADU!

HOAs and CC&Rs

Neither HOAs (Home Owners Associations) nor property CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) can reasonably prohibit development of an ADU or JADU.

Easier to Legalize Unpermitted ADUs

You now have the ability to bring your unpermitted ADU up to code within 5 years.

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