Posted March, 2023

It is now easier and more affordable to get ADU plans approved.

New ADU by a swimming pool

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs), both commonly referred to as Granny Flats, In-Law Units, or Guest Houses, have become very popular for many reasons:

  • ADUs add value to your property.
  • Are an affordable construction option, especially for garage conversions.
  • Provide a source of rental income, especially as rental prices increase.
  • Provide affordable housing for extended family, while maintaining privacy.
  • Provide flexibility of shared living areas while allowing seniors to age in place.

As of 2023, the State of California continues to pass new ADU laws lifting restrictions and making it easier and more affordable to build Accessory Dwelling Units. Because of the new laws, California ADU construction has surged. As of last year, ADUs constituted roughly one in seven homes permitted in California. Here are some of the highlights of the new ADU laws that went into effect in January 2023:

Changes to the 60-Day Rule

Assembly Bill 2221 now requires all agencies involved with reviewing ADU plans, including planning departments and utility companies, to respond within 60 days of submission of plans. This change will now reduce the time for application review and processing.

Revised ADU Height Restrictions

AB 2221 also amended the height restrictions as follows:

  • 16 ft: Allowed under any circumstances.
  • 18 ft: Allowed if the proposed ADU is within ½ mile of public transit or the property already has a multi-family dwelling two stories high.
  • 25 ft: Allowed if the ADU is attached to the primary dwelling, depending on the underlying zoning code of the property (the lowest will apply).
Redefined Setbacks

Previously, setbacks were reduced to four-foot side and rear yards. Now, if a proposed ADU is less than 800 sq. ft., the front setback requirement can no longer prevent the ADU from getting built.

Garage conversion to ADU

Unpermitted Conditions

Senate Bill 897 eliminates the restriction regarding non-conforming zoning conditions, building code violations, or unpermitted structures. Prior to SB 897, homeowners were required to have unpermitted structures brought up to current codes, which made California ADU development slower and more costly. SB 897 removes these restrictions unless the unpermitted condition is a health or safety concern.

Fire Sprinkler Requirement

SB 897 allows fire sprinklers to no longer be required for the main dwelling when permitting an ADU.

Other Changes Worth Mentioning
  • Attached JADUs no longer need their own bathroom, provided one is accessible in the primary dwelling.
  • Demolition permits can no longer be withheld if the ADU permit has been issued.
  • The creation of the California ADU Fund to provide assistance to eligible recipients.

In 2022, the California ADU law that gained the most attention was Senate Bill 9. This relates to duplexes and lot splits. SB 9 provides for the ministerial approval of converting existing homes occupied by a homeowner into a duplex if certain eligibility restrictions are satisfied. It also allows a single-family home lot to be split into two lots, and a duplex to be built on each lot, provided that the initial home is occupied by the owner as their primary residence for at least three years.

Kitchen and living room in an ADU

Some key points of SB 9:

  • Projects must be for residential use only.
  • Properties are within an urbanized area designated by the City and are not within agricultural, historic, and very high fire severity zones.
  • Parking requirements need to be met unless ½ mile from public transportation stop.
  • Project will be subject to local short-term rental requirements.
  • May include connected structures (duplex) if they comply with building code safety standards.
  • If a lot is split, the project may be subject to City or County easements and must be roughly split in half.
  • Lots must meet minimum size requirements for a lot split.
  • Lot cannot be adjacent to another lot that has been split using SB 9.

Please keep in mind there are exceptions and restrictions to SB 9 that need to be fully understood.

Summary of Recent ADU Laws in California:

  • Faster ADU plan review times.
  • Prohibits local agencies from imposing strict requirements that exceed state mandates.
  • More flexible ADU size and setback requirements.
  • Allows both regular-size and “Junior” ADUs on the same property.
  • A JADU may be constructed inside the walls of a single-family home and is not required to include a bedroom or an interior entry into the home.
  • Allows ADUs for multi-family units and duplexes.
  • Prohibits local agencies charging “Impact Fees” for ADUs under 750 sq. ft.

kitchen and bedroom in an ADU

Other Highlights

AB 68 allows landlords and homeowners to add 2 more units – an ADU and a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) – on any residential lot. This means you can legally create a triplex on every single lot in the state according to the new ADU laws in California.

Additional units can be added to existing multi-family buildings like apartment complexes. Building owners can convert any non-habitable rooms, like attics, basements, garages, etc. into legal additional units.

Under AB 68, municipalities will be required to approve the following:

Single Family Homes:
  • One ADU (up to 1,200 sq. ft.) and one Junior ADU (a unit of no more than 500 sq. ft. in size and contained entirely within an existing single-family structure) per lot.
  • One detached ADU (up to 1,200 sq. ft.) that is new construction, existing structure, or the same footprint as the existing structure, along with one JADU.
Multifamily Dwellings
  • Multiple ADUs within existing multifamily structures.
  • Two detached ADUs on a multi-family lot.

New ADU with outdoor couch

Other Restrictions that are Prohibited by Local ADU Laws

To further remove barriers to the approval of ADU plans in California in 2023, various state laws prohibit local governments from imposing the following:

  • May not impose requirements on lot coverage or minimum lot size.
  • May not require replacement parking when a garage, carport, or covered parking structure is demolished to create an ADU or is converted to an ADU.
  • HOAs may notprohibit or unreasonably restrict” the construction of ADUs on single-family residential lots.
  • Local agencies may not impose impact fees on ADUs under 750 sq. ft.
  • Eliminates the requirement for owner-occupancy of either the primary dwelling or the ADU. JADUs still require owner occupancy.

Two-story gray ADU

Interpreting the Law

Please note that this summary is based solely on the State Ordinance. Therefore, it is important to note that each City and County will release its own ADU rules and regulations in response to the new state laws. Some Cities and Counties may defer the effective date or challenge the state through legal channels in order to meet their own codes. Variations of these State rules will differ in each city and county.

Next Steps

Given the complexity of the new laws and the resulting City or County interpretations, it is even more critical that you consult a licensed architect who knows the in’s and out’s of the new ADU laws in California – and EZ Plans is here for you!

We are a full-service architecture firm with experienced, licensed architects who are experts on the rules and regulations for both new ADUs and ADU conversions. We provide transparent and instant pricing for your ADU plans. Contact us today to start designing a floor plan and permit your ADU.

Additionally, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin to see what we’ve been up to, and to be inspired for your next home remodel or addition!