Granny flats, casita, accessory dwelling units (ADU), and homes with a guest house are now becoming more popular in California due to various reasons especially with exciting new laws in California concerning ADUs.
Although we have an increasing number of California ADUs laws and some fee waivers (i.e. impact development fees) in select counties like San Diego County, the demand for ADUS in California is strengthening because of families’ desire for multigenerational living and a need for income from a helper unit to continue to afford to live in the state.
As California, the nation’s most populated state, continues to grow, so does its housing shortages. This drives the cost of California housing up, affecting affordability and those who lack resources to locate and secure suitable dwellings.
In an effort to address these shortages, and also to help create viable rental income opportunities for California homeowners, the state has passed a series of laws which make it easier for California cities, municipalities and, or counties, to allow accessory dwelling units to be added within homeowners’ existing properties. Their ordinances must be less restrictive than the state’s mandates.
Accessory dwelling units (ADU) are also referred to in California as granny flats, guest houses, mother-in-law apartments, in-law suites, casitas, etc, depending on local custom.
The California laws that have lenient restrictions on building and permitting new ‘granny flats’/ accessory dwellings units take effect on January 1, 2017.
As an update, a new California law (SB 1226) that took effect on January 1, 2019 will now make it easier to legalize an un-permitted accessory dwelling unit (ADU), granny flat, residential unit / living space on a property.
Please contact your local government agency to get more details on how these new laws affect your property and your ability to create an Accessory Dwelling Unit, or Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit.
Favorable California new laws on Granny Flats and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
AB 1033: California ADUs may be sold separately as a condo
The latest California ADU law (AB 1033) states that ADUs may be sold separately from the primary unit as a condominium Effective January 1, 2024.
Allows local agencies to adopt ordinances to allow the separate conveyance of an ADU from the primary residence as a condominium.
SB 1976: Local governments are prohibited to require owner-occupancy on a parcel containing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).
SB 1976 removes the ability for local governments to require owner-occupancy of either unit beginning January 1, 2025. The locality may require that if the ADU is rented it must be rented for 30 days or longer.
In a related California law that has the potential to increase the number of units on a single family zoned home, SB 9 in California, requires ministerial approval of a housing development with no more than two primary units in a single-family zone, the subdivision of a parcel in a single-family zone into two parcels, or both. SB 9 facilitates the creation of up to four housing units in the lot area typically used for one single-family home. This went into effect on January 1, 2022
SB 1226 : Building standards/ Building Permits – Retroactive Permitting of Additions, Granny Flats, etc. effective January 1, 2019
Source Coast News: “The law will become effective on Jan. 1, 2019, allowing accessory dwelling units — also called granny flats, in-law units, above-garage studios and backyard cottages — to be permitted based on the codes in effect at the time the units were built.” Read the entire bill here.
Retroactive permitting of existing ADUS, granny flats, garage conversions, additions, etc. in California will hopefully provide much needed housing inventory.
SB 1069 California Land Use: Zoning
Read the entire bill here (for ease of reading, click Bill Analysis and review the most current entry):
This law prohibits California local governments to require that accessory dwelling units have separate utility connections, or to charge a connection fee, as long as the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is enclosed in the existing space of a single family home or accessory structure.
This law also relaxes mandated additional parking requirements which prevented the creation of ADUs in many locations. SB 1069 requires municipalities to designate areas where ADUs are permitted, limit their ability to approve on a case-by-case basis (called discretionary approvals) and require them to review and respond to applications within 120 days of submittal.
This new legislation authored by California Senator Bob Wieckowski does not require cities and counties to adopt ordinances specific to their areas but does allow them 60 days to develop their own ordinances that comply with the state laws.
SB 1069 was approved by the California Governor on September 27, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State September 27, 2016.
Here are examples of North County San Diego’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinances in response to SB 1069:
- City of Carlsbad, CA Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance Amendment
- City of Encinitas, CA Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance Amendment
- City of Escondido CA Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance Amendment
- City of Oceanside, CA Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance Amendment
- City of Vista, CA Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance Amendment
- County of San Diego Accessory Dwelling Unit General Guidelines Revised on February 12, 2019
- County of San Diego Accessory Dwelling Main Page
AB 2299 California Land Use: Housing: 2nd Units
Read the entire bill here (for ease of reading, click Bill Analysis and review the most current entry);
This law stipulates that local ordinances cannot be more restrictive than the state law. The law also prohibits local government from adopting ordinances that totally prevent ADUs, with few exceptions. In addition, this law limits setback requirements, provides for certain types of garage modifications to create an ADU and limits the size to be no more than 50% of the existing living area.
AB 2299 was approved by the California Governor on September 27, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State September 27, 2016.
AB 2406 – Housing: Junior Accessory Dwelling Units
Read the entire bill here (for ease of reading, click Bill Analysis and review the most current entry):
This law allows local government to create ordinance for permitted Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU) in single family zones. This law limits JADUs to no more than 500 square feet in size, be constructed within the existing walls of the single family structure and must include an existing bedroom. The JADU must also have a separate entrance from the main home’s and enter directly into the JADU’s living room. The accessory unit is also required to have its own efficiency kitchen with a sink, counter space and cooking appliance.
AB 2406 was approved by the California Governor on September 28, 2016. Filed with Secretary of State September 28, 2016.
AB 670 – HOAs may not prohibit ADUs
With this new California law passed in 2019, homeowner associations (HOAs) in California in planned development may not prohibit or unreasonably restrict the construction or use of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU) on a lot zoned for single-family residential use. So, if you live in an HOA neighborhood and want to build an ADU, learn more about AB 670 which was approved by the California Governor on August 30, 2019.
Read the full text and meaning of AB 670 in California here.
There is a big push in California legislature to encourage the construction of affordable accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units that are owner-occupied and that are used for rentals of terms longer than 30 days.
AB 881 Accessory dwelling units
AB 881 was chaptered on October 09, 2019 and is another effort by the California legislature to hopefully increase affordable housing supply in the state of California by easing restrictions in building accessory dwelling units in single family residential and multi-family residential zones.
Here are some of the highlights of AB 881:
Setbacks Requirement: AB 881 prohibits setback requirements for existing living area or accessory dwelling structures conversions in the same space/location/dimensions.
There is requirement of “setback of no more than 4 feet for an accessory dwelling unit that is not converted from an existing structure or a new structure constructed in the same location and to the same dimensions as an existing structure.”
No Minimum Lot Size Requirement – AB 881 prohibits an ordinance from imposing requirements on minimum lot size for the construction of ADUs.
Parking Standards: Good news for those whose properties are located within half a mile of a public transit (i.e. bus stop, train station). With California law AB 881, a local agency may not impose “parking standards for an accessory dwelling unit if, among other conditions, the accessory dwelling unit is located within 1/2 mile of public transit.”
For those looking to buy and live in a property with income potential to help offset a mortgage, a home with an ADU is an excellent way to achieve this financial goal. The accessory dwelling unit may be rented separate from the primary residence, but may not be sold or otherwise conveyed separate from the primary residence.
Read the full text of AB 881 regarding California Accessory Dwelling Units here.
No Owner Occupancy Requirement for new ADU units in California
Two separate bills—AB 881 and SB 13—prohibit local governments from requiring that an owner occupy new ADU units as their primary residence (meaning they are allowed to rent the ADUs) and reduce the fees homeowners can be charged to build them.
SB 13 Accessory Dwelling Unit
SB-13 Accessory dwelling units (2019-2020) was approved by the California governor on October 9, 2019. The bill authorizes “the creation of accessory dwelling units in areas zoned to allow single-family or multifamily dwelling residential use. The bill would also revise the requirements for an accessory dwelling unit by providing that the accessory dwelling unit may be attached to, or located within, an attached garage, storage area, or other structure, and that it does not exceed a specified amount of total floor area.”
This bill, until January 1, 2025, prohibits a local agency from imposing an owner-occupant requirement in ADUs that meet guidelines.
AB 68 Land Use Accessory Dwelling Units
Like AB 881, AB 68 further eases common barriers that prevent homeowners from building affordable ADUS on their single family or multi-family residential zone properties such as parking standards, setbacks, etc.
Excitingly, AB 68 in California may allow 2 Units on One Property
According to this law, “One accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and one junior accessory dwelling unit (ADU) per lot with a proposed or existing single-family dwelling if all of the following apply:
(i) The accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit is within the proposed space of a single-family dwelling or existing space of a single-family dwelling or accessory structure and may include an expansion of not more than 150 square feet beyond the same physical dimensions as the existing accessory structure.
An expansion beyond the physical dimensions of the existing accessory structure shall be limited to accommodating ingress and egress.
(ii) The space has exterior access from the proposed or existing single-family dwelling.
(iii) The side and rear setbacks are sufficient for fire and safety.
(iv) The junior accessory dwelling unit complies with the requirements of Section 65852.22.
AB 68 allows for a detached ADU in California up to 1,200 sq feet.
Please be sure to read the full text of AB 68 regarding California Accessory Dwelling Units here.
Homes with Guest House, Accessory Dwelling Units, Casita, etc
- North County San Diego homes with casita, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), granny flat, or houses with guest house
- East County San Diego homes with casita, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), casita, granny flat, or houseswith guest house
- South County San Diego homes with casita, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), casita, granny flat, or houses with guest house
- Metro San Diego homes with casita, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), casita, granny flat, houses with guest house
- All San Diego County homes with casita, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), casita, granny flat, or houses with guest house
- Nearby Orange County homes with casita, accessory dwelling unit (ADU), casita, granny flat, or houses with guest house
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Homes with Guest House, ADUs, separate guest house, attached granny flat, etc. in San Diego County Near Me
Homes with Guest House, ADUs, separate guest house, attached granny flat, etc. in Orange County Near Me
San Diego California Granny Flats News and Article
- San Diego County waive granny flat fees as way to ease housing crisis in unincorporated communities- January 9, 2019 – San Diego County News Center
- City of San Diego California shrinks ‘granny flat’ fees to spur construction amid housing crisis – May 1, 2018 – San Diego Union Tribune
- Encinitas Offers Homeowners Pre-Approved Granny Flat Plans to Save on Permit Fees – NBC San Diego
- Policy Research –
- California Department of Housing and Community Development Accessory Dwelling Units – December 2016 Memorandum
- California Eases Restrictions on Granny Units – Read the article on Mercury News
- Crazy-high rent, record-low homeownership, and overcrowding: California has a plan to solve the housing crisis, but not without a fight – Read article on Business Insider
- The Genius of Granny Flats – Interview with Gary London, president of The London Group Realty Advisors – Read the article on San Diego Magazine
- How to solve California’s housing shortage? Build ‘granny flats’ in homeowners’ backyards – Read the Article on LA Times
- It will be soon be easier to add granny flats in San Diego – Read Article on San Diego Union Tribune
- San Diego eases rules on building granny flats – July 2, 2003 – Read Article on San Diego Union Tribune
Videos to Watch: Accessory Dwelling Units in California
Are Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) Right For You?
Source: San Francisco Planning
Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, are also known as secondary units, in-law units, granny flats, or cottages. ADUs are generally developed using an underutilized space; such as a parking garage, storage room, or attic, and they play an important role in our housing supply. San Francisco first adopted its ADU program in 2014 for select districts, and as of September 4, 2016, San Francisco’s Accessory Dwelling Unit program is available Citywide
Good or Bad Idea? Backyard Granny Pods
Source: The List TV Show
Videos: All about ADUs (accessory dwelling units)
In this video 30X40 Design Workshop reviews the the accessory dwelling unit (ADU) which is an additional, self-contained home located either within or adjacent to an existing house. They’re also known as in-law units, granny flats, multigenerational homes, and laneway houses. The author also discusses the permitting procedures, restrictions, and general planning framework for the ADU.
Source: 30X40 Design Workshop
Lennar builds San Diego new homes with a casita or attached guest house
Sterling Heights by Lennar: Featuring estate-style homes from 4,283 to 6,450 sq ft, many of these new San Diego homes with up to 5 bedrooms and 5.5 bathrooms have a guest house with its own private entrance. Priced from $1,800,000s to $2 Million. Questions? Text or Call 760-734-8072
Prefab Homes as Possible Accessory Dwelling Units
Modern ADU Designs from Dwell
- New Single Story Homes For Sale in San Diego County
- North County San Diego Single Story Homes New and Existing Development
- New 55 Plus Communities in Southern California