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  • Writer's pictureJames Mateush

A Guide to ADU Zoning Regulations

Thinking of adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to your property? It's a fantastic way to boost your living space, welcome family, or generate rental income. Plus, they are also the hottest trend in housing! They're popping up everywhere–and for good reason!


Before you grab your hammer and dream big, there are some zoning hurdles to jump. Don't worry, we at West Coast Construction Pro have been dealing with these permits and regulations for years and got you covered!


We are here to break down the key things to consider, from property size limitations to requirements. All in clear, easily digestible pieces. After all, this is the beginning of bringing your dream space to life!


Why You Need To Know Your Local ADU Laws


Safety and Compliance

Whether it’s ensuring proper electrical wiring, securing structural integrity, or making sure emergency exits are in place, laws and regulations are there to make it your safe haven. Isn’t there something incredibly reassuring about knowing that every corner, every wall, and every fixture in your addition meets the highest standards of safety?


Avoid Costly Mistakes

Imagine this: You've dived headfirst into your project, visions of your perfect space dancing in your head. But then, you hit a snag. A big one. Your dream space is halfway to completion when you discover it violates a local zoning restriction.


Now, you're facing fines, forced modifications, or, in a worst-case scenario–the demolition of work already done. Ouch, right?


Note that regulations regarding size, height, setback, and occupancy can vary wildly from one municipality to another, and overlooking these can lead not only to financial strain but also to significant delays.


Maximize Your ADU’s Potential

Zoning laws cover everything from the size and height of your ADU to its placement on your property and even its architectural style.


Knowing these rules inside and out means you can design something that makes every square inch count. Say, you want to add a loft, a rooftop garden, or perhaps ensure your addition bathes in natural light. Familiarizing yourself with these local laws lets you see what's possible within the framework, helping you elevate your space from good to extraordinary.



ADU Zoning Laws


Permitting Process

Preliminary Research

Before you draw a single line on a blueprint, it’s crucial to understand the lay of the land. This doesn't mean you need to become a legal expert overnight, but visiting your local planning office's website or giving them a call could greatly help.


Why does this matter, you ask? Well, every municipality has its own set of rules, and getting familiar with these requirements early on can save you heaps of time, money, and potential heartache down the road.


Application Preparation

You’ll need to gather a variety of documents; most importantly, detailed plans of your proposed ADU that demonstrate compliance with all zoning requirements. This might include site plans, floor plans, elevations, and possibly even shadow studies, depending on your jurisdiction's requirements.


Ensuring your plans reflect all local zoning laws not only streamlines the approval process but also paves the way for a successful build.


Submit and Wait

Now comes the part that tests even the most patient of souls—the waiting period. It's important to remember that reviewing ADU applications is a meticulous process, and municipalities have varying timelines. Patience is key here!


But don't just sit idly by! Use this time proactively. Start envisioning interior designs, landscaping ideas, or how you’ll utilize the new space. If you run into delays, stay positive and proactive.


Common Zoning For ADU Regulations You'll Encounter


Size Matters

Most municipalities have specific limits on how large your ADU can be, which might be defined as a percentage of your primary residence's size or as a fixed square footage cap.


Now, this is where creativity meets practicality. Viewing size restrictions as a creative challenge rather than a hurdle can inspire you to design a space that's incredibly efficient and uniquely yours.


Location, Location, Location

These rules ensure that your addition is positioned in a way that respects property lines within the neighborhood. Thinking strategically about how to incorporate an ADU within these parameters can even lead you to innovative design solutions that enhance both functionality and appeal.


Parking Provisions

Some localities require homeowners to provide additional parking spaces for their ADU tenants. While this might seem like a logistical puzzle, it still offers an opportunity for you to think creatively about space usage and mobility solutions.


Occupancy Rules

Some regions have stipulations requiring the homeowner to reside in either the primary residence or the ADU, which ensures that neighborhoods maintain their character and cohesiveness. For you, this could mean deciding whether your ADU serves as your own cozy retreat or as a welcoming space for guests, family members, or tenants.



California ADU Laws: A Closer Look


Streamlining the Approval Process

60-Day Approval Window: Thanks to new California laws, applications now have to be approved within this golden window, without the need for long hearings or discretionary reviews. This means fewer headaches and more progress for homeowners eager to expand their living space.


Mandatory Pre-Approved Plan Schemes: But wait, it gets better! By January 1, 2025, every city and municipality in California will have a set of pre-approved ADU plans ready to go–thanks to Assembly Bill 434. This simplifies a swift approval process for homeowners.


Size and Design Flexibility

If you've been dreaming of building an ADU that's roomy enough for comfort but worried about size restrictions, worry no more! 


Cities across California must now allow ADUs up to 1,200 square feet. This means you've got the flexibility to design what perfectly suits your vision, whether it's a cozy artist's studio or a spacious family retreat.


Ownership and Sale Innovations

Here's a game-changer for you: Assembly Bill 1033 introduces the possibility of selling your ADU just like a condo. This groundbreaking move opens up incredible opportunities, not just for homeowners looking to monetize their investment, but also for potential buyers aiming to step onto the property ladder.


It’s a win-win, creating more housing options and helping Californians achieve their dreams of homeownership!


Note: For Specific Zoning Information, your first stop should always be your local planning department. They have the most up-to-date and relevant information for your area.


Ready to Take the Next Step?

Interested in adding an ADU to your property? We’d love to hear from you!


We Offer FREE Consultations. Give us a call at 916.626.7146.


Together, we’ll navigate the zoning landscape, design a stunning ADU unit that meets your needs, and transform your property into something truly special!

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