In case you’ve been out of the loop with news of late, California (including Sacramento) is facing a housing crisis.  That’s not limited to homes for sale but rentals as well.  This impacts people we know – young adults and aging parents, but also those we don’t know that are finding it hard to find affordable places to live. 

One recent California State Assembly Bill (no. 2299) that became law in January, attempts to put a small dent in the shortage by requiring local jurisdictions to streamline the process to allow homeowners to construct small ancillary dwellings on their property in what’s being called an “accessory dwelling unit” or ADU also known as “Granny Flats”.  These units can serve as much needed rental housing for college students, elderly parents, and individuals with disabilities who may need to live close to support from families or teachers.

According to the bill, an ADUs is a separate living area with permanent provisions for living, sleeping, sanitation, eating, and cooking with a full kitchen to include refrigerator and full oven on the same parcel as the single-family dwelling.  They are, in effect, complete and independent living facilities for one or more persons and they may be rented out.  Oftentimes, where there is space, this a great way to generate extra income for the homeowner.  I recently sold a home built into a slope in Auburn where the space underneath the three-car garage was completely framed in and could easily be made into a rentable suite. 

An ADU may be attached or detached.  A converted garage may become an ADU and in most places, at least one parking space must be provided that adheres to local ordinances.  If a unit is attached, the total floor area of the ADU shall not exceed 50 percent of the existing living space (up to 1200 sf).  When the unit is detached, the total floor area shall not exceed 1200 sf.  All ADUs are subject to local jurisdiction regarding setbacks, height limits, and lot coverage along with sewer/septic, and parking.  They are not required to have a utility hookup separate from that of the main house.

Also, There’s some serious mis-information out there too!  I’ve heard from homeowners that there are Appraisers and Contractors who believe that you can’t have two kitchens on the same property.  This law definitively proves that this is an incorrect understanding, but I encourage you to seek more information with your local zoning jurisdiction.

With the addition of an ADU, the square footage will be counted towards the square footage of the main dwelling unit for taxation purposes, but also can be counted when selling.  The ADU is not intended for sale separate from the primary residence. 

The law essentially mandates a simpler process which is now by permit versus the more subjective and discretionary regulations that local jurisdictions may have previously had. 

Of course, with any law, there are exceptions and caveats.  Here are some of the most important:

  1. Cities and counties have their own zoning ordinances and you will need to refer to these for more specific application of the law.
  2. In Placer and El Dorado Counties, with the addition of one ADU, one unit must be owner-occupied. This isn’t true in some other jurisdictions.  (I just don’t have the bandwidth to check all city and county zoning for this article!).
  3. HOAs may prohibit them entirely.

Please check with your local jurisdiction if you are interested in more information.  This article was meant to inform, with a very general overview, of the new law.  Here’s the online version of the bill.