Planning Commission Approves Modifications to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Regulations

At their September 11, 2018 meeting, the Planning Commission considered and approved modifications to the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations including establishing standards for junior ADUs, creating an "Exceptions to Standards" process, modifying the ADU Floor Area Bonus, and creating affordable housing deed restriction requirements for those ADUs created with the Floor Area Bonus. This item will go to the City Council in October, 2018.

Summary of Proposed Modifications
The Draft Ordinance incorporates direction received from Planning Commission at its May 22, 2018 and July 10, 2018 Study Sessions and previous feedback received from the City Council, including the following substantive changes:
Discretionary “Exceptions.  The Draft Ordinance establishes a review and approval process for those applicants wishing to build an ADU on their property, but do not meet the basic development standards established in the ordinance (e.g. number of ADUs on a property, maximum size or height, lot size/coverage, allowable square footage, setbacks). This process is intended to help address the interests of owners with properties that do not meet standards, while also fostering additional affordable housing built in town.  

To qualify, the Single Family Dwelling must meet parking requirements (2 parking spaces for the primary residence plus guest parking if on street parking is not available).  The “exception” will be granted through the design review process, if the proposed exception to the development standards do not adversely affect the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the property of the applicant and will not be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to property or improvements in the neighborhood. In order to qualify to apply for an “exception,” the applicant must agree to the additional requirements described below. 
Floor Area Square Footage Bonus.  The Floor Area Square Footage Bonus has been modified based on feedback from Planning Commission, and has been modified as follows:

Lots over 15,000 will not be eligible for the bonus under the new proposed regulation, since typically larger scale lots do not need additional square footage to build. It was also acknowledged that larger lots are typically in the hillsides, and may not be the most appropriate area for a large home with additional square footage for an ADU.

Additional Design Standards for ADUs created with Floor Area Bonus

  • No internal connections to primary residence allowed 
  •  A closet required for every bedroom space (defined in the draft ordinance);
  •  The primary residence must comply with parking standards (2 off-street parking spaces and 1 guest space when on-street parking not available); and
  •  At least 1 parking space required for the ADU.  

Additional Rent Restriction and Deed Restriction for those ADUs created with Floor Area Bonus

  • Require the ADU to be rented to an “Affordable Household” (Moderate, low or very low income affordability levels, as defined in the Draft Ordinance), or to an adult immediate family member (defined in the Draft Ordinance).
  •  Require annual owner verification of renting the ADU space, including submittal of the rental agreement documenting the rent charged, household size, and gross household income.  

Minimum Lot Size. 
The proposed Ordinance has been modified to address state ADU regulations (Government Code 65852.2(e)), which allows ADUs to be built within an existing primary residence, garage, or structure regardless of lot size. However, a jurisdiction may still establish minimum lot sizes for new ADUs created by way of new square footage or the conversion of garages/accessory structures. 
The Draft Ordinance: 

  • Grants approval of ADUs on any size lot for those attached ADUs created from existing floor area (based on state law) and within the Downtown Residential (DR) Zoning District, where the densities are higher and there is a mixture of single family and multi-family housing in the area.
  • Other proposals to create ADUs on lots smaller than 5,000 may be granted through the exception clause established under 20.90.040(c) of the Draft Ordinance (described above).

Junior ADUs. The Draft Ordinance incorporates state regulations establishing Junior ADUs in the City. Junior ADUs are different from Standard ADUs in that the Units: are not be separate from the main unit; may (or may not) share a bathroom; do not have a full kitchen (they are allowed an efficiency kitchen, similar to a “wet bar”); and cannot be larger than 500 square feet.  State law also requires owner occupancy of any property with a Junior ADU. 
Approval Process and Termination of Use. The Draft Ordinance clarifies the approval process for ministerial and discretionary ADU applications, and creates a process for terminating an ADU permit, which will help track and account for existing ADUs in the City. 

For More Information:
For more information or to provide comments on the Draft Ordinance, contact Danielle Staude at or (415) 388-4033.