• Land Use Attorney Capitola

ADUs: California Legislature Passes Easier, Statewide Permitting Requirements and Restrictions For Granny Units.

The California Legislature recently passed new rules making it easier, faster, and presumably less expensive, for people to get permits for new “granny units” otherwise referred to as “accessory dwelling units” (“ADUs”).  Senate Bill 1069, which was signed by Governor Brown on September 27, 2016 and takes effect on January 1, 2017, amends Government Code section 65852.2 to require local agencies statewide to amend their zoning ordinances to implement several uniform development requirements and restrictions on ADUs – both substantive and procedural.

The new substantive rules include the following:

  • ADUs shall not be required to provide fire sprinklers if they are not required for the primary residence;
  • Off-street parking requirements (not more than 1 per ADU or bedroom), may be provided as tandem parking on a driveway;
  • No off-street parking requirements may be imposed on ADUs that meet any of the following criteria:
    • The ADU is located within one-half mile of public transit.
    • The ADU is located within an architecturally and historically significant historic district.
    • The ADU is part of the existing primary residence or an existing accessory structure.
    • When the local jurisdiction requires on-street parking permits but does not offer them to the occupant of an ADU.
    • When there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the ADU.
  • In addition, a local agency may reduce or eliminate parking requirements for any ADU located within its jurisdiction;
  • ADUs shall not be considered new residential uses for the purposes of calculating local agency connection fees or capacity charges for utilities, including water and sewer service;
  • For certain types of ADUs, a local agency shall not require the applicant to install a new or separate utility connection directly between the ADU and the utility or impose a related connection fee or capacity charge;
  • The floor area of an attached ADU shall not exceed 50 percent of the existing living area of the existing structure (increased from 30 percent). (Note: Unchanged are the existing restrictions that for attached ADUs the maximum increase in floor area is 1,200 square feet, and that the maximum total floorspace for a detached ADU is 1,200 square feet);
  • A local agency may require an applicant to be an owner-occupant and may require that the property not be used for rentals for terms shorter than 30 days.

SB 1069’s most important procedural rule changes require local agencies: a) to process ADU applications as “ministerial” permits (that is, ‘over the counter’ – like a building permit, as opposed to processing these applications as “discretionary” approvals, which require a hearing and allow the decision-makers to impose conditions); and b) to do so within 120 days of receiving the application, provided the project satisfies several criteria, including these:

  • The ADU is not intended for sale separate from the primary residence and may be rented;
  • The lot is zoned for single-family or multifamily use;
  • The lot contains an existing single-family dwelling;
  • The ADU is either attached to the existing dwelling and located within the living area of the existing dwelling or detached from the existing dwelling and located on the same lot as the existing dwelling;
  • The increased floor area of an attached ADU shall not exceed 50 percent of the existing living area (increased from 30 percent max), with a maximum increase in floor area of 1,200 square feet; and
  • The total area of floorspace for a detached ADU shall not exceed 1,200 square feet.

All local land use permitting jurisdictions should be in the process of drafting amendments to their zoning codes to incorporate these new requirements for ADUs, so consult your local city or county planning department.

For more information:

Here is a link to the entire bill: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVersionsCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB1069

Here is an article from the San Jose Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/27/california-eases-restrictions-on-granny-units/

Santa Cruz County’s current ADU ordinance is found at County Code Chapter 13.10.681: http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/SantaCruzCounty/

Here is a link to the “Second Unit” section on the Santa Cruz County Department’s web page (which is expected to be updated early next year): http://www.sccoplanning.com/PlanningHome/ZoningDevelopment/SecondUnits.aspx


©2016 Miles J. Dolinger.  This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.


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Miles J. Dolinger
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