Accessory Dwelling Units in Los Angeles: What to Know

More people are converting garages, basements, and small backyard spaces into Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) than ever before. This year, Los Angeles city officials relaxed many of the restrictions and rules around building ADUs. Homeowners are jumping at the opportunity to add living spaces (and potential income) to their properties.

Also known as an Accessory Dwelling Unit, an ADU is a secondary housing unit with independent living facilities. An ADU must be on a residential lot and stand in addition to its main house. In and around Los Angeles, the potential for rising rent makes ADU’s a lucrative venture for homeowners with a bit of extra space.

If you’re considering building an ADU in Los Angeles, keep reading to hear our suggestions and learn about the new city and state regulations.

Home addition ADUTypes of Accessory Dwelling Units

The most common types of ADU’s are converted garages and freestanding new construction.

Garage Conversions

Converting a garage into an ADU is by far the most cost-effective strategy. You’re working with an existing structure that may be wired for electrical and water. You can rework these existing utilities and adjust them to fit your needs. However, you have limited layout and square footage when you use an existing garage.

Detached ADU

You will most likely build this structure from the ground up unless you already have a pool house or other similar space on your property. You will need to integrate a handful of utilities into your room like gas, electricity, and water, making this a much more involved and complicated build in this scenario.

Backyard Second-Story Structure

Adding a second floor to an existing home or detached garage is another common type of ADU. You’re allowed up to 1200 square feet for an additional separate unit, which can be split among multiple floors (as long as your total building height is under 25 feet).

Attached, second story ADU

What to know in the Planning Phase of your project

City of LA officials have facilitated ADU building to combat the housing shortage and hopefully slow the steady rise of homelessness throughout the county. The city now offers an accessory dwelling unit construction planning program that connects homeowners with the resources to complete their ADU projects.

They’ve also removed the need for discretionary approvals and require that homeowners submit their building plans to the building department. Assuming you’ve followed all necessary building guidelines, the final step involves a plan check process and receipt of a building permit. We suggest following these ten guidelines closely to expedite the permit process:

  1. At least a four-foot setback from your property line.
  2. Detached ADU’s must be 1200 square feet or less.
  3. Attached ADU’s cannot exceed half the square footage of the main property.
  4. Combined, the living room and bedroom must be at least 70 square feet.
  5. An ADU kitchen needs 50 square feet.
  6. Each bathroom should be 30 square feet, containing a toilet, sink, and shower.
  7. A new construction ADU cannot exceed 16 feet in height.
  8. The following building materials will not be accepted: wooden roof shingles, single-piece composite, laminates, or interlocked metal sheathing.
  9. Each single-family is allowed one detached ADU and a junior ADU (150 additional square feet).
  10. ADU’s built more than half a mile from public transportation – if they are not in a historic district – need at least one parking space.

Contractor planning a home build

Benefits of ADU Planning

Better planning leads to huge advantages during the construction phase. LA city and county officials intend to increase the number of ADU’s available. Still, they’ve put their guidelines and planning measures in place to encourage high-quality builds and increase appeal. California permitted 14,702 ADU’s in 2019, so your competition could be relatively high!

Whether you’re planning to build a detached or converted ADU, there are many benefits to Accessory Dwelling Units. They can make efficient and eco-friendly use of existing infrastructure, help solve housing crises, create passive income opportunities and improve property values, making for a great asset-building strategy.

However, keep in mind that an ADU project can get expensive, and right now, the city is only allowing homeowners to rent out their units. Be serious about your planning phase to accurately set expectations and develop a sensible long-term investment and budget for your project.

Garage conversion ADU

A few pointers for your first project

If you’re planning to start your first ADU building project, here are a few things to keep in mind throughout the process…

Some utility fees are being waived as a way to encourage ADU builds. Talk to your city’s building department and find out if your construction project can qualify.

If it’s within your budget, work with a trusted design and build contractor to utilize a small space. You’re limited in square footage, so you want to take advantage of the space you have.

Don’t forget about storage. Remember to incorporate lots of storage space into every room, using the structure you have in place.

Give your tenants privacy through landscaping and vegetation. Make your ADU feel like a fully private, separate residence!

Kitchen Designed by Bela Development

Book a free consultation with Bela Development to get started on your ADU planning in Los Angeles. We can help you evaluate your options, choose a plan that suits your needs, work within your budget, and connect you with the right subcontractors to get the job done well. Don’t keep wasted space when you could be making extra income!