Granny Units Are Easier To Build In California

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Granny Units Are Easier To Build In California

Granny Units Will Be Easier to Build in California

Normally I try to keep the focus on my blog open so it benefits more people than just homeowners in California. But I have to break that for this post. California has approved a couple of laws that makes an accessory dwelling unit, more commonly known as a "granny unit" much easier to build. So if you are reading this outside of California - you can shake your head as you read about the hoops homeowners in California have to do just to add on to their home.

A Little History

Before the law took effect, January 1, 2017, adding a 2nd living unit was done one of two ways. The 1st way (legal): The homeowner would contact their local planning department and ask about the requirements for a 2nd unit. You see it wasn't like it was outlawed in California - it is just that planning department & cities made it very hard to add a unit. The 2nd way (not so legal): The homeowner adds a studio (workshop) and later they would turn the workshop into a 2nd unit.

The reason why the homeowner might try the not so legal way is because when they contact the planning department they are shown a number of requirements and restrictions that make the idea prohibitive: The unit size would be limit to 400 to 680 sf ( not very large for the cost involved with the design and construction); off-street parking must be provided - usually (2) off street parking space and the driveway does not count; the house and 2nd unit can't exceed the maximum lot coverage; height restriction and lastly the fees for utilities hook-up as very expensive. Once this is all added up - the homeowner walks away thinking it is not worth the effort.

Today's A New Day

A pair of California laws change the rules: AB2299 and SB1069 redefine the "granny unit". It limits or eliminates some fo the local requirements that planning/cities put on homeowners. The main one is parking. Homeowners do not have to provide off-street parking for the Accessory Dwelling Unit. You still need to comply with the height limits of the unit and lot coverage for all structures on the properties - but those are easier and more direct to handle.

Local jurisdictions can still limit 2nd units based on water use and sewer - which in drought-stricken California that could be a major hurdle still. Though the recent rains could ease that restriction also. In recent months I have seen double of calls from homeowners asking about the law. These are the bleeding edge owners. They have been wanting to add a unit, for income or family needs, and see this as a chance to get it done.

Most jurisdictions are still working on their ordinances for the state law - which the law allows. But if they do not have it in place when the homeowner submits their permit - the local jurisdictions need to follow the more permissive state law.


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What Does It Mean

The immediate response will be there are a lot of homeowners who can now add a 2nd living unit for rental income or family needs then there was at the end of 2016. This is certainly good for my business. But I also agree with local planning department that some study and restrictions are needed so growth doesn't just explode willy-nilly in neighborhoods throughout California. Planning restrictions and ordinances are in place to preserve the look and feel of neighborhoods.

So if you are looking to add a 2nd living unit - now's the time to do it. Homeowners in California have more flexibility. It is still expensive to design and build here - but the economics of the addition was reduced a little bit by government.



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