In 2016 and 2017, California passed a series of laws aimed at encouraging the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) statewide. These laws led to a surge in ADU permit applications in some cities, but it is clear now that some cities are still lagging behind due to a variety of regulatory barriers. Here at CaRLA we are looking for ways that we can hold these reluctant cities accountable for their bad policy. If you know of any municipalities that are engaging in any of these practices, or know of other ways that cities try to resist ADUs, let us know!

  • Prohibitions on ADUs: state law limits the ability of municipalities to prohibit ADU development, but some cities have enacted temporary prohibitions or banned ADU development in certain areas.
  • Impact fees: although ADUs have far lower impacts on city services compared with single-family homes, many areas still charge impact fees on new ADUs as if they were new single-family homes. These fees can be so expensive that ADU development becomes infeasible for homeowners.
  • Utility connection and capacity fees: in some areas these fees can be extremely costly, and have not been updated for ADUs. ADUs should be charged proportionally less for their smaller impact on municipal utilities.
  • Lot size restrictions: some areas require inappropriately large lot sizes that limit ADU development for most lots containing single-family homes.
  • Floor area restrictions: many homes are already built to the maximum allowable floor area. If floor area restrictions are applied to ADU development, these homes would be barred from developing new, detached ADUs.
  • Building height limits: height limits can make ADU conversions challenging when homeowners are seeking to convert an existing structures.
  • Setback requirements: similar to lot size restrictions, setback requirements can make ADU development challenging on small lots.
  • Parking: excessive parking requirements can limit ADU development in several ways:
    • Parking requirements for ADUs can make development impossible if there is not enough space on the lot.
    • Requiring covered parking to replace a converted garage can prevent ADU development in these existing structures. We need indoor space for people, not cars!
  • Requiring a conditional use permit or other form of discretionary review. In most cases, ADU development permits should be approved by the zoning administrator in a timely fashion, and should not be subject to a planning commission vote or discretionary review process.
  • Issues with local building codes: we are increasingly hearing that building codes designed for larger homes are getting in the way of new, innovative ADU designs. If you are having specific issues with local building codes, please let us know.

In some cases we may be able to help remove some of these challenges by reminding jurisdictions of their obligations under state law. We also applaud the efforts of the state legislature to take action to strengthen requirements for local ADU ordinances.

Donate to CaRLA

CaRLA is a 501c3 non-profit sustained by your donations. If you liked this article, please consider joining us with a monthly subscription!

Join us »