California’s New Regulations About Accessory Dwelling Units

GOMEZ LAW Jan. 31, 2020

Thinking of Building a “granny-Flat” on Your Property? Read This!

Many California homeowners have built out “granny-flats” by converting their garages into rental units or a separate structure in their backyard for extra rental income. Brokers have also taken notice with many even making it a focus to buying a home by potential first-time homebuyers.

And no there is no requirement that your “granny” live in them. Gov. In October of last year, Gavin Newsom signed five bills that cut down the red tape that existed on converting garages and freestanding backyard homes into ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units).

Particularly in Los Angeles, the new laws will significantly reduce the red tape to building these units and will ease restrictions for homeowners.

“Among the accessory dwelling unit measures, Assembly Bill 881 will reduce the number of permits that local governments can require to slow down backyard home construction. Another, Senate Bill 13, lowers the fee structure for backyard homes, and accelerates getting such homes up to code.

Those may sound like incremental changes, but a handful of granny flat laws that passed in L.A. in 2016 had a major impact, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the last two years alone, the city has received more than 13,000 ADU construction requests.”

On September 13, 2019, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill No. 13 (“SB13”) regulating accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”). On October 9th, Governor Gavin Newsom signed it into law. Simultaneously, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bills No. 68, 587, 671 and 881 regulating other aspects of ADUs.

The SB13 will sunset on January 1, 2025.

You can read the text of the law here:

What Does the SB13 Do?

The SB13 changed the law governing ADUs, in particular, Section 65852.2 of the Government Code and Section 17980.12 of the Health and Safety Code, relating to land use. The purpose of the SB13 is to reduce California high housing costs, to increase the supply of affordable housing and to provide more affordable options for more people. The SB13 reduces impact fees and other existing barriers for homeowners seeking to create ADUs to create additional residential housing within their neighborhoods.

The SB13 has ten primary regulatory aspects:

1. Off-street parking spaces must not be replaced

The local agency must not require the replacement of off-street parking after the demolition of a garage, carport, or covered parking structure in conjunction with the construction of an ADU or the conversion into an ADU.

2. Reduction of application approval timeframe to 60 days

The SB13 establishes 60 days as the maximum ADU application approval timeframe.

3. Prohibition to require an applicant for an ADU to be an owner-occupant

The SB13 exempts all ADU applicants of the owner-occupancy requirement for either the primary dwelling or the ADU until January 1, 2025.

4. Size of ADUs

Local ADU ordinances that establish a minimum or maximum ADU size must allow an ADU of up to 850 square feet, or up to 1,000 square feet if the ADU includes more than one bedroom. Any other minimum or maximum size imposed by a local ordinance must allow for an ADU of at least 800 square feet and 16 feet in height, with four-foot side and rear yard setbacks.

5. Tiered schedule of impact fees

The SB13 provides the following tiered schedule of impact fees based on the size of the ADU:

a) Zero fees for an ADU of less than 750 square feet; and

b) 25% of impact fees for an ADU of 750 square feet or more.

6. Separate utility connection

The SB13 revises the definition for when a local agency, special district, or water corporation may require a separate utility connection.

7. Department of Housing and Community Development oversight

The Department of Housing and Community Development (“HCD”) has a stronger oversight over local ADU ordinances. After the adoption of an ADU ordinance, HCD may submit findings to the local agency as to whether the ordinance complies with ADU law. If HCD finds that the ordinance does not substantially comply, HCD must notify the local agency and may notify the Attorney General.

8. HCD’s authority

HCD has the authority to review, adopt, amend, or repeal guidelines to implement uniform standards and criteria that supplement or clarify the terms, references, and standards in ADU law.

9. Local agencies’ authority

Local agencies have explicit authority to count an ADU for purposes of identifying adequate sites for housing.

10. Notice of violation requirement

The SB13 requires a local agency notice of a violation of any building standard to an ADU owner to include a statement of the owner’s right to request a delay in enforcement. The SB13 requires a local agency, upon request of the owner, to delay enforcement for five years if correction is not necessary to protect health and safety and the ADU was built before January 1, 2020 or the ADU was built prior to that date in a local jurisdiction that had a compliant ADU ordinance at that time. This provision will sunset on January 1, 2025.