Adding housing is a priority for legislators in California and Los Angeles. Now, you can look no further than your own backyard for space to build. The California legislature, the county of Los Angeles and the city of Los Angeles have passed legislation in recent years to pave the way for making it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs (best known as granny flats or mother-n-law apartments) on lots zoned single family.
This legislation has generated a lot of news as well as questions: Here is my brief guide with some links to resources if you have or are considering adding a “granny flat” to your home.
How much space is required to build an ADU?
Per state law, if you decide to build a detached ADU on a lot with a single family home that you own, it must be at least 10 feet from the main residence and 5 feet away from property lines.
Additionally, pool houses, garages and other accessory buildings can be converted to an ADU provided the ADU has its own entrance, kitchen and at least one bedroom. (Parking rules come into play if a garage is converted). An ADU can also be built above an existing garage or can be added to the existing residence (zoning regulations apply, of course).
In August, the city of Beverly Hills updated its ADU zoning regulations: ADUs can be built on a lot equal to or in excess of 8,500 square feet. Beverly Hills has its own design review process, parking and utility requirements so before jumping in, it’s best to check with the planning department, as regulations may change.
Is there a square footage limit to an ADU?
State law restricts detached units to 1,200 square feet; if the ADU is attached to main residence, it can only be 1,200 square feet or half the size of the existing house, whichever is smaller.
While regulations vary across the state, in Los Angeles you can only build one ADU per lot and said ADU cannot be sold separately.
What about parking?
In Los Angeles, two parking spots are required. If you need to add a parking space, it can be covered or uncovered. If the existing single family home is within a half mile of public transit (a bus stop) then an additional parking space is not required. Requirements for parking seem to change, so it’s best to check with City Planning regarding this requirement. Again, Beverly Hills has its own parking requirements (four parking spaces) but allows for tandem parking on an existing driveway.
Will my new ADU be subject to Los Angeles rent control if I decide to rent it out?
This seems to be a grey area. There are many rules within Los Angeles’ rent stabilization ordinance (RSO) so I would suggest a call to LA Housing to clarify. In general, if a property was built in 1979 (specifically October 1978) or after it is not subject to rent control. Also, single-family homes do not fall under the RSO. But if you decide to rent your newly built ADU added to a house built before 1979 it might trigger oversight by LA Housing and the city’s very complicated RSO. This is an area that needs clarification by the city.
Here’s a link to a handy guidebook on how to get started with the ADU addition process: https://citylab.ucla.edu/adu-guidebook/
And here’s the state’s info on ADUs: http://www.hcd.ca.gov/policy-research/AccessoryDwellingUnits.html