What's new - ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units)

“Want to legalize your garage, guest house, recreation room, granny flat, in-law suite, another part of your home OR apartment units in California? Thanks to recent law changes, adding an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, The San Fernando Valley or the South Bay is easier than ever!”

Read this first…

ADU laws started changing for the better in 2017. Up to that point you might have been able to get your Order to Comply resolved, but it rarely resulted in a new ADU. More so than anything else, parking usually was the death knell to getting a new ADU.  Then, in a moment of clear-thinking, the California state legislature decided that since so many people has unpermitted (and thus illegal) ADU, why not change the laws to accommodate ADU and increase the housing stock in the state.

California's second-unit law (Government Code section 65852.2) was first enacted in 1982 to encourage the creation of second-units while maintaining local control and flexibility. In 2002, the State enacted AB 1866 which updated the second-unit law to require that local governments had to allow second units on both single-family lots and multi-family lots through a by-right process.

On September 27, 2016, then-Governor Brown signed two ADU bills into State law, Assembly Bill (AB) 2299 and Senate Bill (SB) 1069.  These amended the State's existing second unit law (Government Code section 65852.2).  The new version of State law made it clear that city/county ordinances which did not align with State law were“null and void” and that, until such time as a jurisdiction adopts its own ordinance in accordance with State law, the state standards specified in section 65852.2 had to enforced. In response to these changes in State law, city and county planning departments across the state prepared new ordinances to try and counter the effects of the 2017 state law. In 2018 and 2019, the legislature tweaked the law.

EVERYTHING changed in 2020.

Now, ADU are not limited to Single Family Dwellings on the property; apartment building may add ADU. Without getting overly technical, here are the current highlights of California's ADU laws [AB = Assembly Bill; SB = Senate Bill]:

AB 68 / AB 881 regards Timelines for processing, Ordinance Prohibitions and making Triplexes. This requires local agencies to either approve or deny an ADU project within 60 days of receiving a complete building permit application (on a ministerial basis but that was already part of the law). The new law prohibits local agencies from imposing minimum lot size requirements for ADUs (like Long Beach). Nor can they set certain maximum ADU dimensions, nor can they require replacement off-street parking when a “garage, carport or covered parking structure” is demolished or converted to construct the ADU. If more square footage is added to the existing parking structure, the new law requires only a 4-foot setback on the added-on portion of the building, all the way around (versus 5 feet previously). A lot more units qualify on this rule alone.

Notably, the new law allows for an ADU as well as a “Junior” ADU where certain access, setback and other criteria are met. Some are referring to this as the “Triplex-ation” of single-family zoning. When the legislature relaxed the rules for ADU's in 2017 they also added JADU's which are:

  • No more than 500 square feet and are
  • Typically bedrooms in a single-family home that have an entrance into the unit from the main home and an entrance to the outside from the JADU.
  • The JADU must have cooking facilities, including a sink, but is not required to have a private bathroom.

The new law has also explicitly identified opportunities for ADUs in multifamily buildings, including storage rooms, boiler rooms, etc., where building standards are met. New enforcement mechanisms have also been added. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) may now notify the Attorney General's Office of any violations of these new provisions.

SB 13 – adds Owner-Occupancy Prohibitions and Fee Limitations through December 31, 2024, that cities may not condition approval of ADU building permit applications requiring owner-occupancy (like Covina) of either the primary dwelling or the ADU. Additionally, agencies cannot impose impact fees on ADUs which are less than 750 square feet.

AB 670 –This is a specialized law to prevent homeowners' associations from barring ADUs. Condominiums in particular are governed by a set of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), which often restrict ADUs. This law makes unlawful any HOA condition that “prohibits or unreasonably restricts” ADUs from being constructed on single-family residential lots.


We'll “meet” on the phone, talk about your particular legal issue and we'll see if I can be of further assistance to you. I'll answer all your questions and when we're done, if you want, I can show you a couple of ways I can help.

By the end of the call, you'll:

  1. Understand the nature of your legal matter
  2. Feel RELAXED about your situation
  3. And have a much better idea of the legal and practical next steps you need to take to resolve your problem.

After 25+ years as an attorney working on both simple and complex legal issues, often with government agencies all over California, I'm familiar with how the system works in the areas of law I practice, what the codes and land use terminology actually mean in legal and practical terms, and how they are interpreted by different building inspectors, housing inspectors, city attorneys, district attorneys and judges. Put all this together and it means your Free Consultation is a good place to start.

Here are two ways to schedule your
Free, 25-Minute Code Clarifying Call

1. Call me, Andy Baker, now at 818-620-6023
I answer my own phone. If you get the voicemail. just leave your name and number and the city your property is located along with a brief message of what you're calling about, a good time to call you back and I will call you back.

2. You can also reach me by email at: [email protected]
In your email please tell me your name, a little bit about your situation and I will write back to you.

Here's what a few clients say about my help:

“I have hired Andy Baker twice to help me concerning my Accessory Building. I am happy to report that I now have a legal ADU [Accessory Dwelling Unit] because of Andy's help! Very pleased. Will use his services again for the lease agreement now that the legal process is completed. I highly recommend his services. His information has been completely accurate and helpful to me.”
- Pam Teeguarden, Homeowner, Cheviot Hills, CA

"Andy wrote two letters to the city of Tustin for me. In the first one, he asked for clarification of city laws so I could pursue a garage conversion to an ADU. In the second letter, Andy specified the city ordinance [TCC 9220] and why the state law (Cal. Government Code section 65852.2) and its terms trumped the city law. He really helped me dealing with the city and got things moving in the right direction."
- Ira K. (last name withheld upon request)

"I am using Andy BAKER and [his recommended draftsman] to help me get permits for an unpermitted condo which is attached to my house. I had been receiving threatening letters from an inspector at [a] Los Angeles [city agency]. I met with the inspector who reminded me of very substantial penalties. If it weren't for Andy [expediter], I don't know what I would have done. I spent many sleepless nights at the beginning of this process. Andy gave me the documentation to appease the inspector. Recently they explained the whole process from beginning to end, to secure the permits. In one million years, I would not be able to do this on my own. We have not finished the process, but I am very optimistic about how all this will end. Andy and [expediter] have been real life savers! I can't thank them enough!"
- David L. (last name withheld upon request)

I help clients solve sticky code issues, arrange successful transactions, avoid costly
mistakes, and resolve legal disputes.

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The Law Offices of Andrew S. Baker, APLC is committed to answering your questions about Illegal Conversions for Houses and Apartments, Construction, Land Use, and Real Estate law issues in California.

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