Building An ADU

Today we’d like to talk to you a little bit about ADU’s, which stands for auxiliary dwelling units. What ADU’s allow you to do is put a second unit on a single family residence. These days the laws in California have recently changed to allow this to take place. If you just google ADU’s you can learn about it. 

One basic requirement for an ADU is parking requirements. You are required to have three off-site parking spaces. However, the interesting thing is you are now allowed to convert your existing garage into an auxiliary dwelling unit as long as you have the required parking spaces for it. Some of the things to look for when considering an ADU are the setbacks of the specific piece of property you’re working with, the lot coverage, and also the percentage of coverage allowed within the rear yard setback. That varies in every city, in Rancho Cucamonga for example you’re allowed to go within 5 feet of the rear yard and side yard if you’re auxiliary dwelling unit is a single-story structure and its height is less than 16 feet. Now I’m going to put a disclaimer in here because that changes all the time but that’s based on our information on the last project we did. So some of the other things to think about for example on lot coverage, depending on where your property is located and what residential zone it’s in or maybe it’s even a commercial zone, will determine the amount of square footage or lot coverage you’re allowed to build on your property. In Rancho Cucamonga for example they include anything with a roof on it as part of the lot coverage. There are some areas where the lot coverage is limited to 25% which is very low. So those are things to think about. Also it’s not uncommon to come across a 5 foot or 10 foot and in some cases a 10 foot and 20 foot side yard setbacks depending upon the density and the designation of the particular piece of property.

Some of the other things to consider are easements, like we mentioned in terms of power lines, utility lines, or drainage easements. Those are all things that will usually show up in property surveys and topographical maps. Existing utilities are important to check for. Things like the electrical hookup locations, for possibly if you have existing solar, natural gas and septic or sewer. Those all have an impact on the project itself. If you using an existing septic system it may need to be upgraded. A lot of times you can use the existing system with respect to utilities. A lot of times we’ll try to use a tankless water heater because we don’t want to use that square footage that is so precious in the smaller homes. We’ll try to find a location for a tankless water heater, it can be either on a back wall or in an attic space and that allows us to save room on the main floor. One thing to consider is sometimes the water meter size has to be increased and also the gas lines. Those are important things to check when you’re considering changing from a tank type water heater to a waterless water heater.

Some other things to consider in an auxiliary dwelling unit are kitchen requirements. That could be wheelchair access, particularly if it’s a retired or senior couple that’s going to be living there, pantry and storage as well. Storage is kind of a really big deal because you’re typically going to be living in small square footage areas so any place that you can develop some additional storage in the layout and design is always helpful. “Is there enough storage?”, that’s always a good question to ask. Any special amenities or things that you’d like to include in the project, make a bullet list item and get those down on paper so that they’re carried through the design to completion. Covenant agreement is one other item to consider with ADU’s or auxiliary dwelling units. A covenant is a recorded document that the planning department may ask you to complete, particularly in several of the local cities around here, they are requesting that if you build an auxiliary dwelling unit on your property they want one of the owners to live in one of the two properties, it doesn’t have to be the larger one but at least one of the two. So for example if you have a 6,000-7,000 sf home and you want to build a 1,200 sf ADU, move into it and then rent out the larger home, you’re allowed to do that. So that’s something to consider. It will be something that we look at as the project moves forward but you can get that basic information from the planning department as it is fairly easy to contact them and ask them about any covenants or restrictions associated with an auxiliary dwelling unit. One other thing to keep in mind is sometimes it’s actually better just to provide an addition that basically functions like an auxiliary dwelling unit but it doesn’t have all the specific requirements and criteria for that. We can show you how that can be done. We’ve done that several times.

Hopefully this has been helpful! We’ll look forward to speaking with soon! Check back for new posts weekly.