Monday, May 7, 2018

Accessory Dwelling Units

This area of zoning regulations has continued to evolve since the City of Santa Cruz began to liberalize the rules in 2014. Since then, the state has adopted rules very similar to Santa Cruz, requiring all cities and counties to follow suit. As a result, the County adopted new rules in March, 2018 (Ordinance No. 5264 and 5265). Some requirements that used to be ADU project-killers have been removed, but the new ordinance also creates some new complexities. While working on a "decision tree" for my own use in ADU project planning, here's a preliminary pro/con look at some of the new provisions:


  • Most ADUs now require only a Building Permit (with some important exceptions, see "Con:")
  • Allowable locations for "Conversion ADUs" liberalized. For instance, conversions previously had to meet the same property-line setbacks as the main residence, which excluded many detached garages. 
  • For Conversion ADUs and in many other situations, it's no longer necessary to provide an extra on-site parking space for an ADU (especially important for small lots). Tandem parking rules are also liberalized.
  • Fire sprinklers are not required for an ADU where they aren't existing/required for the main residence.
  • Sewer and water hookup fees are no longer charged for ADUs when such new hookups are not actually constructed.
  • New "Site and Structural Dimensions Chart" shows eight different categories of ADU, making it trickier to successfully plan an ADU project.
  • Some zones still require higher-level permits:
    • CA (Commercial Ag) zones still require a level 4 (outside Coastal Zone) or level 5 (inside Coastal Zone) permit. All ag zone ADUs still require approval from the Ag. Policy Advisory Commision, a public hearing.
    • In some Coastal Zone locations, a coastal permit is still required.
  • Owner residency still required
  • Short term/vacation rental not allowed in an ADU.