New ADU Rules (Including JADUs)

A new California law was recently signed by our Governor that greatly expands on ADU development and we wanted to get this out to our community, so that you understand the implications. Please note especially the parking and setback changes. The City’s short term rental rules are not impacted, which means that ADUs and JADUs must be rented long-term, not short-term.

The information below is from the law firm that represents our association.


Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 670 authorizing accessory dwelling units. The Governor’s goal is to create a large stock of low-income rentals throughout California as quickly as possible.

The companion legislation is extensive and will create significant challenges for planned developments when it goes into effect January 1, 2020. Following is a summary of key points.

Defined. An “Accessory Dwelling Unit” (ADU) means an attached or a detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary residence. It includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel as the single-family or multifamily dwelling is situated.

A “Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit” (JADU) means a unit that is no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within a single-family residence. A JADU can include separate sanitation facilities, or may share sanitation facilities with the existing structure.

Garage Conversions. The legislation authorizes garage and carport conversions into ADUs or JADUs (depending on size) that can be rented. This will impact parking in planned developments.

Parking. Most associations already have parking problems. ADUs will exacerbate the problem. Associations that require cars be parked in garages cannot use the requirement to stop garage conversions. The bill voids any restrictions that would prevent the construction of ADUs.

Rules Enforcement. Associations can continue to enforce garage parking requirements, but only against those who do not convert them into ADUs. This will create rules enforcement problems for associations. Owners will not take kindly that some must follow parking rules while others are exempt.

Two Per Lot. The bill allows one accessory dwelling unit and one junior accessory dwelling unit per lot. That means owners can convert their garage into a JADU and build an ADU in their backyard.

Expedited Approvals. The bill expedites the approval process. Local agencies will be required to process applications within 60 days of their submission. Some applications can receive ministerial approval. That means they can be approved without a hearing notwithstanding any local ordinance regulating the issuance of variances or special use permits.

Fees Limited. In addition to streamlining applications, permit fees will be limited. Agencies cannot treat ADUs as a new residential use for purposes of calculating connection fees or capacity charges for utilities, including water and sewer service, nor can they require the applicant to install a new or separate utility connection directly between the accessory dwelling unit and the utility or impose a related connection fee or capacity charge.

Increased Parking. When a garage, carport, or covered parking structure is demolished in conjunction with the construction of an accessory dwelling unit or converted to an accessory dwelling unit, local agencies cannot require that those off-street parking spaces be replaced. In other words, parking is pushed to the streets. In addition, if owners want to create parking additional on their lots, the bill allows for parking in setback areas. That means more vehicles can be parked on a lot and parked closer to neighboring houses.

Setback Requirements. Association setback requirements that would prevent the construction of backyard ADUs will be voided. Setbacks will be reduced to “no more than four feet from the side and rear lot lines.”

View Restrictions. The bill does not address view restrictions. Can an association block the construction of ADUs that violate view restrictions? The bill’s broad language striking down any restrictions that prevent the construction of ADUs arguably includes view restrictions. Litigation will likely erupt over this issue.

Owner Occupancy. The bill allows local agencies to impose a requirement that an owner occupy either the primary dwelling or the ADU. Accordingly, associations should be able to adopt the restriction as well.

Rental Period. The bill allows local agencies to impose a restriction that ADUs be rented for terms longer than 30 days. That means associations should include ADU rental restrictions in their rules even if no such restriction is found in their CC&Rs.

Property Values. Higher density created by ADUs means additional vehicles on streets. In addition to parking problems and rules enforcement issues, the influx of ADU renters will burden amenities such as pools, clubhouses, tennis courts, etc. This could change neighborhood aesthetics and could drive down property values.

Source: Adams Stirling