New California Law Makes It Easier to Add Smaller Units to One's Property

New law eases fees and hassle for parking requirements, utility hookups, and more.

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed two new laws, going into effect in 2017.

Their intent is to ease the state’s housing affordability crisis by making it easier for property owners to add to the housing supply, for example in the form of remodeled garages or unattached granny units--more technically referred to as accessory dwelling units or ADUs. These are units that may be rented, but not sold off from the main property. They may attached to or detached from the main house.

The first new law, Assembly Bill 2299, authorizes local agencies to pass ordinances allowing for the creation of second units in single-family and multifamily residential zones, and specifies that local agencies may reduce or eliminate parking requirements for any accessory dwelling unit located within its jurisdiction.

The second, SB 1069, declares ADUs to be an "essential component of California’s housing supply" and limits local governments (which have the power to create their own building ordinances) from going too far in requiring additional parking for an ADU or a separate utility connection for water and sewer systems. It also requires local governments to approve permits for ADUs in cases where they meet certain standards, such as complying with local height, setback, and other requirements, having a total area of floorspace not over 1,200 square feet, and so on.