Help for Illegal L. A. Conversions, Construction & Real Estate Problems

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On September 27th, 2016, Governor Brown signed two Accessory Dwelling Unit (“ADU”) bills into State law, Assembly Bill (AB) 2299 and Senate Bill (SB) 1069 that amended the State’s existing second unit law (Government Code Section 65852.2). These amendments to the existing second unit law went into effect on January 1, 2017.  In January 2018, two amendments were made to the ADU law.

In response to these changes in State law, city and county planning departments across the state have been busy preparing new ordinances to try and counter the  effects of the 2017 state law.

The new version of State law makes clear that city ordinances which do not align with State law shall be “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 shall be enforced.

 California’s second-unit law 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 must allow second units on both single family lots and multi-family lots through a by-right process.



 What are the State Standards that a city must include in its own ordinance?


As long as there is a Single Family Dwelling on the property …


  • The state’s standards include a limitation on the size of an ADU; those that are attached to an existing single family dwelling cannot be larger than 50% of the existing living areas. Both attached and detached ADUs cannot exceed 1,200 square feet.
  • No passageway shall be required in conjunction with the construction of an ADU and NO setbacks shall be required for an existing garage that is converted to an ADU.
  • An ADU that is constructed above a garage will need to provide no more than five feet from the side and rear lot lines.
  • Existing accessory structures, with side and rear setbacks sufficient for fire safety [it remains to be determined what this is per city/county], and with their own exterior entrance shall be permitted to become ADU’s.


State parking requirements for an ADU


  • The new state law limits required parking for an ADU to one parking space per unit or per bedroom and
  • It permits the parking space to be a tandem space in an existing driveway.
  • When a garage, carport or covered parking structure is demolished in conjunction with the construction of an ADU the replacement spaces may be located in any configuration on the same lot as the ADU, including, but not limited to, as covered spaces, uncovered spaces, or tandem spaces, or by the use of mechanical automobile parking lifts.
  • Additional parking cannot be required when the ADU is located:
    • Within ½ mile of public transportation or
    • In an historic district or is part of an existing primary residence or
    • When a car-share vehicle is located within one block.


What additional standards are cities considering?

Of course, each city is different.  Based on current law, we can expect the smaller cities to try and adopt more restrictions than larger cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Local governments may apply development standards and may designate where ADUs are permitted (GC Sections 65852.2(a)(1)(A) and (B)). However, ADUs within existing structures must be allowed in all single family residential zones.

I have seen some cities alter development standards such as parking, height, lot coverage, lot size and maximum unit size modified.  In Long Beach, they have completely outlawed ADU's in different parts of the city!

Andy Baker
Code Compliance Lawyer
22287 Mulholland Hwy, No. 131
Calabasas, CA 91302
Tel. (818) 620-6023


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