ADU Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ADU?

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are secondary housing units that are located on single-family residential lots. ADUs are their own self-contained units. They are much smaller than traditional homes and are located separate from yet adjacent to the primary residence on the property.

What are ADUs typically used for?

ADUs and garage conversions can be used for any purpose the property owner desires, such as providing additional living space for friends and family or extra living area for the primary property residents. However, many choose to undergo an ADU conversion project in order to subsequently rent out the space for additional monthly income.

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How much do ADU projects usually cost?

Your ADU project is entirely dependent on the type of conversion, since factors vary greatly depending on if you’re converting existing space or building an entirely new structure altogether. Other key factors that affect cost include electricity, plumbing, roofing, foundation work, framing, and planning. A professional ADU project can cost from between $30,000 to $90,000. However, many homeowners make back a large part of their project costs by renting out their converted space. Additionally, ADUs significantly raise property value, aiding in offsetting costs.

Can Los Angeles ADUs be purchased independently?

ADUs cannot be purchased independent from the main residence. However, ADUs can be rented year round, since they have their own living quarters, bathroom, and kitchen. Since there’s no owner occupancy clause, the ADU and primary residence can also both be rented at the same time by the homeowner if desired.

How does my garage space translate to living space?

The average single car garage is roughly 200-250 square feet, while two car garages tend to be between 400-450 square feet.

To put that space to comparison, 400 square feet can be used for a master suite, small single bedroom, large office with bathroom, large playroom, or any other compatible living space.

How has legislation changed Los Angeles ADUs?

On September 27, 2016, Senator Bob Wieckowski signed Senate Bill No. 1069 into effect for California residence in order to increase the availability of affordable housing in California. It is now more affordable and easier to complete a California ADU, since off-street parking and utility hook-up fees were both eased.

What are the different types of ADUs in Los Angeles?

ADUs share many similar characteristics, though they vary structurally. There are three main types of ADUs in Los Angeles, as they can be built from attached, detached, or converted space. That means that ADUs can connect to the main home, be an entirely separate stand-alone entity, or be built from a converted attic, basement, or garage space. All ADUs will need to have their own separate entry. In Los Angeles, ADUs that are not connected to the main house must maintain a 10 foot separation from the primary structure.

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How should I start converting my garage into an ADU?

To start your ADU conversion, you will need basic details of project requirements, as well as a simple sketch of the design to present to the local planning department. Next you will have to provide information to the city, including future use of the space, parking plans post conversion, and if there are property line setbacks, among other questions. Once the permit is obtained, the conversion project can begin.

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Are city building permits required for Los Angeles ADUs?

Yes. In order for your LA ADU project to receive approval, mandated permits and regulations must be met. The ADU architect or contractor is usually responsible for submitting the ADU application and plans to the city.

How long does ADU application approval take?

Approval for your Los Angeles ADU can take from 2 weeks up to 2 months. However, if you are able to present a complete set of plans and structural documents, you may be able to receive a permit immediately in special cases.

Does my house have to pass city inspections?

Yes, houses will be required to pass city inspector inspections during the construction process. The city inspector and field supervisor typically arrive 4-5 times to perform general foundation, plumbing, electrical, and framing inspections.

Where are ADUs in Los Angeles prohibited from being built?

ADUs are not allowed in hillside areas, except in the case of them being located within half a mile of public transit and if they are adjoining a standard street. ADUs cannot be between the street and the front of the primary residence. ADUs must be built in residential units that contain a single-family residence. Only one ADU is allowed per lot.


What are the size requirements for a Los Angeles ADU?

State requirements regulate that an ADU cannot be greater than 1,200 square feet whether it is attached or detached. Attached ADUs cannot be greater than 50% of the living area, and they must have their own entrance. The minimal size for an ADU is 150 square feet.

Additionally, all ADUs must have a minimum of 70 square feet for the main room, 50 square feet minimum for the kitchen, and 30 square feet minimum for the bathroom. The height of a Los Angeles ADU should not be greater than 25 feet, except for special cases. There is no minimum lot size for an ADU.

What is the proper zoning for an ADU?

An ADU must be built on a single-family residence that contains only one residence and no additional ADUs. Appropriate zoning includes R-A, R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4, A-1, and A-2.

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Are there ADU parking requirements?

Yes, ADU parking is required depending on certain factors. When parking is required, a single space is required for single bedrooms, while two or more bedrooms require two spaces. However, there are certain situations that don’t require parking, such as if the ADU is located half a mile or less from public transportation or if it is in a historically or architecturally significant area.

Additionally, parking plans will need to be provided for ADUs that are constructed in previous garage or parking areas.


What are the setbacks for an ADU?

No setbacks are required on an existing garage that is being converted into an ADU, though ADUs constructed above garages will need setbacks that do not exceed 5 feet from both side and rear lot lines.

What are other ADU specifications?

The following specifications must be met for Los Angeles ADUs.
ADUs must be visually compatible with both the primary home and neighborhood.
1.ADUs must meet all floor area, land use, and zoning regulations.
2.All ADUs require a kitchen, bathroom, and living area. They do not require washer/dryer hookups.
3.ADUs must comply with the California Energy Efficiency Standards.
4.ADUs will only require a sprinkler system if the main building has one.


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