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Accessory Dwelling Units in a Nutshell

By Stephanie Osorio, owner of Osorio Architecture

In 2019, Governor Newsom signed 18 bills meant to boost California’s housing production. A handful of those bills made it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs). You might know them as second units, granny flats, or backyard homes, but one thing is for sure, they’re sprouting up all over Long Beach! As a licensed residential architect living in Belmont Heights, I’m happy to see this kind of housing woven into the fabric of our neighborhood. When it’s designed thoughtfully and mindful of the homes around it, it can provide housing for grandparents, school teachers, firefighters and other members of our community. For those hit hard by the pandemic, it could provide an additional income stream or just simply a downsized lifestyle.

Can you build one on your property? It’s quite possible. For the most part, ADUs are allowed in nearly all residential districts. The maximum size is dependent on several factors, but in most cases, you can build up to 800 square feet. The ADU can be a new standalone unit, a conversion of your garage or accessory structure, on top of your garage, a new unit attached to your home, or a unit contained entirely within your home (this is called a Junior ADU or JADU and can be no more than 500 square feet). You do not need to build a new garage if you convert your garage. If you’re not converting your garage, you may need to provide outdoor parking unless you meet certain conditions. On lots with a single-family dwelling or duplex, only one ADU and one JADU can be built per lot. Here’s the catch: you’re likely to spend at least $120,000, and that’s for a simple garage conversion (including permit fees, design team fees and construction costs). If you live in a historic district, you’ll need to get a Certificate of Appropriateness from the City. If you are in an HOA, you’ll want to consult with your board. Talk to a licensed architect and get the facts before you dive in.

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