2023 California ADU Law – Taller, Faster, More Flexible Building Rules

Video - NEW 2023 California ADU LAWS


New year, new improvements to California’s ADU laws!

I was so excited to slog thorugh the text of SB 897, a California Senate Bill that improves our Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) laws statewide.  [By the way, I never say I’m excited to read legal documents with their endless nested numberings systems!)

But there are some exciting enhancements to the existing ADU law especially for multi-family properties [of which I am an owner].

These new laws that are coming in 2023 are going to improve on some annoying facets of the ADU laws and make it easier to get bigger and better buildings approved more quickly.

Bought a Berkeley house with an unpermitted ADU…or did you build an ADU without permits?

One important law that is coming into effect is if there’s an old, unpermitted ADU, SB 897 will prohibit a local building department from denying a permit unless there’s a problem in the health and safety realm.

That means if you, say, bought a house that had an unpermitted ADU you are more in luck than you were before as far as being able to build more [and get the unpermitted building permitted].

Do you want to convert a broken down garage like mine into a cottage?

Now they are not requiring replacement parking after demolition.

That’s something I want to make sure you double check that it’s in all locations and in general double check the rules in your own area as they may change and because rules will be specific to your area.

To expedite the permit, the application must be reviewed at the same time as your ADU application, and no notice needs to be posted that you’re building an ADU or demolishing a garage unless it’s a historic house or area.

Much taller ADUs are allowed in 2023.

When an ADU can be 18 feet that generally means it can be 2 stories, when it is within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop. They will also allow a 2-foot allowance for the slope of the roof.

How does California define a major transit stop?

California code 21064.3 defintes it as an existing rail transit station; a ferry terminal served by either a bus or rail transit service, OR the intersection of two or more major bus routes with a frequency of service interval of 15 minutes or less.

What about changes to the California law for attached ADUs?

They’re saying an attached unit could be 25 feet high or less depending on the local height limits on the primary home. The lower height limit with supercede the higher limit.

Overall I wanted to emphasize as I’ve been helping buyers with properties in the last year, I want to make sure you’re looking to the future because of laws like this an SB 9 that allows for lot splits in certain urban areas.

Getting property that has an open flat, or maybe not flat lot can be a great investment because of the ability to build or potentially split the lot into 2 separate properties (based on the detailed guidelines of SB-9 of course).

Oakland has loans to get ADUs permitted in some areas.

Did you buy a house in an opportunity zone with one or more unpermitted cottages and now want to get them permitted?

In November, 2022 Oakland announced a program offering loans to help legalize ADUs:

“Oakland’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Loan Program (ADULP) provides financing and technical assistance to low-income homeowners to convert an existing unpermitted secondary unit into a legal Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). The property must be located in an Opportunity Zone.”

ADU laws are important for home sellers to know about!

Before you sell, especially if you have a large lot, and before you decide to build an ADU, the thing is to know your city’s laws in 2023. If you’re considering selling your house on a very large lot, know that it is worth more than it was 5 years ago because of these laws.

So your action items are:

  • check your city’s building laws to know what their height limits are,
  • know what the height limits are for multi-families if you have one, and
  • in general know what are the ADU laws in 2023.

Be sure to check the date your city’s ADU laws were last updated.

Do you need a connection to an ADU builder or information prefab ADUs available? Let’s chat.

SB 897 was approved on September 28, 2022.


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