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  • Lorianna Kastrop

The best resource for the new laws regarding ADUs: The Accessory Dwelling Unit Handbook

By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President/CFO, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects

Sometimes even when you think you understand something, you get tripped up in the details. This happened to me on an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) project recently. Our firm designed a 699 S.F. backyard cottage and I thought that under the new CA state laws that went into effect on January 1, 2020, no impact fees would be charged to the client. Well, that is almost true. The City and County do not charge any impact fees, but the school districts can still charge impact fees for units over 500 S.F. under the new laws.

It took a little research to come to this realization, and that is because most of the news reports and articles about ADUs have used summaries of the changes to the law and therefore important details are lost or glossed over. This article is an effort to help the average homeowner get a better resource for information and cut through the confusion.

In September, 2020 the California Department of Housing and Community Development published an online “Accessory Dwelling Unit Handbook”.  It is the best go-to resource that we have found to clarify the new rules in a format that is well-organized.  It has a clear Table of Contents, a State Standards Checklist, and copies of the Statutory Changes showing exactly what was amended in the new laws.  It even has a Bibliography if you want to pursue further research. 

But the average homeowner only needs to look at the first half of the 41-page document: a 2-page introduction, a 3-page summary of recent changes, and 14 pages of Frequently Asked Questions. This information is exactly what you need to get started on your ADU project and become knowledgeable about what you can or cannot do. You will also learn the terminology to ask intelligent questions of the permitting agency (City or County), and your architect, engineer(s) and general contractor.

Government agencies are often taken for granted or criticized for missteps. In this case we would like to thank and congratulate the CA Department of Housing and Community Development for a job well done. They have filled a great need by providing this document. The Dept. of HCD is elevating and promoting the intent of the state legislature when the pro-housing policies were passed. Instead of acting as gatekeepers, they are acting as facilitators. Bravo!! We hope that our clients and others who are considering building an ADU will use the link above to download the handbook and take a look. Let your friends and neighbors know about it too. Plentiful and more affordable housing is an urgent need in California, and this is a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading, and as always, we are Designing for Your Reality.

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