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Your Legal Corner - Client Alert Blog

California Directs Cities to Allow Second Units (Accessory Dwelling Units, Granny Flats and In-Law Quarters)

Written By: Melissa C. Marsh, Esq., California Attorney, January 2017 Add to Favorites

On September 27, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed two separate accessory dwelling unit bills (AB 2299 and SB 1069) into state law. An Accessory Dwelling Unit, commonly referred to as “in law suite” and “granny flat” are additional living spaces on properties zoned as single-family residences that have a separate kitchen, bathroom, and exterior access independent of the primary residence. AB 2299 and SB 1069 makes clear that local city ordinances which do not align with State law shall be “null and void” and that, until a local municipality adopts its own ordinance in accordance with State law, the State standards specified in Government Code §65852.2 shall be enforced. In response, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning has prepared a new ordinance.

Junior Accessory Dwelling Units.

Effective September 29, 2016, Government Code § 65852.22 authorizes all California cities and counties to provide by ordinance authorization for the creation and construction of “Junior Accessory Dwelling Units” within an existing residential dwelling unit zoned as a single family residence. Most importantly, the new law specifically prohibits municipalities from requiring, as a condition of granting a permit for a JUNIOR accessory dwelling unit, to have additional parking. The additional parking requirement has long prohibited many owners from constructing accessory dwelling units in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, and surrounding areas.

In addition to junior accessory dwelling units, each municipality is also now required to allow second units, now called accessory dwelling units (without the junior) on parcels zoned as single family residences and multi-unit dwellings. Second Units (Accessory Dwelling Units) under state law may be subject to deed restrictions, occupancy limits, and certain other standards such as height restrictions, bulk restrictions, limited setbacks, lot coverage, landscape, architectural review, and each municipality may set the maximum size of an accessory dwelling unit. As long as the standards are met, local cities and counties are now required to approve the construction and occupancy of an accessory dwelling unit within 120 days of receipt of a properly submitted application.

Under the new law, a local city and/or county may impose the following requirements:

  1. The increased floor area, if any, of an attached Accessory Dwelling Unit must not exceed 50% of the existing living area, up from 30% but may be limited to 1200 square feet;
  2. An Accessory Dwelling Unit that is constructed above a garage will need to provide only a 5 foot setback from the side and rear lot lines. In addition, per state legislation, existing accessory structures, with side and rear setbacks sufficient for fire safety, and with their own exterior entrance shall be permitted to become an Accessory Dwelling Unit;
  3. No passageways shall be required in conjunction with the construction of an Accessory Dwelling Unit;
  4. No setbacks shall be required for an existing garage to be converted to an Accessory Dwelling Unit;
  5. An Accessory Dwelling Unit that is constructed above a garage must only have a 5 Foot setback from the side and rear lot lines; and
  6. The municipal ordinance cannot require more than 1 parking space per accessory dwelling unit or per bedroom and the municipality must allow the additional parking space to be a tandem space in an existing driveway. In addition, state law provides that the municipality cannot require any parking space if the proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit: (a) is located within ½ mile of public transportation, (b) is in an historic district, (c) The Accessory Dwelling Unit is located entirely within an existing primary Residence, OR (d) if on-street parking permits are required, but not offered to the occupant of the accessory dwelling unit.

Under the new law, a local city is required to grant a variance, or special permit, for the creation of a second unit (aka mother-in-law suite, or granny flat) if the second unit complies with ALL of the following:

  1. The unit is not intended for sale and may be rented
  2. The lot is zoned for single-family or multifamily use
  3. The lot contains an existing single-family dwelling
  4. The second unit is either attached to the existing dwelling and located within the living area of the existing dwelling or detached and located on the same lot as the existing dwelling
  5. The increased floor area of an attached second unit does not exceed 30% of he existing living area and is less than 1200 square feet
  6. The second unit complies with all other requirements applicable to residential construction (including building codes) in the zone in which the property is located and
  7. The unit is approved by the local health officer where a private sewage disposal system is being used.

City of Los Angeles New Regulations / DRAFT Ordinance For Accessory Dwelling Units

In response to the newly enacted state laws and prior court challenges to the City’s limits on Accessory Dwelling Units, the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission approved a draft accessory dwelling unit ordinance in December of 2016 that essentially provides the following:

  • 1 Accessory Dwelling Unit per lot will be allowed in all single family residential zones except Hillside areas, and between the front of the primary residence and the street;
  • The proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit must be less than 50% of the size of the primary residence and less than 1200 sq. ft.;
  • An Accessory Dwelling Unit that is constructed above a garage will need to provide only a 5 foot setback from the side and rear lot lines;
  • No setback shall be required for an existing garage to be converted to an Accessory Dwelling Unit; and
  • The proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit must satisfy all other underlying zoning and land use regulations including the local jurisdiction’s standards with regards to height, setback, lot coverage, Floor Area Ratio (FAR), building separation and open space of the zone on which the property is located.

Other provisions in the DRAFT Ordinance.

Existing unpermited Accessory Dwelling Units, with side and rear setbacks sufficient for fire safety, and with their own exterior entrance may apply for a permit to become an Accessory Dwelling Unit.

Any application for an accessory dwelling unit submitted must be reviewed and either approved or denied within 90 days of submission.

Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles is still not in compliance as the proposed ordinance remains in draft form. Stay tuned…


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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site was prepared by Melissa C. Marsh for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information provided in my articles and alerts should not be relied upon, or used as a substitute for professional legal advice from an attorney you retain to advise or represent you. Your use of this Internet site does not create an attorney- client relationship. Transmission of this article is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. All uses of the contents of this site, other than personal uses, are prohibited. You may print or email a copy of any information posted on this web site for your own personal, non-commercial, use, but you may not publish any of the articles or posts on this web site without the Express Written Permission of Melissa C. Marsh.


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Located in Los Angeles, California, the Law Office of Melissa C. Marsh handles business law and corporation law matters as a lawyer for clients throughout Los Angeles including Burbank, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village, North Hollywood, Woodland Hills, Hollywood, West LA as well as Riverside County, San Fernando, Ventura County, and Santa Clarita. Attorney Melissa C. Marsh has considerable experience handling business matters both nationally and internationally. We routinely assist our clients with incorporation, forming a California corporation, forming a California llc, partnership, annual minutes, shareholder meetings, director meetings, getting a taxpayer ID number (EIN), buying a business, selling a business, commercial lease review, employee disputes, independent contractors, construction, and personal matters such as preparing a will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more.