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Alert: Major Changes to ADU Laws Permit Additional Units to Single and Multi-Family Buildings

by Daniel Freedman and Justin Anderson

Substantial changes to state and local laws governing accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) went into effect on January 1, 2020, and they have significant implications for single-family and multi-family property owners. ADUs are additional living quarters built within, or on the same lot as, the primary residence. New state laws, including Assembly Bills 68 (Ting) and 881 (Bloom), among others, have placed new restrictions on how local governments and Homeowners Associations can condition and limit new ADUs. They have also created new categories of ADUs, expressly permitted under state law, which require local agencies to provide streamlined approval and permitting procedures. An analysis of the new laws and recent amendments can be found in the State of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development’s (“HCD”) ADU Technical Assistance Memorandum.

These changes create significant opportunities for both single-family and multi-family property owners to create multiple new ADU’s within existing and proposed residential developments. For single family properties, now two ADUs are permitted per lot so long as one of them conforms to the requirements of an attached “Junior” ADU (or “JADU”), i.e., it is not more than 500 sq ft. and is located entirely within an existing dwelling.  Multiple attached or detached ADUs are also permitted to be added to existing multi-family properties. Significantly, for multi-family properties located within a half-mile of public transit, the conversion of an existing parking garage to an ADU does not require the replacement of the to be removed parking spaces. For detached and freestanding ADU’s, two such units are permitted. For attached units, the number of ADUs shall not exceed 25 percent of the number of existing permitted units in the structure.  For an existing 100-unit building, for example, 25 ADUs may be converted from existing non-living space (boiler rooms, attached garages, etc.).

To help coordinate the implementation of these new laws, local agencies are issuing guidance memorandums to assist the public and local building officials.  A recently issued City of Los Angeles technical assistance memo reviewing ADU permitting requirements and procedures is available here. A similar memo was recently issued by the County of Los Angeles, and is available here.  HCD is also expected to release a more detailed technical assistance booklet, which will be made available to the public here. Contact us for additional information on how these new laws may affect your property or development.

Daniel F. Freedman is an associate in JMBM’s Government, Land Use, Environment and Energy practice, where he assists clients on matters relating to real estate development, zoning, land use entitlements, and compliance with complex local, state and federal regulations such as CEQA, NEPA, California Coastal Act, federal and state housing laws and historic designation regulations. Contact Daniel at or 310.785.5391

Justin Anderson is an associate in JMBM’s Litigation Group. Clients of the Litigation Group rely on the Firm’s experience with local administration of land use regulations, including the interpretation and enforcement of zoning laws, as well as appeals before zoning boards and political authorities. Contact Justin at or 310.712.6826.