City Council Approves New Accessory Dwelling Unit Rules

(Kathy Enzerink, Photographer)
An accessory dwelling unit is under construction on Moraga Way.

    Conforming to California state law, the City Council unanimously approved height, size and setbacks limitations for Accessory Dwelling Units.
    Ordinance 20-02, approved May 19, addresses streamlined, attached, detached and above- garage ADUs. The rules are complex and vary for each type of unit.
    Streamlined ADUs include the junior, which is within an existing residence or a detached unit less than 800 adjusted square feet. There are fewer rules in this category, for example not requiring an additional parking space.
    Detached studio or one-bedroom units cannot exceed 850 adjusted square feet and a two-bedroom unit is limited to 1,000 adjusted square feet. Detached units cannot be more than 16 feet high and no closer than 4 feet from the side or rear setbacks. 
    If building an ADU above a private garage, while adhering to the side and rear underlying zone setbacks, the height limit is 27 feet. Any portion which extends beyond the setbacks is subject to 16 feet high.
    No impact fees will be imposed on ADUs smaller than 750 adjusted square feet. Impact fees for all other ADUs will be charged proportionately in relation to the square footage of the primary dwelling unit. 
    A design review is not required under any circumstance, according to the state mandate.
    “They’ve made it very clear they don’t want us to adopt any ADU regulations that would trigger design review,” said Drummond Buckley, director of planning.
    Previously the City Council had adopted an urgency ordinance effective Jan. 1 which allowed detached ADUs as large as 1,200 square feet and 27 feet tall if compliant with the underlying 10/15-foot zone setbacks. 
    “There is a hole in state law that someone could build an accessory structure at the 27-foot height and come back later and ask for a permit to make it an ADU,” Buckley said.
    Councilwoman Inga Miller asked the planning department staff to come back with the accessory structure ordinance so, “we can look at that and make sure that ordinance isn’t abused.”
    Vice Mayor Amy Worth said the ordinance allows residents ADUs for their families. “This is a very complex issue for all to understand,” she said.
    This ordinance becomes effective 30 days after adoption and can be viewed at

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