By Kim Murphy
Murphy & Murphy Southern California Realty 

Real Estate Round-Up: G is for guest house


Last updated 3/17/2021 at 12:29pm

Guest house has a new name: Accessory Dwelling Unit. I don’t know if this new name has anything to do with the “woke” community or if it was a broader term created to define more uses, but either way, the ADU is a great way to add value to your property and perhaps more harmony to your extended family.

California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Law, Assembly Bill 68, took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Under this law, homeowners can add an accessory dwelling unit to their property – even if the HOA’s governing documents state otherwise.

(1) The Planning and Zoning Law authorizes a local agency to provide, by ordinance, for the creation of accessory dwelling units in single-family and multifamily residential zones and requires such an ordinance to impose standards on accessory dwelling units, including, among others, lot coverage.

Existing law also requires such an ordinance to require the accessory dwelling units to be either attached to, or located within, the living area of the proposed or existing primary dwelling or detached from the proposed or existing primary dwelling and located on the same lot as the proposed or existing primary dwelling.

This bill would delete the provision authorizing the imposition of standards on lot coverage and would prohibit an ordinance from imposing requirements on minimum lot size. The bill would revise the requirements for an accessory dwelling unit by providing that the accessory dwelling unit may be attached to, or located within, an attached garage, storage area, or an accessory structure, as defined.

(2) Existing law requires a local agency to ministerially approve or deny a permit application for the creation of an accessory dwelling unit or a junior accessory dwelling unit within 120 days of receiving the application.

This bill would instead require a local agency to ministerially approve or deny a permit application for the creation of an accessory dwelling unit or junior accessory dwelling unit within 60 days from the date the local agency receives a completed application if there is an existing single-family or multifamily dwelling on the lot, and would authorize the permitting agency to delay acting on the permit application if the permit application is submitted with a permit application to create a new single-family or multifamily dwelling on the lot, as specified.

(3) Existing law prohibits the establishment by ordinance of minimum or maximum size for an accessory dwelling unit, or size based upon a percentage of the proposed or existing primary dwelling, if the limitations do not permit at least an efficiency unit to be constructed.

This bill would instead prohibit the imposition of those limitations if they do not permit at least an 800 square foot accessory dwelling unit that is at least 16 feet in height with 4-foot side and rear yard setbacks to be constructed. This bill would additionally prohibit the imposition of limits on lot coverage, floor area ratio, open space, and minimum lot size if they prohibit the construction of an accessory dwelling unit meeting those specifications.

(4) Existing law requires ministerial approval of a building permit to create within a zone for single-family use one accessory dwelling unit per single-family lot, subject to specified conditions and requirements.

This bill would instead require ministerial approval of an application for a building permit within a residential or mixed-use zone to create the following: (1) one accessory dwelling unit and one junior accessory dwelling unit per lot with a proposed or existing single-family dwelling if certain requirements are met; (2) a detached, new construction accessory dwelling unit that meets certain requirements and would authorize a local agency to impose specified conditions relating to floor area and height on that unit; (3) multiple accessory dwelling units within the portions of an existing multifamily dwelling structure provided those units meet certain requirements; or (4) not more than two accessory dwelling units that are located on a lot that has an existing multifamily dwelling, but are detached from that multifamily dwelling and are subject to certain height and rear yard and side setback requirements.

So, what’s this mean for you? Opportunity is knocking at your door. Do you have adult children who have boomeranged home? Maybe having a little space between you and them would add to the harmony you share with them.

It’s tough having family members live under the same roof, once they haven’t. Or what about your aging parents? It would be great to be able to provide care for them, while still giving them their own space. An ADU might be the answer.

San Diego County has removed the permitting fees through 2025 and will provide three different floorplan options, if you think this might be a good opportunity for you. That will save you $30,000.

In Fallbrook, one big consideration is the size of your septic tank and the septic layout on your property. Adding an ADU with 2 or 3 bedrooms will require a larger tank and additional feet of leach-line. Location on your lot is a paramount consideration. You can pump up to a septic tank, but you need to be prepared to deal with that.

Not that long ago, guest houses were considered a unique amenity reserved only for expensive homes on large lots. Now, adding an ADU is an amenity you might want to consider.

It will give you more space for extended family. It might also provide an opportunity for income if you choose to rent it out or move into it and rent your primary residence.

This new freedom allows you to convert your garage to an ADU. You could then build a new garage, which is a less expensive process. As I stated above, opportunity knocks. Is this one for you?

Kim Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or 760-415-9292 or at 130 N Main Avenue, in Fallbrook. Her broker license is #01229921, and she is on the board of directors for the California Association of Realtors


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