Accessory Dwelling Unit

Accessory Dwelling Unit - What is the latest?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a secondary residence like an apartment, cottage, guest house, or another small home attached to or near the main house on the same lot. ADUs provide more affordable housing options for those who desire to live in an urban environment. Renting ADUs out as long-term housing for guests and relatives gives the homeowner the advantage of passive income while keeping relatives close without sacrificing privacy… Also known as: “in-law apartment,” “mother-in-law suite,” and “granny flat.”

ADUs are an essential tool for creating affordable housing. The City has made it easier to build ADUs in Los Angeles by streamlining the process and developing new incentives.

An ADU provides secondary access to homeownership, can offer inexpensive long-term housing, or provide extra rental income. They call ADU  “secondary units” because they are smaller than one unit of a principal residence on the lot (typically less than 1,200 square feet). They may be stand-alone structures, like an apartment over a garage, or be built into existing garages or yards — typically with separate entries directly from the exterior. These units must also meet parking requirements within 600 feet of the principal residence.

In-Law Units and Accessory Dwelling Units are similar. They are building both onto a property in a way that provides a separate housing unit. The primary difference is an accessory dwelling unit must have its cooking facilities while an in-law unit does not. An in-law unit may also have lower cost requirements than an additional dwelling unit, depending on the location within the city. For example, Los Angeles requires accessory dwelling units to meet traditional houses’ exact design review standards. In contrast, cities like Long Beach allow for smaller or missing parking spaces if the lot already contains two off-street parking spaces.

In Los Angeles, ADUs are most common in single-family neighborhoods. They account for up to 20% of new housing units built. ADUs can be a cost-effective means of adding additional units to a property and increasing the rental income from a property. For example, a small cottage with a separate entrance can provide an extra bedroom or place for parents or other family members to live close by their children. ADU rents tend to be lower than primary residences because they lack living rooms and have limited cooking facilities such as a microwave oven and half bathroom.

ADU Pre-approved Plans Overview

The City of Los Angeles recently passed two new laws to make building Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) even more accessible and more affordable. One allows homeowners to convert their garages into small, rent-controlled apartments and sell the air rights above the garage for additional income; another eliminates parking requirements for most homes within one mile of public transit. These new laws also introduce a streamlined permit process that reduces fees upfront, allowing homeowners to pay them in installments over several years, depending on how quickly they complete construction.

Pre-approved plans save on average six weeks and around $6,000.00 if you use plans precisely as they are.

The ADU Pre-approved Plans program enables homeowners to build ADUs by submitting a set of approved plans rather than going through the more complicated design review process with their local city or county. Pre-approved plans offer homeowners a fast, efficient, and cost-effective way to gain permits and start building accessory dwelling units without requiring expensive permit expediters.

Since 2012, over 1,400 accessory dwelling units have been approved in the City of Los Angeles under an Administrative Design Review (ADR) process that is less expensive and easier than conventional design review. ADRs can be approved as fast as three weeks after the application is submitted with few– if any– required improvements or conditions.

There is a handbook available from the city planners’ office that you can download

Getting Plans Pre-approved

You can submit plans for approval at this website If you own the plans, you don’t need an architect or engineer involved in the process.

Once plans are submitted on the website, an email will be sent to us with a tracking number. The planner assigned to your project will review your plans for compliance within two weeks. You can sign up online for a pre-approved plan check appointment at!/account/new. At this appointment, you can get any issues resolved before submitting for final building permit approval.

Please Note: Pre-approved plans cannot be submitted without first receiving approval of rooftop solar or other applicable permits under the direction of the Department of City Planning Solar Permitting office. Visit www. for more information about DCP’s requirements for solar installations.

Using Pre-Approved Plans

Even with pre-approved plans, you need to hire a designer to

  1. Draw up a site plan
  2. Calculate your Title 24s (a report that verifies your building design complies with California Title 24 energy standards)
  3. Submit your plans to the City

For the site plan, you can hire an engineer to do this. If it’s just a plan for your ADU, use anyone familiar with your lot size and where the boundaries are.

Regarding getting Title 24s, we recommend getting everything designed by an experienced company specializing in Title 24s because they know all the ins and outs about how to create the home so that it will qualify.

You have to put together a submittal package (Zoning, Property Information, and Building Permit Records):

  • Design, Draw Plans, and existing permit records
  • Plot plan – Show location of the street, street name, lot dimensions, existing buildings, area(s) of work, parking layout, driveway location, and yard setbacks from property lines and between buildings.
  • Floor plan – Show proposed work, adjacent room(s), (f applicable), and door and window sizes and location.
  • Building Elevations/Cross Sections – Exterior elevations for new construction, detailing all exterior walls, projections, and cross-sections in each direction.
  • Foundation Plan – Show foundation size (width and depth) and slab on grade thickness. For raised floor construction, show the size and direction of floor joists.
  • Roof Framing – Show the size and direction of roof rafters and ceiling joists.
  • Energy Conservation – Energy calculations and Certificate of Compliance (CF1R). See for more information.
  • Green Code – (if applicable), material specifications, notes, and details.

Submit documentation

  • Plans will then be reviewed for compliance with the Zoning and Building Codes – instructions for how to obtain compliance will be provided on a correction list

Clearances from other City Departments may be required:

  • Department of Water and Power (work adjacent to or within ten feet of DWP easements)
  • Fire Department (hydrant access)
  • Department of City Planning (Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), Specific Plan, and front yard landscape)

Department of Public Works

  • Bureau of Engineering (BOE) – Curb cuts, sewer connection, address approval, and site drainage.
  • Bureau of Street Services (BSS) – Urban Forestry Division (UFD) – Removal of trees in a parkway and onsite trees
  • Bureau of Sanitation (SAN) – Low Impact Development and Storm Water Pollution Mitigation

New Laws and Legislation

New ADU funding laws effective January 1, 2021 – Potential State Grants and Financial Incentives for ADUs

  • CalHome Program – State funds to local public agencies and nonprofit corporations for first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance, including a home purchase with an ADU or JADU; owner-occupied rehabilitation assistance including rehabilitation of ADUs or JADUs; ADU/JADU assistance including construction, repair, and reconstruction; and homeownership development project loans including predevelopment and carrying costs during construction related to ADUs and JADUs (HCD CalHome program)
  • Local Early Action Planning (LEAP) Grants – State grants to local jurisdictions, including eligible partnerships for housing planning and developing or improving an ADU ordinance in compliance with Section 65852.2 of the Government Code (HCD LEAP program)
  • Local Housing Trust Fund (LHTF) Program – Matching funds to local and regional housing trust funds. Funds may also be used for the construction, conversion, repair, reconstruction, or rehabilitation of ADUs or JADUs (HCD LHTF program)
  • SB 2 Planning Grants – Grants to local governments, including eligible partnerships for housing planning and to encourage ADUs and other innovative building types through ordinances, outreach, fee waivers, pre-approved plans, website zoning clearance assistance, and other homeowner tools or finance tools (HCD SB2 program)

Building an ADU
5 Reasons to Choose Axe Construction

Now that you have decided to create an ADU, there are five reasons to select ax construction as the builder for your project.

  1. Reputation – Axe construction has an established reputation as the #1 builder of luxury homes and remodeling projects in the Los Angeles area.
  2. Experience – Axe Construction knows every aspect of ADU construction from start to final inspection with an existing portfolio of completed ADU projects.
  3. 5 Start Rated – Customer satisfaction is the key to a pleasant and satisfying experience.
  4. Architectural Couture – Axe has a team and network of leading experts in every area, from architecture to the final selection of furniture.
  5. Bespoke Construction – Your ADU shouldn’t look like a shed from the Home Deport on your lot. Each ADU built by Axe Construction is a genuine one-of-a-kind creation that complements the existing architectural design of the primary residence.
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