The topic of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) continues to be a hot one in California. Ever since the state government reduced the restrictions on adding a second dwelling unit on residential properties, in an attempt to encourage homeowners to help the state increase its affordable housing supply, it seems like every homeowner with a backyard is considering building an ADU.
Adding an ADU to your property can make sense for several different reasons, but it is especially advantageous in areas with high property values. An ADU can further increase your property value, give you an affordable and convenient place to house aging family members or young adult children who are not quite ready to fully “launch,” or provide rental income.
Some cities in California are starting to get smart and releasing pre-approved ADU plans, also called “permit ready ADUs” (PRADU) or “pre-approved accessory dwelling units” (PAADUs). These plans are typically eligible to go through an expedited approval process with the city—although homeowners will still have plenty of hoops to jump through before they can start building. If you like one of the pre-approved plans available in your city, you can also forgo the hiring of an architect.
In the city of Long Beach, California, where my architecture firm is located, there are currently seven PAADUs that homeowners can purchase. But what if none of those pre-approved plans meet your needs? For example, if you want to build an ADU on top of your garage, none of the pre-approved plans will work for you. Even if you only want to make seemingly small changes to one of the pre-approved designs, you may still need to hire an architect.
While hiring an architect might seem like a drawback, it can be money well spent. An architect can help you customize your ADU and make sure it checks all of your boxes—like if you want an ADU that’s handicap accessible or one that only uses electric power. Conversely, you may be someone who is not even sure what exactly you want in an ADU. An architect can walk you through the various options and help you make the best decisions, based on your goals for your ADU, your budget, your lot, and other factors. An ADU that will be used as a rental unit for college students will likely be designed quite differently than one that will be used as guest quarters for visiting friends and family, for example.
An architect can also work with your general contractor to make sure your ADU turns out exactly how you had hoped, as well as with city officials to ensure all of the needed approvals are obtained (hopefully in a timely manner).
You can visit my website to learn more about how my architecture firm, Grisafe Architecture, approaches ADU design in Long Beach, California.short url: