Published on Thursday, February 13, 2020

Several laws adopted in 2019 are facilitating the development of accessory dwelling units.


Density is an essential element to solving the housing crisis plaguing California. In 2019, the state adopted several new laws to support density and make it easier for property owners to add new units. Specifically, new laws are facilitating the addition of accessory dwelling units or ADUs, and it could have a big impact in adding housing supply to the market.

“Several California laws adopted in 2019 to facilitate accessory dwelling units directly benefit property owners,” Matt Fogt, a partner at Allen Matkins, tells “The primary laws of interest are Assembly Bill 68, Assembly Bill 881, and Senate Bill 13. The three bills overlap significantly and amend California Government Code Section 65852.2. We anticipate that many multifamily owners will be able to quickly create additional units within their existing multifamily projects based on these recent changes.

However, it isn’t only owners of single-family homes that are benefitting. According to Fogt, the legislation could also make it easier for multifamily owners to ad additional units. “There are three significant impacts made by these new amendments that make it easier for multifamily homeowners to add additional units with less hassle: quicker approval processing, eliminated or reduced parking requirements, and eliminated or reduced fees,” he says.

The biggest benefit for multifamily owners is the expedited timeline for approval. This includes avoiding CEQA requirements and public hearings,” says Fogt. “This is due to amendments to Government Code Section 65852.2(e), which provide for the ministerial and administrative, meaning no CEQA or public hearing, approval of ADUs for multifamily owners in two instances. First, the conversion of unused space within existing multifamily structures to ADUs, such as storage rooms, boiler rooms, passageways, attics, basements, or garages, for a total increase of up to 25% of the existing multifamily dwelling units; and second, the addition of two detached ADUs on the same lot containing existing multifamily dwellings. They are able to be up to 16 feet in height and must have at least four-foot rear and side setbacks.”

When an application is submitted under these terms, the local agency must respond with haste. “The local agency must act on an application within 60 days, reduced from 120 days, and the application is automatically deemed approved if not acted upon within such timeframe,” says Fogt. “Local agencies cannot impose a minimum lot size or, until January 1, 2025, an owner-occupant requirement.”

The new laws also remove parking requirements when the ADU is located within one-half mile walking distance of public transit; there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the ADU; or the ADU is located within an architecturally and historically significant historic district. “For units that do not meet those exemptions, parking requirements are capped at one space per ADU,” adds Fogt. “If a garage, carport, or covered parking structure is demolished in conjunction with the construction of an ADU, the local agency may not require the replacement of such parking spaces.”

Finally, for units under 750 square feet, the legislation prohibits collection of an impact fee. “For ADUs over 750 square feet, the impact fees must be proportional to the primary dwelling unit,” says Fogt. “Additionally, connection fees cannot exceed the reasonable cost of providing the service.”