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Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) & Junior ADUs (JADU)

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (aka, “second unit,” “in-law unit,” or “granny unit”) is an additional dwelling located on the same lot as a single-family or multi-family development. An Accessory Dwelling Unit may be attached to the primary residence, detached from the primary residence, or contained within an existing residence or accessory structure. A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) is a unit that is no more than 500 square feet and contained entirely within the single-family structure

What is the Review Process?

In order to make the review process as efficient as possible, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADU) applications will now be submitted to the Building Division as a building permit. Prior to submitting to building, please review the Data Sheet/ Checklist for Accessory Dwelling Units and JADUs with a Planner. The Planning Division will still do an official required ministerial review during the Building Permit Plan Check timeframe and the ADU review fee ($300) will be charged in addition to building permit fees through the building permit.

What Regulations Apply to Accessory Dwelling Units?

On January 1, 2020 new state regulations pertaining to Accessory Dwelling Units and junior accessory dwelling units (JADU) (Government Code Section 65852.2, 65852.22 and Health & Safety Code Section 17980.12) became effective and necessitate revisions to San Rafael’s existing accessory dwelling unit ordinance. Until San Rafael adopts a new ordinance, we have put together this information to help explain the state regulations that we are currently operating under. There were many changes with the new legislation. Here are a few highlights:

  • Owner-occupancy is still required for a JADU but not for an ADU.
  • An ADU can be at least 800 square feet.
  • A JADU can now be constructed within the walls of the proposed or existing single-family residence and does not require inclusion of an existing bedroom or an interior entry into the single-family residence. A junior ADU must have a cooking facility but a city can no longer limit the nature of the electrical, gas or propane gas connections or the sink size.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

The rules apply to properties that are in a zoning district that allows residential use. For example, the Commercial/Office zoning district (C/O) is a commercial district but it does allow multifamily use under certain circumstances so the rules would apply to an existing residential use in the C/O district.

An ADU may only be placed between the front-facing wall of the primary structure and the front setback with administrative design review.

Fire sprinklers cannot be required in an ADU if sprinklers are not required for the primary residence. However, if the addition of the ADU incorporates a remodel of more than 50% of the main residence then sprinklers will be triggered for both the main residence and the ADU.

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