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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.

Draft ADU Ordinance

In response to the new State housing laws regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) that became effective on January 1, 2020, the City of San Rafael has prepared a Draft ADU ordinance. The Draft ADU ordinance will make it easier to develop an ADU and will streamline the permit review process, which will further encourage and facilitate ADU start-ups as a source of affordable housing. Please review the documents below and feel free to leave feedback for staff.

Highlights of regulations in Government Code Section 65852.150:

  • An ADU that complies with certain standards shall be ministerially approved within 60 days
  • Multifamily properties are now allowed to have at least one ADU. The ADU does not count towards the allowable, zoning density limit.
  • Any lot zoned for residential use, regardless of lot size, is allowed to add an ADU.
  • A nonconforming structure can be rebuilt in the same location for an ADU use.
  • A JADU can be converted from any space within the walls of the main residence, including the garage.
  • The required setback for an attached or detached ADU is 4 feet with a maximum height of 16 feet.
  • When converting a garage space, parking can be replaced in any manner (tandem, uncovered, etc.).
  • No limit to the size of an ADU without an adopted ordinance.
  • Property owner occupancy of either the main dwelling unit or the ADU can no longer be required.

The regulations give local municipalities the ability to place some further limitations on ADU proposals. Here are the main items we are proposing:

  • Maximum size would be 1,000 sqft or 50% of the primary dwelling unit for an attached unit
  • ADUs will be prohibited on certain, hillside residential streets where the travel lanes are less than 14 feet in width, road maneuvering is difficult, and parking is challenging.
  • Height restrictions will be in effect on homes in the Eichler-Alliance overlay (-EA)
  • Certain allowances can be made through discretionary review.

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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