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A guidebook for Accessory Dwelling Units in Los Angeles, California


On the heels of a new state law making it easier to construct backyard units, UCLA’s cityLAB released this how-to guide.


Los Angeles can be a tough place to build density, though in recent years urban planning advocates and grassroots organizers have successfully advocated for new legislation—both on a city and state level. As The Terner Center for Housing Innovation describes in its roundup of California housing legislation, there have been some “big changes for tiny houses.”


Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are known by many names, but most frequently are referred to as in-law units, granny flats, or casitas in California. There are so many incredible benefits to the homeowner—whether that’s rent to subsidize a mortgage, the opportunity to “age in place”, or taking care of extended family when most in need.


And in Los Angeles, there’s an enormous opportunity for ADUs to make a dent in the need for more housing units. As Mayor Garcetti is quoted, “If just 10% of the city's 500,000 single family homes had an Accessory Dwelling Unit, Los Angeles could increase its housing density by half in just a handful of years. Most notably, this could be done without altering the character of a neighborhood.”


But, how do you help the average homeowner understand how to construct an additional unit? Where does somebody even start? That’s where UCLA cityLAB’s ADU Guidebook came into play in 2016 on the heels of new statewide legislation making it easier to construct such a dwelling.


From checking eligibility for your particular parcel to understanding parking requirements, tips for drawing an ADU site plan, and how to finance the project, the ADU Guidebook covers the entire process in a beautifully simple 20-page guide. It’s brilliance is in how approachable the authors have made the content, allowing for any homeowner to feel equipped to fully vet the opportunity.


Jane Blumenfeld and Dana Cuff’s cityLAB at UCLA was founded in 2006 as a think tank that explores research and design initiatives that expand “the possibilities of our cities to grow more livable, sustainably, and beautifully.” Their combined work to help the City of Los Angeles roll out the ADU Guidebook so residents can be involved in housing creation certainly builds on the mission.


 

Highlights from the ADU Guidebook

  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are known by many names, but most frequently are referred to as in-law units, granny flats, or casitas in California.

  • From checking eligibility for your particular parcel to understanding parking requirements, tips for drawing an ADU site plan, and how to finance the project, the ADU Guidebook covers the entire process in a beautifully simple 20-page guide.

  • There are so many incredible benefits to the homeowner—whether that’s rent to subsidize a mortgage, the opportunity to “age in place”, or taking care of extended family when most in need.

Sources:

UCLA cityLab: ADU Guidebook

Terner Center for Housing Innovation: 2019 California Housing Legislation Roundup

California Department of Housing and Community Development: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs)

City of Los Angeles: LA ADU Accelerator Program


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