8 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU in California




Shared By Sarah Scott | Scott Finn & Associates

California is a patchwork of differing ADU regulations depending on the county you live in. Some counties have made great strides towards boosting ADU constructions to ease the housing crisis currently happening in the state, and others not so much.

So how do you determine which cities are the best and which ones are the worst for ADU’s? We’ve compiled an easy list for you.

The Best


6 Best and Worst Places to Build an ADU

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Inglewood, nestled nicely in the south bay of Los Angeles County boasts one of the most lenient ADU ordinances in the state.

Not only do Inglewood residents not have to worry about a lot size requirement, but there are also no design requirements, height restrictions, the maximum number of bedrooms, and the minimum size allowed for an ADU is just 150 square feet. You can really squeeze that ADU into your small backyard if you really wanted to.

Fees are also very minimal. On average the total for city permit fees and outside agency fees are only around $19,000.

San Diego

adu regulations

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If you’re looking to build your ADU in beautiful San Diego, then you’re in luck. San Diego has no development and impact fees which will save you $17,000.

Plus, you can build above your garage with no setback requirements. You can even build the property line in some scenarios.

For the complete list of San Diego ADU regulations, click here!

La Mesa

adu regulations

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Just a short drive from San Diego, we have La Mesa. This city has no parking requirements for your ADU.

There are also no restrictions for listing your ADU on AirBnB, making this a prime spot for short term rentals.

Click here for more information on La Mesa’s progressive ADU regulations ordinance.


6 Best and Worst Places to Build an ADU

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Also located in Los Angeles County, bordered by Long Beach and Cypress, is Lakewood. Although known as more of a suburban town than its neighbors, this city is perfect for individuals that work in the hustle and bustle of the city but prefer a more quiet environment to live in.

Lakewood’s ADU regulations and fees are almost identical to Inglewood’s meaning, you can build your ADU with ease and little restrictions.

Want more info about Los Angeles Regulations? Click here to learn more.


6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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Los Angeles County takes the cake again with yet another city on the best list.

The City of Pasadena has recently passed the Affordability Covenant and Landlord Agreements for Accessory Dwelling Units. With these documents, property owners can apply for a reduced Residential Impact fee, which no doubt will be a great relief on your wallet.

Even without the fee reduction, property owners looking to build an ADU can expect to pay just about $29,000 in fees.

Plus, there are no minimum or maximum unit restrictions and no parking restrictions for converted ADUs.

Want to get started? Set up a consultation to know if your property is right for building an ADU!

Shasta Lake

6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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Not very many people know about Shasta Lake, but they should because it’s a great place to build an ADU.

Located in the Northernmost portion of California, this city is known for its beautiful tourist destinations, making this a prime place for building an ADU for short term rentals.

There are no lot size requirements and maximum ADU sizes are generous at 1,200 square feet. There are also no restrictions on the number of bedrooms your ADU can contain as long as you stay within the size regulation.


6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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Home of Humboldt State University, this city is a hot spot for students looking for affordable housing close to campus.

Arcata is pretty lenient with what type of ADU you want to build and fees are low.

They know there’s a demand, so the city has made great strides to make it as easy as possible to get you started on your ADU.

San Francisco

adu regulations

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It’s no surprise that San Francisco made it onto the best list.

The city first adopted its ADU program in 2014 for select districts and has since expanded citywide. In recent years, new programs have been put in place to further encourage construction.

ADUs can be built parking garages, storages rooms, or attic. The Planning Code also often allows waivers from certain requirements. For example, parking spaces can be removed to accommodate an ADU, or you may not be required to provide open space per unit.

Since ADUs are such a hot topic right now, the city has even put together their own ADU handbook to answer any questions you may have.

The Worst

Walnut Creek

6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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Walnut Creek of Contra Costa County kicks off our list for the worst cities to build an ADU.

Although the city is just a short BART ride from San Francisco, Walnut Creek falls flat with its restrictive requirements.

The maximum size for an ADU halts at a mere 950 square feet.

The city also requires ADUs to match the existing main home on the property exactly. This means the same colors, the same materials, the same windows, the same everything. Walnut Creek has even created an extensive ADU handbook that outlines all of the required design aspects that they expect to see.

Let’s not forget about fees. The average homeowner should be prepared to hand over a grand total of approximately $69,000 to cover fees such as traffic mitigation, a building plan review fee, and much more.


6 Best and Worst Places to Build an ADU

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Also accessible by BART from San Francisco we have Brentwood, a town known for its agriculture.

Although this city is slightly more lenient than its nearby neighbor, Walnut Creek, with its allowed ADU size at 1,200 square feet, the fees here are even higher.

Get ready to hand over around $72,000 just to get your ADU started.


6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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The trend continues with yet another Contra Costa County city.

Antioch is the classic California suburban town. It continues to build new homes in hopes of increasing its population as more and more people look for affordable housing close enough to San Francisco and Oakland.

Unfortunately, Antioch falls short on their ADU ease. Their fees are usually around a total of $68,000 and permits are not issued until an administrative use permit has been approved by the Zoning Administrator and the long list of standards are met.


6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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We have never seen a city with so many lot requirements for an ADU.

Monterey County prohibits ADUs being built in areas that would pose a hazard to public health, safety and welfare in certain unincorporated coastal areas of the county because of known infrastructure and resource limitations.

The cherry on top is that the minimum lot size to build an ADU is two acres.


6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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This city of San Luis Obispo County only approved five ADU projects in 2018. This number is extremely low, especially for a town known for it its wineries which makes it a great tourist spot.

Atascadero has the potential to be a great ADU city but it currently prohibits 34 areas from building. This makes it almost impossible for most homeowners to get approved in addition to all of the other requirements.

Los Banos

6 Best and Worst Cities to Build an ADU

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Los Banos follows the normal state laws for ADUs but requires an Accessory Dwelling Unit Zoning Certificate prior to receiving a permit.

They also ban ADUs from being occupied for less than 30 days, making it difficult for homeowners to rent out their ADUs short term.

Written by: Maxable

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