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Secondary Units or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
Blue secondary unit homeSecondary units — also called accessory dwelling units, ADUs, or granny flats — are small living units, including a kitchen and bathroom, on a property that has a single-family home. 


Benefits of San José's ADU Program

There are many benefits to ADUs, including that they:
  • Create more affordable housing opportunities for our community;
  • Provide an income opportunity for homeowners; 
  • Provide housing to extended family members or disabled persons;
  • Promote infill development without significant change to a neighborhood's character; and
  • Encourage the use of public transportation.


Accessory Dwelling Unit Information Handout
ADU Informational Handout
Properties that qualify for an ADU

On June 19, 2018, the City Council approved changes to ADU regulations to enable more single-family properties to qualify for an ADU and ease associated requirements. These changes go into effect on July 27, 2018. Current regulations for ADUs are found in Section 20.30.150 of the Zoning Ordinance.

View the Accessory Dwelling Unit Information handout for answers to common questions about ADUs and changes to the requirements.


How do I apply for a permit to build an ADU?

  1. First review the ADU Information Handout; it will help you understand what may be possible on your property.
     
  2. It is highly recommended that you complete the Secondary Unit Review Worksheet and bring this to the Planning Counter at the Development Services Permit Center. A planner will review the worksheet with you and help you understand how to submit plans that conform to the development standards for an ADU. There is no fee for this service.

    NOTE: This Secondary Unit Review Worksheet is being updated to reflect the new rules -- a new version will be in place soon. 


  3. A building permit is required to build an ADU or install a modular unit, and you must complete a Building Permit Application. With the application, you must submit accurate project plans and drawings with the dimensions of your lot, setbacks, driveway, and all existing structures and the proposed ADU on your lot, all drawn to scale. Your project will undergo Residential Plan Review (as discussed in the How to Get a Building Permit bulletin, page 4). It will be reviewed for conformance with zoning codes, development standards, and the California Building Code. 
     
  4. Applicants should also review these fire-related directives for ADUs:
    Building Review Requirements for Fire Separation for Secondary Units 
    Fire Department Review Requirements for Secondary Units

  5. If grading of the site or removal of an ordinance-size tree is involved, you'll want to speak with Permit Center staff about what's involved with those steps.

  6. Staff at the Development Services Permit Center are happy to help you understand if your property qualifies, the development standards for an ADU on your lot, and what you need to do get a building permit. See the Development Services Permit Center webpage for hours and contact information -- we're here to help you.


Fees for ADUs


Building permit fees for an ADU vary based on the project scope. See the 
Building Division Fee page for more information. In addition to a building permit fee, applicants for an ADU will be required to pay:
  • School Fees
  • Park Impact Fees. View the map that shows the Park Impact Fees that vary according to location.


2018 Secondary Unit Ordinance Changes

Read the revised ordinance. The changes go into effect on July 27, 2018

Based on public input, City staff proposed updates to Section 20.30 of the Zoning Code to ease requirements for ADUs. At its May 9, 2018 meeting, the Planning Commission held a public hearing and reviewed the proposed changes; view the
memorandum. The commission voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council adopt the proposed changes. The Council approved the changes on June 19, 2018 and further expanded the proposed changes by allowing for 2-story ADUs of any size, and allowing for 2-bedroom ADUs for units sized 800 sq. ft. or greater. 

This table shows the existing regulations and the proposed changes:

Item Existing Regulation Proposed Regulation
Approved by City Council on June 19, 2018
Effective July 27, 2018
Zoning District ADUs allowed in R-1, R-2, and PD (subject to R-1 standards) zoning districts, which are comprised of single-family residences. Additionally allow ADUs in R-M zoning districts, and in any Planned Development (PD) district where ADUs are not expressly prohibited. Development standards of the Municipal Code and of planned developments zones apply in call cases.
Minimum Lot Size 5,445 sf 3,000 sf
Minimum Setbacks from Rear and Side Property Lines 0 feet – Conversions 5 feet – New construction 0 feet – 1-story conversions 5 feet – New construction or for ADUs constructed above a garage or accessory structure.  
Maximum Height Single story – 18 feet maximum No 2nd-story unit allowed Single story – 18 feet maximum
2nd-story allowed – 22 feet maximum*  *Either an ADU atop a garage or accessory structure or a two-story ADU.
Rear Yard Coverage Not including pools, not more than 40% of the rear yard may be covered. No change
Detached ADU Location Rear yard only, at least 6 feet away from primary dwelling, attached only to a detached garage. Rear yard only, at least 6 feet away from primary dwelling, attached to a detached garage or other existing accessory structure.
ADU Size
(in sf)

Lot Size (sf)

ADU Maximum Size (sf)

3,000 - 5,444

Not allowed

5,445 - 9,000

600

9,001 - 10,000

650

10,001 - Up

800

Lot Size (sf)

ADU Maximum Size (sf)

3,000 - 5,444

600

5,445 - 9,000

700

9,001 - 10,000

800

10,001 - Up

900

Number of Bedrooms Studio or 1 bedroom Under 800 sf: Studio or 1 bedroom allowed 800 sf and up: 2 bedrooms maximum allowed
Attached ADU Maximum Floor Area May not exceed 50% of the existing primary dwelling living area May not exceed 50% of the existing or proposed primary dwelling living area
Design Standards   Match appearance, and match roof form and pitch Require visual compatibility with existing primary dwelling.
Parking requirements Parking configurations in conformance with State law

An ADU requires 1 space unless the property qualifies for an exemption under State law—see Parking section of webpage. If a garage has been converted, the main dwelling parking space must be replaced, as uncovered or in front or side setback areas. The homeowner may apply for a reduction of one space of required parking. Parking spaces may be configured on-site per state law.

Reduction in required off-street parking spaces No more than one dwelling occupies the lot. (Section 20.90.220) No more than one dwelling, in conjunction with an ADU, occupies the lot.
Junior ADU Not allowed Removed from consideration; not part of the approved ordinance.
Front yard paving No more than 50% of the front setback may be paved with any impervious surface. (Section 20.30.440) No more than 50% of the front setback may be paved with any impervious or pervious surface.
ADU requirements for lots in Historic Resources Inventory Requires Single-Family House Permit Waive requirement for a Single-Family House Permit for detached ADU or for conversion of existing accessory structure with no exterior alterations.