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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

The City Council approved changes to ADU regulations to enable more single-family properties to qualify for an ADU and to ease associated requirements; these changes became effective on July 27, 2018. Regulations for ADUs are found in Section 20.30.150 of the Zoning Ordinance.

View the Accessory Dwelling Unit Information handout for how the new rules work and answers to common questions.


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. Complete the ADU/Secondary Unit Review Worksheet. While not required, it is highly recommended that you bring this to a free consultation with a planner at the Development Services Permit Center to ensure your project complies with the zoning code and development standards -- before you invest in design. Note that signing the Owners Declaration on this worksheet is required at the time you submit your building permit application. For the consultation, we also recommend that you bring a rough sketch of your lot, indicating the placement of the primary dwelling and where you would place the ADU and its approximate size.  

    No appointment is needed for this review. Upon arrival at the Permit Center:
    » 
    Go to the Permit Center kiosk to obtain a ticket to be seen.
    » Select the button, "I want information."
    » Next select the button, "Planning Requirements" and take the issued ticket.
    » When your number is called, you'll go to the round Assistance Desk where a planner will help you.

    Visit www.sanjoseca.gov/permitcenter for hours of operation. There is no fee for this service. 
      
  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'll need to 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 (see page 4 of the bulletin, How to Get a Building Permit). 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.

Staff at the Development Services Permit Center are happy to help you understand if your property qualifies, how the development standards for an ADU apply 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.

ADU Parking Requirements and Exemptions

Constructing an ADU will trigger certain parking requirements. An ADU requires one space unless the property qualifies for an exemption under State law. Here are the codes that apply:

Muncipal Code 20.90.220(B)(2) - When a garage, carport, or covered parking structure is demolished or converted in conjunction with the construction of a Secondary Dwelling, and the required off-street parking spaces that were provided by such garage, carport, or covered parking structure, are required to be replaced on-site, the replacement spaces may be covered spaces, uncovered spaces, or tandem spaces, or replaced by the use of mechanical automobile parking lifts and in any setback area unless specific findings are made that tandem parking and parking in setback areas is not feasible based on specific site or regional topographical or fire and life safety conditions.

Exemptions - Muncipal Code 20.30.150.I - No additional parking shall be required for an ADU that meets any of the below criteria.

  1. The secondary dwelling is located within one-half mile of, and has a path of travel that is always publicly accessible to a site containing an existing public rail-transit station or at least one public bus stop.
  2. The secondary dwelling is located within a historic district identified in the city's historic resources inventory as defined in Chapter 13.48 of Title 13 of this Municipal Code.
       
  3. The secondary dwelling is part of the existing primary residence, or within, or part of, an existing Accessory Building.
       
  4. When on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupant of the secondary dwelling.
       
  5. When there is a motor vehicle that is operated as part of a regional fleet by a public agency or publicly-leased motor-vehicle-sharing organization and provides hourly and daily service located within one block of the secondary dwelling.

2018 Secondary Unit Ordinance Changes

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 revised ordinance.  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. 

The changes are now expressed in Section 20.30.150 of the Zoning Ordinance. The table below reflects the changes.

Item             Prior Regulation             Regulation
            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 the Parking section of this webpage. If a garage has been converted, the main dwelling parking space must be replaced, as uncovered or in front or side setback areas. 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.