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Accessory Buildings and Structures - SFD's and Duplexes

Accessory buildings and structures on single family and duplex properties are subject to the requirements outlined in this bulletin. Depending on size, two types of permits may be needed:

Building Permit. If the planned size is greater than 120 square feet, a building permit is required. If the accessory building or structure includes electrical or plumbing improvements, a permit is required regardless of the size of the structure. See page 2 of this bulletin.

Special Use Permit. Any size or dimension greater than discussed below will require a Special Use Permit. For this step, call the Permit Center at 408-535-3555 and request to speak with a planner.

Zoning and Building Requirements

SF = Square Feet

  1. Exceeds 120 SF and is less than 5 feet from the property line, walls parallel to the property line must be built with a 1-hour fire protection.
  2. Is less than 120 SF and is at least 6 feet from other structures, it may be built on the property line without firewalls.
Limitations for Accessory Buildings
  1. Limited to one story
  2. Limited to two plumbing fixtures
  3. May not contain any living or sleeping spaces
  4. Cannot be air conditioned
Size and Dimension Requirements

See Municipal Code Section 20.30.500 for details. Swimming pools are not included in these setback requirements:

  1. Maximum total area coverage by all accessory buildings/structures including a detached garage: 650 sf (unless otherwise allowed by a Special Use Permit)
  2. Minimum wall-to-wall distance from any other building: 6 feet
  3. Maximum height: 12 feet. If the roof is pitched, the height halfway up any slope may be 12 feet and the roof peak may be 16 feet maximum.

Need help? You can meet with a planner at the Permit Center to verify size limitations and setback requirements of an accessory building or structure. No appointment is needed; just come to the Permit Center on the first floor of City Hall. The planner will advise you as to the applicable zoning requirements for your project. Bring: A site plan is helpful, and we recommend bringing photographs of the property

Rear Yard Coverage
  1. With pool: If the yard includes a pool, the maximum coverage is 60%.
  2. Without pool: The maximum total of the rear yard covered by any part of accessory buildings and structures is 40%, of which accessory buildings may not exceed 30%.
Minimum Setback Requirements
  1. Setback from front property line, all types of lots: 60 feet
  2. Setback from side and rear property lines, interior lot: no setback required
  3. Setback from side and rear property lines, key lot: 4 feet
  4. Setbacks on a corner lot: 9 feet from the accessory building/structure to the property line on street sides
Openings and Overhangs
  1. Within 3 feet of the property line, openings are not allowed.
  2. Between 3-5 feet of the property line, 25% of maximum openings are allowed.
  3. Overhangs are not allowed closer than 2 feet to the property line.
1-Hour Fire Protection Walls

If the accessory building or structure:

  1. Exceeds 120 sf and is less than 5 feet from the property line, walls parallel to the property line must be built with a 1-hour fire protection.
  2. Is less than 120 sf and is at least 6 feet from other structures, it may be built on the property line without firewalls.
Placement in Easements Accessory buildings and structures are generally not allowed in easements, with the exception of Wire Clearance Easements, where the maximum height stipulated in the easement agreement is not exceeded (typically 15 feet). Overhead wire clearances must be maintained per the National Electric Code (NEC).

Building Permit Requirements

As mentioned on page 1, if the planned size is 120 square feet or greater, a building permit is required. If the accessory building or structure includes electrical or plumbing improvements, a permit is required regardless of the size of the structure. For more information, see How to Get A Building Permit.

Plans must be submitted to obtain a building permit for such projects. Your submittal must include:

  1. A completed Building Permit Application
  2. Three sets of plans drawn to a minimum 1/4″ per foot scale. Plans for a typical project should include the items outlined in the table below:
Site Plan

Show:

  1. Shape and dimensions of the lot and any easements.
  2. All existing structures and setbacks. Setback dimensions are measured from the face of the accessory structure to the property line or to other adjacent structures on the lot.
  3. Measurements of any overhangs
Foundation Plan

Show:

  1. Pier footing or continuous footing layout
  2. Slab on grade details, if applicable
Floor Plan

Show:

  1. Dimensions of the structure
  2. Door and window sizes and locations, if applicable
  3. Fire-resistant construction details, if applicable ?
  4. States use of each area
Framing Plan

Show:

  1. Sizes, grade of materials, and on-center spacing of the structural members, including studs, posts, girders, headers, joists, and deck material
Elevation Plans

Rear and side elevations are typically required. The elevations show a view of the project looking at it straight ahead, drawn to scale. For example, if you stood across the street from a house and took a photograph of the house, that would be the front elevation view.

A PDF handout version of this information is available on our Building Handouts and Forms page.