In the beginning of this year, a new California ordinance went into effect allowing homeowners to legally build or convert an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their property. In recent years California’s housing production has not kept pace with demand. This is apparent in the highly competitive rental market and prices found across Santa Barbara. The goal of this new ordinance is to create more affordable housing and generate rental income for homeowners.


Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) also referred to as second units, in-law units, or granny flats.

  •  Detached: The unit is separated from the primary structure
  •  Attached: The unit is attached to the primary structure
  •  Repurposed Existing Space: Space (e.g., master bedroom) within the primary residence is converted into an independent living unit
  •  Junior Accessory Dwelling Units: Similar to repurposed space with various streamlining measures (max 500 Sq Ft)


  • Accessory units can be rented, but cannot be sold separately from the main dwelling
  • The max unit size of a detached unit is 1,200 square Feet. If unit is attached, unit may not exceed 50% of living area
  • A kitchen and bathroom are required
  • There is no minimum lot size requirement
  • Separate utility hookups are not required
  • There are no rent restrictions
  • For each new bedroom that is built outside the existing dwelling footprint, one additional parking space needs to be provided. Parking requirements will be waived if the added dwelling/unit meets any of the following:
  • Is within a half mile from public transit
  • Is within an architecturally and historically significant historic district
  • Is part of an existing primary residence or an existing accessory structure
  • Is in an area where on-street parking permits are required, but not offered to the occupant of the ADU
  • Is located within one block of a car share area

The addition of an ADU to your property is subject to permitting process and fees. Also, your home value could be reassessed by the county assessor and your property taxes may increase. Subsequently, making your guest house, granny flat or garage a legal accessory unit will likely increase your property’s value.


If your property is located in a homeowner association with CC&R’s, you may be excluded from the benefits of ADU. Please contact your HOA for details about an accessory dwelling unit on your property.


Since this new state ordinance was implemented in the beginning of this year, the city of Santa Barbara has already imposed new requirements. Originally the homeowner did not have to reside in either unit. Now, the main or accessory dwelling must be owner occupied. We suspect that Santa Barbara City will further amend the state ordinance and impose more restrictions in the months to come. If you would like to have a ADU on your property you should act fast!

To learn more about ADU and for contact information about planners that can help you with the permitting process, contact us.

Visit this link for further details about this new state ordinance

Accessory Dwelling Memorandum