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What is an ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a legal and regulatory term for a secondary house or apartment that shares the building lot of a larger, primary house. They are dwellings either attached or detached from a main house that exist on a lot with another house.

They are real homes that require building permits and some investment to be build.


An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) provides independent living facilities for one or more persons and includes permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same parcel as a single-family dwelling unit.  They can have a separate mailing address and be rented to a third-party or occupied by a property owner(s).  

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Additional Information

ADUs have been identified by the State as an important housing option for renters and homeowners, given the undersupply of housing. To construct, ADUs typically cost less than other types of housing, largely because they do not necessitate paying for land or larger property. ADUs provides housing for family members, students, elderly, in-home health care providers, the disabled and others at below market prices within existing neighborhoods.


Generally speaking, ADUs can take one of three forms: 

-Detached: Unit is separated from the primary structure 

-Attached: Unit is attached to the primary structure 

-Repurposed Existing: Space within a primary residence that is converted into an independent living unit


KEY PROVISIONS OF PROPOSED ORDINANCE The Department’s proposed ordinance includes the following recommendations: 

-No ADUs in Hillside areas, except when located within a half mile of public transit and adjoining a standard street 

-No ADUs between the front of the primary residence and the street

-ADUs are only allowed in zones that allow residential uses with an existing single-family residence 

-ADUs are limited to only one per lot

-ADUs are limited in size to 50% of the primary residence. Under no circumstance can an ADU be larger than 1,200 sq. ft. As for detached ADUs, the City may not require an ADU less than 640 sq. ft.

-ADUs are required to meet all underlying zoning, floor area and land use regulations. 

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Accessory Dwelling Unit ADU guidelines are subject to change. Some cities in Los Angeles county have their own independent ordinances, like for example Pasadena, Altadena, San marino, Sierra Madre, Burbank, etc.

ATTENTION ALTADENA HOMEOWNERS: 

Only until March 15th or maybe sooner. Right now ADUs are not strictly regulated, therefore setbacks are not restricted for new ground-up ADU construction or square footage additions, gaining more living space area for more creativity and comfort.

Find out more

Types of ADUs

Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit ADU. Independent exterior access.

Detached ADU

The detached ADU unit is separated from the primary structure and are limited to a maximum size of 1,200 square feet. There are limits on total residential floor area on a lot and may limit allowable ADU square footage.

Attached Accessory Dwelling unit construction. ADU attached to main house with independent access.

Attached ADU

Attached ADU is an attached unit to the primary structure. Attached ADUs are limited to a maximum size of 50% of primary structure living area, excluding garage. Attached ADUs shall be at the rear of main house.

Garage conversion to accessory dwelling unit ADU. Conversion with not additional square footage.

Conversions to ADU

ADU conversion is a repurposed existing space within a primary residence that is converted into an independent living unit. Generally are garage conversions. No setbacks are required for an existing garage that is converted to an ADU.