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Adding "Second Units" to Single Family Homes

With the housing crunch impacting the availably of affordable housing in California, several Bay Area cities are taking initiatives to ease restrictions on additions to single family homes and reduce parking space requirements. Called "Second Units" or "Secondary Unites" (sometimes also as "accessory dwelling units," "in-law units" or "granny units,"), these additions make it possible to build independent living units where otherwise only single family homes might be permitted according prevailing codes. Cities like San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Redwood City had already passed enabling ordinances last year. Cities like Palo Alto and Los Altos have proposed changes under consideration. California state law enacted last September streamline these ordinances. San Jose, where some Second Units were already allowed, passed changes in codes effective since January 1st that eased the restrictions. As San Jose Mercury reported,

  • Homeowners in two-family neighborhoods can build one secondary unit.

  • Instead of requiring 6,000 to 8,000 square feet of land for granny units, homeowners only need 5,445 square feet.

  • Size of granny units increases from a maximum of 700 square feet to 800 square feet.

  • Homeowners can now build studio apartments as secondary units.

  • Materials used to construct the secondary units can be similar to those used on their main house.

  • Allow uncovered parking for a granny unit to be on the driveway.

  • In certain cases, eliminate parking requirements, as per SB 1069.

Read more about the changes to San Jose codes here. The San Jose application for planning review is here.

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