Frequently Asked Questions

An ADU is an “Accessory Dwelling Unit”. The State of California is requiring cities to allow ADUs to be built on existing properties with minimal hassle to create additional housing in the State. An ADU can be the built within the existing blocked-off section of the house with a separate entrance. It can also be a conversion of a garage or conversion/blocked off section of the house — or it can be built on an existing  carport and you do not have to create any new parking. A stand alone unit can be built in the back or side yard if you have the space. A one-bedroom stand alone unit can be up to 800 square feet. A 2-bedroom unit can be up to 1,000 square feet. One parking space per bedroom is required, however there are exceptions, such as living within .5 miles of a public transportation location.

The creation of an ADU requires the project manager to know and understand the extensive State and City laws related to the project.   Laguna ADU will work with the Homeowner to manage the project to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible in accordance with all the specific legal details related to each unique project, from beginning through completion.

Elizabeth Pearson, your Homeowner Advocate, who worked on both the City Council and Planning Commission, has not only a deep understanding of the State and City laws, has a knowledge of the City and community concerns  – and understands how the City works. She’s maneuvered the planning and ultimate completion of projects such as the development of the Montage Resort and the entitlement and building of the Susi Q Senior/Community Center. She has also reviewed and voted on over 200 Design Review Board approvals, primarily for residential projects.  Last, she has positive relationships with the City staff and leadership which enables her to capably be able to defend your application and project, if needed.

  • Generate additional household income, even if you obtained a loan to build it.
  • Increase the value of your home. 
  • Use under-utilized space in your house.
  • Use extra space in your yard.
  • Help provide housing for seniors, younger people or workers who have employment in Laguna Beach.

Orange County is faced with a housing shortage, and affordable housing is very hard to come by. The average rent for a condo now costs over $3,000 a month. Between senior parents on a fixed income and young adults entering the workforce and unable to afford rent, multi-generational living is the new normal. For senior parents requiring assisted living, costs can range from $3,000-$10,000 a month. An ADU provides the family the option to house their senior parents close by for much less than most Senior Living properties in Orange County..

State and local government in California has never made it easier to build a second unit on your property.

Through financing, you can expect your ADU to cost an average of  $500-$1,500 a month,

An ADU can also provide the unique opportunity to own a rental property in Orange County, where the average home cost is now more than $700,000.

No, this is an over-the-counter City approval process. The Planning, then Building Staff review your design and engineering.  We urge you to not build in a way that blocks views or creates sound that could be disturbing to your neighbors (e.g. A/C-Heat units with loud outdoor motors/fans). If the application is complete the State mandates that the City approve it within 60 days in Planning/Zone check, as per State law. We urge homeowners to keep their stand-alone ADUs at 800 square feet or less to minimize more stringent regulations at the City.

In an effort to address the state-wide housing shortage, California passed Senate Bill 1069, making it much simpler to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (aka ADU or granny flat) on your property. The bill took effect January 1, 2017 and includes reduced parking requirements, reduced fees for utility connections, and reduced permit costs and approval time. 

Note: If you build a JADU, which is within the same walls of your existing home or in an attached garage, you would just need to connect your utilities to your existing house. On conversions and stand-alone units, depending on the amp voltage of your primary home, you may need and want to create a separate or sub-electric panel and meter so that whoever is in that unit can pay for their own electricity.

Your plans can typically be created within four to eight weeks (with your ongoing input) after you approve the Architect's proposal.  The State requires the City to approve the project, if a completed application is submitted, within two months in the Planning Zone Check Department. All requirements must be met. We have found that the Planning Department always has questions and notes, so expect the application to be in the Planning Department longer than 2 months.  Then the plans are submitted to the Building Department. Their review could take 4-6 weeks. The construction of your unit can typically take from 2 1/2 to 5 months, depending on the size and materials used. The City may delay stand-alone ADU projects if the Fire Department places unusual or extensive requirements on the project.

Including construction, finished, and city costs, the all-in cost of adding an ADU typically ranges between $250-$700 per square foot, depending on the type of ADU you're creating, land preparation needs, solar panel requirements – assuming no serious flood issues on the property or unusual City Fire Department requirements. Note: if you research the Internet, you will find the all-in cost to create a garage conversion can range from $80,000 to $150,000. We work with a variety of partners that can help you make the best choice for financing your ADU. Most clients will utilize existing available cash, a cash-out refinance, cash from a home equity loan, or a new reverse mortgage to finance their new ADU.  Let us know if you'd like a referral to one of our financing partners.

To find out more about your financing options, click here.

It is likely that your property taxes will increase slightly.  The City provides the County with info related to each building permit, such as the new square footage being added. The County Assessor will factor your multi-usage and/or incremental added square footage to the tax valuation of your property, adding to the base you already pay.  The tax rate is 1.25%, so you would typically add that to the newly built valuation to ascertain the additional tax to be paid.


Only a property with a JADU requires owner occupancy.

Yes, you probably can – and without any fines for previous non-conformity. Ask us to visit the unit with you and we can see what can be done.

Yes!  In fact, until 2025, you can rent both units out.

You can check or view the rentals in the Laguna Beach Independent to see what the market for different size units are.

Of course, the higher rents are derived from properties with a view. Adding a patio or balcony to your ADU will increase its appeal.

Examples of rents reviewed in February 2021, without a view:

  • 400 square foot studio or one bedroom: $1,350 to $1,800
  • 500 square foot one bedroom:  1,700 - $2,500
  • 2 bedroom ADU with patio: $2,500 - $3,250

We will bring ad examples when we meet with you to show you what has recently been advertised for rental units, both unfurnished and furnished.

Keep your ADU at 800 square feet or less. To meet Fire Department concerns, plan the placement of your new-build ADU 10' from any vegetation.

Probably not. If your property is located within .5 mile walking distance of an OCTA bus stop, you do not have to create any parking. (In Laguna, stops are only located on PCH and Laguna Canyon Road.) Conversion ADUs including existing garages or carports, interior ADUs created within the 4 walls of the existing main house, including the basement -  do not have a parking requirement. New builds, such detached stand-alone ADUs  require an additional parking space - but it can be a tandem spot on your existing driveway including in front of the garage, if there is room.

Yes. It would be called an “attached ADU." The maximum height of the entire structure (below and above combined, including the roof) cannot be higher than 25' or the maximum height of he underlying zone.

 Note: It is important to note that the City’s building code requires the minimal ceiling height of any room must be 7’.

 Yes, if it is within the walls of the existing house and there is a finished floor and four walls. It can be any size, as long as it stays within the 4 walls of the house. Note that minimum ceiling needs to be 7’ highor more.

 On regular ADUs, a property owner does not have to live on the property through December 31, 2024. On JADUs, the property owner is required to live on the property from the time it is approved – forward.

A: Yes. This is referred to as an attached ADU. The size maximum is 50% of the existing house size, or a max of 850 square feet for a one bedroom and 1,000 square feet max for more than one bedroom. There can be no door connection between the attached ADU and the main house. A parking space for each bedroom is required to be available on the property. Tandem parking spots are allowed. Exception: If your property is within .5 mile walking distance to a public bus stop, no additional parking is required. Important note: The City’s neighborhood on-call transit stops are not counted as a public stop by the City.

Yes. There are two ways to do this. In both cases, the ADU has to have an independent entrance. You can create an interior conversion that is blocked off from the rest of the house (although you can install a fire door if there is already a door to the main house) and has its own full kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. This can be any size within the house. OR, you can create a Junior ADU, which needs to be 150 square feet to 500 square feet. With the JADU, the kitchen doesn’t require a full-sized refrigerator nor an oven. The bathroom can be a shared bathroom with the main house if there is access. There are no parking requirements for these 2 choices. Important to note: with JADUs, the homeowner must be living in the main house and the JADU must be permanently deed restricted that the unit will always be an apartment.

Yes, but remember that the building code requires a 20’ front yard setback, so your ADU would need to be beyond that.

No, currently the City code does not allow curb cuts to be made for an ADU. Parking can be tandem on your driveway, however (including in front of the garage, if your driveway is long enough).

After plans are submitted and before construction, the Fire Marshall will inspect new-build stand-alone units, detached garage conversions and new-build attached ADUs. (Interior conversions and attached garage conversions are typically not inspected.)


Important Guidelines :

  • The street that provides access to your property must be at least 20’ wide.

  • The location of your nearest fire hydrant should be no further than 250’, or you will likely be required to install fire sprinklers in the unit.

  • If the main house has fire sprinklers, fire sprinklers will be required in the ADU.

  • New-build ADUs can be no closer than 10’ from the primary house.

  • Building address numbers for all units on your property must be placed on the address street side and be a minimum of 4” tall, and not obscured by landscaping or parked vehicles.

  • A path of 3’ all around the unit is typically required.

  • Permanent fire pits must be 20’ away from all combustible materials.

A: If you don't live within .5 mile walking distance of a transit stop, place tandem parking on your existing driveway for a new-build ADU (attached or stand-alone), you can go through Design Review Board only for the driveway. OR, if there is ample parking on your street, the City is allowing street parking to meet the requirement.

If all the guidelines are followed according to the ADU guidelines/standards, you do not have to present your project to the Design Review Board. All detached and attached ADUs are noticed to residents within 300’ of the property who can comment in writing about the project.