Understanding California's ADU Setback Guidelines

Discover ADU setbacks in California and Bill AB 2221. Learn requirements for setbacks in populous counties and their impact on construction.

Building an Accessory Dwelling Unit in California can be an excellent investment, but understanding ADU setbacks regulations is vital for a seamless construction process.

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Fernanda Castillo

As California homeowners turn to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) for various reasons, whether to generate an extra income or add living space to their homes, understanding the requirements for building one becomes crucial. In this blog post, we will explore the different ADU setback requirements in California, including the general setbacks specified by AB 2221 and specific setback requirements in some of the most populous counties in the state. Read on to learn everything you need to know about ADU setbacks.

1

Overview of ADU setbacks

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General ADU setbacks in California & Bill AB 2221

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Key takeaways

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What are ADU setbacks?

Setbacks refer to the minimum distance that the structure must be set back from the property lines or other structures. 

The purpose of setbacks in construction is to ensure safety and privacy and that the adjacent buildings ( in this case, houses) have their sunlight, ventilation, and parking respected. ADU setbacks vary depending on the location, size, and type of ADU.

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General ADU setbacks in California & Bill AB 2221

What's the required ADU setback in California?

By law, the required setback that any ADU construction must comply with is 0 - 4' side and rear from the lot line minimum. Their respective city code will regulate the front and street side setbacks.

While ADU setback requirements in California are generally consistent, individual counties and cities have specific setback requirements that homeowners must follow. Below are more setback requirements for key California counties:

  • San Diego County: Front yard setbacks in this county depend on the lot size and are measured starting from the middle of the street into your property. 
  • Los Angeles County: The setback requirements for ADUs in Los Angeles County may vary depending on the lot type, but for typical residences, the measurements are the following: - 20 ft max front setback, but not less than prevailing, meaning it needs to match the average setback along the street if applicable. 
  • Orange County: Front yard setbacks vary depending on the lot size and type but usually oscillate between 20' and 25'. 
  • Riverside County: Riverside front yard requirements may go from 20' to 30' ft, depending on the lot.

Navigating these regulations might be underwhelming, as local agencies tend to be more strict when applying them. Still, it's important to note that the law's state overrules them, so make sure to consult and get informed before starting your project!

Are you interested in building an ADU? At Multitaskr, we make ADUs easy with 100% ADU financing, design, city permits, planning, and construction, all in one place! Get in touch with one of our Home Solutions Experts today.

 

Now we know that when building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), there are several vital requirements to keep in mind, from fire and safety measures to regulations for building in your front yard. Let's take a look at a few more setback restrictions: 

  • The side and rear setbacks need to be sufficient for fire and safety.
  • Suppose the existing multifamily dwelling has a rear or side setback of fewer than four feet. In that case, the local agency is not allowed to require any modifications to the existing dwelling as a condition of approving the application to construct an ADU. This means that if the existing multifamily home already has a setback that is less than four feet, the local agency cannot impose additional setback requirements on the construction of the ADU.  
  • While you can build in your front yard, as long as it's not a historic neighborhood and you have the necessary space, you must remember that setback limitations must be met.

An ADU that is attached to the primary residence or located within the same structure does not have a minimum setback requirement.

Bill AB 2221

California's bill AB 2221, approved by the state's governor on September 28, 2022, provides regulations and guidelines for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in the state. The bill specifies setback requirements for ADUs. 

Overall, the bill aims to promote the construction of ADUs and provide clear guidelines for homeowners looking to add an ADU to their property.

  • This bill would additionally prohibit a local agency from establishing limits on front setbacks.
  • ADUs have a height limit of 16 feet and four-foot rear yard and side setbacks. 
  • The bill prohibits the imposition of limits on lot coverage, floor area ratio, open space, and minimum lot size if they restrict the construction of an ADU meeting the specifications outlined in the bill.
  • Additionally, the bill establishes a minimum size of 800 square feet and a minimum height of 16 feet for ADUs.

Interested in how Bills can impact your ADU construction? Read our 2023 California ADU Bills blog to find out more!

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Key takeaways

  • Understanding ADU setbacks is vital for a seamless construction process when building an Accessory Dwelling Unit in California.
  • Setbacks refer to the minimum distance that the structure must be set back from the property lines or other structures to ensure safety, privacy, and respect for adjacent buildings.
  • By law, the required setback that any ADU construction must comply with in California is 4' side and rear from the lot line minimum. The front yard may vary depending on location and lot type. 
  • Individual counties and cities may have specific setback requirements that homeowners must follow, and they can be more strict than the law of the state. 
  • Bill AB 2221 provides regulations and guidelines for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in California and specifies setback requirements. The bill aims to promote the construction of ADUs and provides clear guidelines for homeowners looking to add an ADU to their property.
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In conclusion, understanding the setback requirements for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) is crucial for California homeowners looking to build one. Setbacks refer to the minimum distance that the structure must be set back from property lines or other structures, ensuring safety, privacy, and respect for adjacent buildings.

The bill aims to promote ADU construction and provides clarity for homeowners. It prohibits limits on front setbacks, establishes a height limit of 16 feet, and prohibits limits on lot coverage, floor area ratio, open space, and minimum lot size if they restrict ADU construction meeting the bill's specifications. Understanding these setback requirements is essential for a smooth ADU construction process in California.

If you're interested in building an ADU in California, Multitaskr offers comprehensive ADU financing, design, permits, planning, and construction services to make the process easier. Understanding and adhering to ADU setback requirements is crucial for a successful and compliant ADU construction project.

Book a Free Consultation to see how you could benefit!

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