Zoning is a general term for the management of land use. Just about every location in California has a planning authority that manages a locally based zoning ordinance. ADUs are typically allowed in zones with single-family, duplex or multi-family uses.
If an ADU use is allowed, the zoning ordinance is a significant factor in deciding where it can fit on your property. Building setbacks from property lines, height limits, lot coverage restrictions, material and visual character will come into play in a typical zoning code. In some communities, it can be particularly challenging to navigate the zoning approvals for an ADU.
In some communities, the zoning code may restrict new construction related to size, height, and the number of stories.
Reading the rules may not tell the full story of what is possible for your property, and for every zoning rule, there may be exceptions, variances or other ‘entitlements’ that can be requested. In some communities, state law supersedes local zoning. An architect can help interpret the code, have informed conversations with code officials, and quickly sketch out options you might consider for an ADU. In some circumstances an ADU project must navigate a separate approval process prior to the preparation or submittal of detailed building plans.
Throughout California, state law gives special treatments to certain types of ADU designs, including accelerated review times.