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Accessory Dwelling Units

Please complete our survey to help the County support property owners
to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)!

Por favor complete la encuesta y ayude al Condado a mejorar
el proceso de construcción de ADUs.

The survey is available through March 22.

With the Santa Cruz County community facing a critical housing shortage and high housing costs, the County is interested in expanding access to affordable housing for residents. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), sometimes called Granny Units or second units, are small “second” houses that can be built on residential lots that already have a single-family home. ADUs have the potential to help ease the housing shortage, and to provide places to rent that are more affordable than a standard single-family home. ADUs may be quite small, or up to 1200 square feet depending on the size of the property and where it is located. They may be a separate house, over a garage, or attached to the main house. Our community needs more types of housing to suit the needs of different households, and ADUs are part of the solution.

Subject to land use regulations in place to ensure any new structures fit in with existing neighborhoods, the County wants to encourage property owners to consider building ADUs. Input is needed from people who have designed, built, owned or are interested in designing, building, or owning ADUs regarding their experience. Tell us your story!

We would like to hear about the development and financing process, and also find out how you use the ADU, and what the typical monthly rent is for these homes in County neighborhoods. We would like to hear your thoughts on incentives that might help ADU owners rent the ADU to lower-income households. We are also interested in hearing from anyone who considered, and then rejected the idea of creating an ADU. If we can identify the specific difficulties property owners face we can do a better job of addressing the challenges.

The survey will be available until March 22.

Thank you for your participation!

Note: The survey is specific to understanding barriers to building ADUs. If you have general comments about ADUs in Santa Cruz County, we want to hear those thoughts as well. Please email comments on any aspect of this topic to County Planning Staff:

Updated ADU regulations:

There have been several changes recently in the regulations about Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), sometimes called Granny Units or second units, as a result of recent changes to the California law governing this type of housing. The new state standards remove some of the barriers to building ADUs by revising parking requirements, deleting the requirement for fire sprinklers in some cases, and recognizing conversions of existing structures into ADUs. When they become final, the new regulations will allow:

  1. Reduced side and rear yard setbacks of 5’ for ADUs that are built on the second story above a garage.
  2. Processing of applications as ministerial building permits, which must be approved or denied within a 120 day timeline.
  3. Elimination of parking requirements under certain circumstances.
  4. ADUs to be exempt from the requirement for fire sprinklers if sprinklers are not present in the primary dwelling.
  5. ADUs on any lot where a single family home could be built, regardless of parcel size.
  6. Development of ADUs on lots under 1 acre in the rural area that already have a legal single family home, provided that any on-site septic system receives "approval by the local health officer", based on technical standards. (Water quality will continue to be protected because any new or expanded septic system must meet County performance standards and be approved by Environmental Health Services. The amendments are worded to ensure that property that is not currently developable remains undevelopable.)
  7. ADUs on the second story of an existing home or above a garage without the need for a public hearing.

If you have general comments about ADUs as a form of housing in Santa Cruz County, and we want to hear your thoughts. Please email comments on any aspect of this topic to County Planning Staff: