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Development Services

Accessory Dwelling Unit/Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit

This Information Bulletin provides guidance on City of San Diego's requirements for obtaining a Building Permit to construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU). General Regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units and/or Junior Accessory Dwelling Units can be found in San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 14, Article 1, Division 3.

Editor's Note: Some of the regulations and guidelines outlined below – pertaining to certain setback and landscape requirements and provisions associated with sustainable development areas – are not effective within the Coastal Overlay Zone. The regulations and guidelines outlined below will become effective within the Coastal Overlay Zone when the California Coastal Commission certifies Ordinance Numbers O-21439 and O-21461 and O-21618.

As part of O-21618 a pipeline provision was adopted allowing projects that have submitted applications one (1) year from the effective date of the Ordinance (May 6, 2023) to be subject to the rules in effect prior to the effective date of the Ordinance. Project applications submitted within one year from the effective date of the regulations may choose to comply with the existing regulations or the regulations that were in effect prior to the effective date of the regulations.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

What is an ADU?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an attached or detached residential dwelling unit that is:

  • 1,200 square feet in size or less.
  • Provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation. (and)
  • Located on a lot with a proposed or existing single-dwelling unit or multiple-dwelling units.

ADUs Allowable Locations

ADUs are permitted in Zones where Use Regulation Tables identify ADUs as allowable Limited Uses. Generally, ADUs are allowed in Zones that permit Residential Uses.

Number of Allowed ADUs

  1. Single Dwelling Unit Zone A Single Dwelling Unit Zone is a zone that allows a maximum of one dwelling unit on a single lot. Permitted within Single Dwelling Unit zones:
  1. 1 Single Primary Dwelling Unit
  2. 1 Accessory Dwelling Unit
  3. 1 Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit
  1. Single Dwelling Unit Zone Exception for Existing Multi-Dwelling Unit Buildings Within Single Dwelling Unit Zones, where a legally permitted, previously conforming multi-dwelling unit structure exists, ADUs may be constructed in accordance with the multiple-dwelling unit Zone provisions outlined below in multiple-dwelling units Zones.
  2. Other Allowances In addition to the Dwelling Units, Guest Quarters and Non-Habitable Accessory Structures are also allowable.

ADUs proposed in conjunction with the City’s implementation of California Senate Bill 9 (2021-2022) are subject to the provisions of §143.1305(c). The provisions contained in SDMC Chapter 14, Article 3, Division 13 will also require a signed affidavit from the Record Owner.

Multiple-Dwelling Unit Zones

A multiple-dwelling unit Zone is a zone that allows more than one dwelling unit on a single lot.

  1. Conversions or Interior Alterations of Existing Structures

    • Existing Habitable Area: The maximum number of ADUs permitted within the habitable areas of an existing multiple-dwelling unit structure is 25% of the total number of existing dwelling units. One ADU is permitted where the percentage calculation yields less than one ADU.
    • Existing Non-Habitable Area: The number of ADUs permitted within the non-habitable areas of an existing multiple-dwelling unit structure is unlimited. Examples include storage rooms, boiler rooms, passageways, attics, basements, and garages.
  2. Addition of Floor Area to Existing Structures New additional floor area to an existing multiple-dwelling unit structure may not be used to create ADUs.
  3. Construction of New Attached or Detached Structures A maximum of two attached or detached ADUs are permitted on premises with an existing or proposed multiple-dwelling unit structure. The two ADUs may be within one structure or two separate structures.
  4. Multiple-Dwelling Unit Zones with an Existing Single-Dwelling Unit Building Within multiple-dwelling unit zones, where a legally permitted single-dwelling unit structure exists, the premises may construct ADUs in accordance with the Multiple-Dwelling Unit Zone provisions outlined above.

The premises may construct the ADU(s) without a requirement to construct any other additional standard dwelling units.

ADU Size Regulations

  1. The minimum gross floor area for an attached or detached ADU is 150 square feet.
  2. The maximum gross floor area for an attached or detached ADU is 1,200 square feet.
  3. The gross floor area of an ADU is included in the total gross floor area of a premises.
  4. An ADU may exceed the total gross floor area of a premises. However, the ADU shall be limited to a maximum of 800 square feet of gross floor area.
  5. Minimum room dimension requirements contained within the California Building Standards Code are applicable.
  6. The conversion of an existing accessory structure or a portion of the existing primary residence to an ADU is not subject to the 1,200-square-foot maximum gross floor area limitation.

ADU Setback Regulations

  1. Conversions or Interior Alterations of Existing Structures Where an existing structure is converted to an ADU, the ADU may continue to observe the setbacks of the existing structure.
  2. Demolition and Reconstruction of Existing Structures Where an existing structure is demolished and reconstructed as an ADU, the ADU may continue to observe the setbacks of the original structure. The reconstruction must be at the same location and to the same dimensions as the original structure.
  3. Addition of Floor Area to Existing Structures Where an addition to an existing structure is proposed for an ADU, the ADU must observe the Front Yard and Street-Side Yard Setbacks of the Zone. The ADU may encroach into the Side Yard and Rear Yard Setbacks of the Zone, including up to the Property Line if the structure height is 16 feet or less.

If the side or rear property line abuts another premises that is residentially zoned or developed with exclusively residential uses, an ADU with a structure height that exceeds 16 feet or is multi-story shall observe 4-foot Interior-Side Yard and Rear Yard setbacks.

  1. Construction of New Detached Structures Where a new structure is proposed as an ADU, the ADU must observe the Front and Street-Side Setbacks of the Zone. The ADU may encroach into the Side and Rear Setbacks of the Zone, including up to the Property Line.

    If the side or rear property line abuts another premises that is residentially zoned or developed with exclusively residential uses, an ADU with a structure height that exceeds 16 feet or is multi-story shall observe 4-foot Interior-Side Yard and Rear Yard setbacks.

  2. Building Code Requirements ADUs must comply with all requirements in the California Building Standards Code, including requirements for fire separation distance, opening protection, allowable height, and allowable area.
  3. Landscape Requirements If construction of an ADU or JADU would bring the total number of ADUs or JADUs on the premises to a total of two or more, two trees shall be provided on the premises for every 5,000 square feet of lot area, with a minimum of one tree per premises. If planting of a new tree is required to comply with this section, the tree shall be selected in accordance with the Landscape Standards of the Land Development Manual and the City’s Street Tree Selection Guide and shall comply with the street tree requirements of SDMC Section 1420409(a).

    The Climate Action Plan Consistency Regulations apply to all projects that result in three or more total dwelling units on a premises (SDMC §143.1403).

ADU Parking Regulations

  1. No parking spaces are required for ADUs outside of the Coastal Overlay Zone. No parking is required within the Coastal Overlay Zone except if the property is located within the Beach Impact Area of the Parking Impact Overlay Zone and outside of a sustainable development area. In this instance, one off-street parking space is required, unless any of the following apply:

    • The ADU is 500 square feet or less;
    • The premises is located within a historical district that is a designated historical resource;
    • The ADU is attached to the proposed or existing primary dwelling unit or accessory structure;
    • The premises is located within a residential permit parking district;
    • There is a car share vehicle located within one block of the premises.
  2. The conversion or demolition of a garage, carport, or covered parking structure does not require the replacement of parking spaces, except if the property is located in the Coastal Overlay Zone and within the Beach Impact Area of the Parking Impact Overlay Zone and outside of a sustainable development area. If the construction of an ADU or JADU involves the conversion or demolition of a covered parking structure and the existing driveway curb is no longer compliant with City standards, the associated driveway shall be closed to the satisfaction of the City Engineer.
  3. Where off-street parking spaces are provided, parking spaces may be within setback areas, and in any configuration, including tandem configurations and mechanical lifts.
  4. Where off-street parking spaces are provided, parking spaces must be entirely within the property line of a premises, and must conform to the dimension standards of SDMC Chapter 14, Article 2, Division 5.

ADU Other Regulations

  1. The property owner is not required to live on-site.
  2. An ADU may not be leased for a term of less than 31 consecutive days. An ADU may not be used for Transient Lodging.

ADU Fire Sprinkler Systems

Reference Technical Bulletin RESD 3-4 for fire sprinkler requirements in ADUs.

ADU Solar Photovoltaic Systems

  1. Newly constructed ADUs are subject to the California Energy Code requirement to provide solar panels if the unit(s) is a newly constructed, non-manufactured, detached ADU. Per the California Energy Commission (CEC), the panels can be installed on the ADU or on the primary dwelling unit.
  2. ADUs that are constructed within existing space, or as an addition to existing homes, including detached additions where an existing detached building is converted from non-residential to residential space, are not subject to the California Energy Code requirement to provide solar panels.

ADU Bonus Program

  1. Inside of sustainable development areas, for every qualifying on-site deed-restricted ADU (Table 141-03A), one additional non-deed-restricted bonus ADU is allowed. The development is required to comply with the maximum floor area ratio and maximum lot coverage requirements of the underlying zone.
  2. Inside of sustainable development areas, where a Project proposes qualifying on-site deed-restricted ADUs (Table 141-03A), the maximum number of bonus ADUs is unlimited. The development is required to comply with the maximum floor area ratio, maximum lot coverage requirements, and other applicable development standards of the underlying zone.
  3. Outside of sustainable development areas, where a Project proposes qualifying on-site deed-restricted ADUs (Table 141-03A), the maximum number of bonus ADUs is one.
  4. Reference SDMC §141.0302(c)(2)(G) for program details.

Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU)

What is a JADU?

A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) is a dwelling unit that is not less than 150 square feet and no more than 500 square feet within an existing or proposed single dwelling unit or an attached garage on a residential single dwelling unit lot. A JADU may include separate sanitation facilities or may share sanitation facilities with the single dwelling unit. The JADU shall provide a kitchen or efficiency kitchen.

JADU Allowable Locations

JADUs are permitted in Zones where Use Regulation Tables identify JADUs as allowable Limited Uses. Generally, JADUs are allowed in Single Dwelling Unit Zones.

Number of JADUs Allowed

  1. Single Dwelling Unit Zones A Single-Family Zone is a zone that allows a maximum of one dwelling unit on a single lot. Permitted within Single Dwelling Unit Zones:
  • 1 Single Primary Dwelling Unit
  • 1 Accessory Dwelling Unit
  • 1 Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit

Pursuant to Government Code (section 65852.22, subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(4)), 1 JADU may be constructed within an existing or proposed:

  • Single Primary Dwelling Unit

  • Garage attached to a Single Primary Dwelling Unit

Other Allowances: In addition to the Dwelling Units, Guest Quarters and Non-Habitable Accessory Structures are also allowable.

  1. Multiple-Dwelling Unit Zones
  • A Multiple-Dwelling Unit Zone is a zone that allows more than one dwelling unit on a single lot.
  • JADUs are not permitted within Multiple-Dwelling Unit Zones.

JADU Size Regulations

  1. The minimum gross floor area for a JADU is 150 square feet.

  2. The maximum gross floor area for a JADU is 500 square feet.

  3. The gross floor area of an JADU is included in the total gross floor area of a premises.

  4. Minimum room dimension requirements contained within the California Building Standards Co are applicable.

JADU Parking Regulations

  1. No parking spaces are required for JADUs, except if the property is located in the Coastal Overlay Zone and within the Beach Impact Area of the Parking Impact Overlay Zone and outside of a sustainable development area. In this instance, one off-street parking space is required unless any of the following apply:

    • The JADU is 500 square feet or less.
    • The premises is located within a historical district that is a designated historical resource.
    • The JADU is attached to the proposed or exiting primary dwelling unit or accessory structure.
    • The premises is located within a residential permit parking district.
    • There is a car share vehicle located within one block of the premises.
  2. The conversion or demolition of a garage, carport, or covered parking structure does not require the replacement of parking spaces, except if the property is located in the Coastal Overlay Zone and within the Beach Impact Area of the Parking Impact Overlay Zone and outside of a sustainable development area.
  3. Where off-street parking spaces are provided, parking spaces may be within setback areas, and in any configuration, including tandem configurations and mechanical lifts.
  4. Where off-street parking spaces are provided, parking spaces must be entirely within the property line of a premises and must conform to the dimension standards of SDMC Chapter 14, Article 2, Division 5.

JADU Regulations

  1. A JADU shall maintain the same setback requirements of an existing or proposed Single Primary Dwelling Unit.

  2. A JADU shall have a separate exterior entry from the Single Primary Dwelling Unit.

  3. A JADU shall provide a separate independent kitchen or efficiency kitchen from a Single Primary Dwelling Unit.

  4. A JADU may include separate independent sanitation facilities or may share sanitation facilities with an attached Single Primary Dwelling Unit or attached ADU.

  5. Where a JADU exists on a premises, the property owner is required to live on-site.

  6. The property owner may live in any of the on-site dwelling units.

  7. A JADU may not be leased for a term of less than 31 consecutive days. A JADU may not be used for Transient Lodging.

JADU Fire Protection Systems

  1. Where a primary dwelling unit is provided with a fire sprinkler system, the JADU will be required to install a fire sprinkler system. The JADU may be required to fire rate the walls that are shared with the primary unit, or ensure that the sprinkler system in the primary dwelling unit communicates with the sprinkler system in the JADU.
  2. Where a primary dwelling unit is not required to provide a fire sprinkler system, a proposed JADU will not be required to install a fire sprinkler system. However, the JADU may be required to construct a fire rated wall when sharing a wall with an existing or proposed single-family dwelling when the JADU includes an independent kitchen and independent sanitation facilities.

JADU Solar Photovoltaic Systems

JADUs are not required to provide a solar photovoltaic system.

JADU Agreement Required

Before issuing a Building Permit, a Junior Unit Agreement is required that neither the primary dwelling unit nor the junior unit may be sold or conveyed separately and that the record owner shall reside in either the primary dwelling unit, ADU or JADU.

Permit Application Process and Requirements

Building Permit Requirement

A Building Permit is required to create an ADU or JADU. There are no exemptions. Depending upon the number of dwelling units created by the ADU(s), either a Combination Building Permit or a Building Permit will be issued.

  1. Combination Permits

    1. A Combination Building Permit will be issued for any new structure with no more than two (2) ADUs. A JADU can also be included in the structure along with up to two (2) ADUs as long as the JADU does not contain an independent kitchen and independent sanitation facilities.

    2. A Combination Building Permit will be issued for an existing Single Dwelling Unit with a detached/attached ADU. A JADU can also be included in this existing structure.

    3. A Combination Building Permit will be issued for an existing duplex that converts an existing detached/attached garage to a new ADU. No additional area can be added to this structure.

  2. Building Permits

    1. A Building Permit will be issued for any new structure with three (3) or more ADUs.

    2. A Building Permit will be issued for any ADU added to an existing Multi-Dwelling Unit (MDU) structure.

    3. A Building Permit will be issued for any duplex that converts, or that is adding a new ADU that is not a garage conversion.

Coastal Development Permit Requirement

  1. A Coastal Development Permit (CDP) is required for the creation of all ADUs and JADUs that are not completely contained in the existing primary structure or include increases in habitable area, or include conversion of non-habitable space within the Coastal Overlay Zone.

  2. As of Sept. 7, 2022, ADUs and JADUs proposed in the non-appealable area of the Coastal Overlay Zone are eligible for a City-issued Coastal Development Permit, provided that specific administrative findings are made to ensure that the ADU/JADU(s) conform to the Local Coastal Program.

  3. If the administrative findings outlined in §126.0708(c) are satisfied, the Coastal Development Permit shall be issued as a Building Permit in accordance with Process One as specified in §112.0502 and Chapter 12, Article 9, Division 2.

  4. The creation of a JADU within the Coastal Overlay Zone does not categorically require a CDP. Qualifying JADU projects within the Coastal Overlay Zone meeting the exemption criteria of SDMC §126.0704 may be permitted without a CDP.

Other Permit Requirements

  1. Single Primary Dwelling Units with ADUs or JADUs (R3 Occupancy Classifications): Project Submittal Manual Section 2A

  2. Multiple-dwelling units with ADUs or JADUs (All Other Occupancy Classifications): Project Submittal Manual Section 2

  3. Minimum submittal requirements for each ADU or JADU include the following:
    1. Plans / Calculations:
  1. Site Plan and Vicinity Map (See Information Bulletin 122).
  2. Floor Plans and Roof Plans.
  3. Elevations and Sections (as applicable).
  4. Structural plans and details.
  5. Structural calculations and/or truss calculations (as applicable).
  6. Title 24 Energy calculations.
  1. Forms
  1. General Application, DS-3032
  2. Water Meter Data Card, DS-16
  3. Storm Water Applicability Checklist, DS-560

Fees

  1. For a complete list of all applicable fees, reference Information Bulletin 501 and visit the Fees page.
  2. ADUs and JADUs are subject to payment of School Fees. For detailed information of when this fee applies, reference Information Bulletin 146.
  3. Beginning Aug. 9, 2022, the General Plan Maintenance Fee applies to all ADU and JADUs.
  4. ADUs are subject to Development Impact Fee requirements in accordance with SDMC §142.0640(b)(1).
  5. Projects proposing more than one ADU will be required to pay the Regional Transportation Congestion Improvement Program Fees.
  6. ADUs/JADUs are not exempt from the City’s Inclusionary Affordable Housing Regulations (SDMC 141.0302). Projects proposing one or more ADU that results in 10 or more total dwelling units (or five or more total dwelling units in the Coastal Overlay Zone) are subject to Inclusionary Housing requirements.
  7. Fee Payment Options

    1. Customers are encouraged to make online payments by e-check or credit card. Bank and processing fees apply. There are no minimum or maximum credit card transaction amounts when making payments online.

    2. Customers can also drop check payments into the payment drop-off safe located on the first-floor lobby of the downtown Development Services Center during business hours. All payments must be made out to “City Treasurer.”

    3. Customers can also request a Payments appointment to make credit card or check payments in person at the Development Services Center. With in-person payments, the minimum credit card transaction amount is $10, and the maximum is $99,999.99. Payments with an "SAP Invoice Number" are not accepted here. Instead, these invoices can be paid with the City Treasurer; Learn more.

How to Apply

Applications for Accessory Dwelling Units and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units are now being accepted in digital paperless formats through an Online Permitting Account.

Digital Application Portal

  1. Navigate to the Development Services Application Portal.
  2. For new Permit Applications, within the Building Applications section, select “Building Construction.”
  3. For changes to existing issued Permits (under construction), request: “Construction Change to a Building Permit.”