Inside San Diego

Inside San Diego logo

News & information from the City of San Diego

City of San Diego Helps Homeowners Get the ADU Process Started

San Ysidro resident Soveida Magana-Soto started construction on her first accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in 2019 with her future top of mind. 

“I’m looking to have a good space for my parents,” Magana-Soto said. “They’re at-age already and I want to have them close by. I’m a single child so this is all they got, so I’m looking out for the future so they can be nearby.” 

The City has amended regulations that make it easier and less expensive to build ADUs and JADUs, providing affordable and below-market housing throughout the City.  

Magana-Soto said the pre-building process can seem confusing, but City of San Diego staff were there to help along the way.  

“I’m like, ‘Why aren’t a lot my neighbors doing this? It’s just like we almost have the same lot size,’” Magana-Soto said. “They probably think they need tons of money. You don’t have to pay everything upfront.. It’s by stages and that’s what’s actually very affordable.” 

ADUs can be integrated into existing single-family or multi-family properties. They can be designed in various ways, including converting a portion of an existing house, adding to the existing house, converting an existing garage or constructing a new detached structure. 

The City also has an ADU Bonus Program, which stipulates if ADU’s are deed restricted as affordable housing for 15 years, an additional ADU can be built on the same property. Magana-Soto is now working with the City to permit her latest housing project, a junior ADU, also known as a garage conversion. 

To date, there have been 255 deed-restricted affordable ADUs approved in the City under the ADU Bonus Program, which launched in 2021. Since 2019, more than 4,500 ADUs have been approved for construction. 

“It doesn’t even hurt to ask, what are my opportunities in my property and what can I build,” Magana-Soto said. “It’s your best investment, don’t think that you’re alone, the city is there to help. You just have to be persistent, that’s the key, stay on it have a dream you can do it, I’m doing it, and I’m sure a lot of people can.” 

Magana-Soto currently rents her backyard ADU to a small family and never thought she would be a landlord. 

“If you can start sooner, better,” she said standing in her backyard. “I bought this house when I was 47 and now close to 55, so want to make sure that we prepare for the future, we prepare for retirement. I feel this actually, for me, is a real retirement.” 

San Diego residents that are interested in building an ADU, hearing options or just want more information, click here to book an appointment with staff from the City’s Development Services Department.