San Diego

Accessibility Tools

Garage Conversions

Did you know...

  • that garages were built to provide required off-street parking?
  • generally, dwellings require off-street parking spaces behind the required front/street yard? (Unless the garage was converted prior to 1992 and alternative parking is not available)
  • you may be able to legalize your garage conversion provided you can replace required parking eliminated by the conversion?
  • garages observing less than the required side or rear yard cannot be converted to living purposes unless a zoning variance or special permit has been obtained?


A garage conversion requires a permit. Take the time to research the regulations and consult with City staff, and you can avoid costly mistakes and penalties.

The following is only an overview of basic requirements for habitable rooms. For specific rules and regulations governing garage conversions, please contact the Development Services Department at (619) 446-5000. You may request a copy of Information Bulletin 142 (Residential Garage Conversions), or pick up a copy at 1222 First Ave., third floor, San Diego, CA 92101.

For information on obtaining permits, call the Development Services Department at (619) 446-5000. To report an illegal garage conversion, call Code Enforcement at (619) 236-5500.

Basic requirements for habitable rooms:

  • habitable rooms within a dwelling unit are required to receive natural light; at least 10% of the floor square footage, and a minimum of 10 square feet
  • habitable rooms must have natural ventilation; at least 1/20 of the floor space or a minimum of 5 square feet
  • rooms used for sleeping must have an escape or rescue window with a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet and (if the opening is a window) a finished sill height not more than 44 inches above the floor
  • ceiling heights in habitable space must be a minimum 7 feet, 6 inches (there are a few exceptions)
  • habitable rooms must be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining room temperature at 70 degrees at a point 3 feet above the floor
  • smoke detection device must be installed in: the room/space if it is a bedroom; a corridor leading to a bedroom; on each story; and rooms with a change of ceiling height of 24 inches or more.
  • gas water heaters require permits and generally cannot be placed in this room/space if it is a bedroom
  • at least one wall-controlled light switch must be installed in the room/space
  • electrical wall outlets must be spaced so that no point along the floor line is more than 6 feet from an outlet (for living rooms and bedrooms)
  • under no circumstances shall a private garage have any opening into a room used for sleeping purposes


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