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City of San Diego Starts Accepting Pre-Approved Granny Flat Building Plans

Free, Permit-Ready Companion and Junior Unit Floor Plans to Help Reduce Construction Costs and Increase Affordable Housing Citywide

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - NEWS RELEASE

SAN DIEGO – The City of San Diego’s Development Services Department (DSD) will now be accepting permit-ready, no-cost building plans for the construction of new companion and junior units in existing single-family or multi-family properties citywide.

Companion units – also referred to as accessory dwelling units, casitas, cottages or granny flats – are detached or attached accessory structures located on residential lots, while a junior unit is contained entirely within an existing, habitable single-dwelling unit.

“We’re doing everything we can to make it easier and cheaper to build housing here in San Diego,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “Granny flats are exploding in popularity thanks to our housing reforms and now residents can build them for less with pre-approved plans that will ensure the permitting process is quick and efficient.”

Homeowners can apply for a building permit with the pre-approved granny flat plans, but additional site-specific technical plans and calculations may still be required. To be able to use the permit-ready design plans, applicants must ensure the plans for their proposed project meet the City’s submittal guidelines for a building permit and then make an appointment by calling 619-446-5300 to review their plans and other requirements to obtain a building permit.

“Accepting the pre-approved design plans will help reduce the time and pre-construction costs to build these residential projects,” said DSD Director Elyse Lowe. “Building Accessory Dwelling Units is the fastest and least expensive way to help increase affordable housing availability, and we are doing all we can to make it easier for City of San Diego homeowners.”

Acceptance of the pre-approved plans is part of the Mayor’s Housing SD reforms approved by the City Council. This initiative follows previous amendments and streamlined development regulations to make it easier and cheaper to build these secondary dwelling units. These amendments include:

  • Expediting permit processing, plan review and construction inspection times.
  • Increasing zoning flexibility.
  • Waiving fees.
  • Increasing the maximum size of companion and junior unit projects from 700 to 1,200 square feet.
  • Maintaining the existing setbacks for a permitted garage or a non-habitable accessory structure converted into a companion unit.
  • Exempting qualified projects from requirements to create new parking space.
  • Requiring that rental periods for companion or junior units be greater than 30 days.

In 2016, the City received 19 applications for construction of companion and junior units. With adoption of the new streamlined regulations, there has been a steady increase in applications received with 142 in 2017, 409 in 2018 and more than 480 received through October this year.