STATEWIDE UPDATE: New California ADU Bills SB13, AB68, AB881, AB670 have passed. These laws will create more options for building an ADU in Palo Alto in 2020. To prepare for the upcoming changes use our ADU Services to learn how these laws will effect your property!
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Palo Alto ADUs

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Palo Alto ADU Guidelines Last Updated 08/11/19

codes

The city government of Palo Alto has updated its local zoning codes to comply with the State ADU mandate.
The California Building Code (CBC) 2016 is adopted with the following amendment(s): 5383 to 5396 CALGreen
Relevant state bill updates for SB13, AB68, AB881, AB670 are shown in green below.


hintsights

City Hint: The city has not yet responded to requests for ADU permit volumes for the past year, but they will be provided here once response has been received.


Zoning

Number of ADUs allowed:

Only one ADU or JADU may be located on a lot that also has a single-family dwelling unit.

AB68 & AB881 Update: Properties which convert existing space to create ADUs may be eligible for one ADU -AND- one JADU.

Types of ADUs allowed:

Detached, Attached and junior ADUs.

Lot size:

Attached & Detached: 5,000 square feet minimum. (Exception - 10 Acres in OS) Converting of floor area Existing and Permitted as of January 1, 2017: No minimum lot size applies.

AB68 & AB881 Update: Properties will not be subject to minimum lot standards by ordinance or of the applicable zoning district.

ADU size:

Minimum ADU and JADU unit size is 150 square feet. Maximum ADU size allowable is 900 square feet for detched units.

AB68 & AB881 Update: Properties will be allowed up to 850 square feet for a one bedroom or up to 1,000 square feet for a two bedroom ADU.

Setbacks:

Attached ADU: Same as main residence. (underlying base district) Detached ADU: 5 feet minimum from side/rear property lines. When located above the garage in the RE/OS 6 feet from interior side/rear property line 16 feet from street side yard. Not permitted in the front yard setback. Converting of floor area existing and permitted as of January 1, 2017; None, except as required for fire safety Junior ADU; Not applicable.

AB68 & AB881 Update: The maximum required setback for a detached new construction ADU shall be no more than 4 feet from the rear or side property lines.

Parking:

Attached ADU: None required, some standards apply if ADU parking proposed. Any required parking displaced by an ADU must be restored on site.

Detached ADU: None required, some standards apply if ADU parking proposed. Any required parking displaced by an ADU must be restored on site.

Conversion of floor area Existing and Permitted as of January 1, None required, some standards apply if ADU parking proposed Any required parking displaced by an ADU must be restored on site.

Junior ADU: 2017; None required, some standards apply if JADU parking proposed Any required parking displaced by an ADU must be restored on site.

AB68 & AB881 Update: Properties which convert an existing garage will not be subject to replacement parking requirements.

Fire Safety:

Fire sprinklers are only required when it is also required for the main residence.

Shape, materials and style:

Basement used in the guide is a defined term and subject to specific standards.

Height:

Attached: 1 story and 17 feet, 2 stories and 30 feet in the RE District, 2-Stories / 25 feet in the OS District Detached: 1-Story / 17 feet Converting of floor area Existing and Permitted as of January 1, 2017: None, must be located within an existing residence or structure. Junior ADU No height restriction other than that it must be located within an existing residence.

Design review:

Ministerial review per state requirements.

Number of Bedrooms:

Not specified by State Standards.

Ownership & Rental

May not rent for periods less than 30 days.

May not be sold separately from the primary dwelling.

The property owner shall occupy the ADU/JADU or main residence, unless both units are rented to the same tenant; sub-leasing is prohibited.

Street addresses are required.

A Deed Restriction recorded with the County will be required prior to permit issuance.

SB13 Update: Owner-occupancy requirements for ADUs will be voided statewide for 5 years.

Utility connections:

ADU/JADUs are not considered a new residential use, when calculating utility connection fees.

Permit Fees

SB13 Update: Local impact fees for ADUs will be reduced substantially statewide.

Entry:

Attached ADU Detached ADU Conversion of Floor Area Existing and
Permitted as of January 1, 2017 Junior ADU*
Independent exterior access Except for corner lots, must face different property line than main residence or located on rear half of lot Independent exterior access Independent exterior access Independent exterior access Interior entry to the main living area.

Allowed Zones:

Attached:
R1 | R2 | RE | RMD | OS
RM 15/30/40 when property is used for a single-family dwelling.

Detached:
R1 | R2 | RE | RMD | OS
RM 15/30/40 when property is used for a single-family dwelling.

Conversion of Floor Area Existing and Permitted as of January 1, 2017:
R1 | RE
(conversions in other districts subject to attached or detached ADUs standards)

Junior ADU*
R1 | RE | RMD | R2 | OS
RM 15/30/40 when property is used for a single-family dwelling

AB68 & AB881 Update: ADUs will be allowed statewide in all single-family or multi-family zoning districts.

Lot Coverage:

Lot Coverage: An attached or detached ADU does not count toward lot coverage in the R1, RE, RMD, or OS Zoning Districts under the following conditions:
• The site is already developed with an existing single family residence
• The property is substandard by no more than 10% of the minimum lot size requirement, or larger
• The site would exceed the permitted lot coverage with the addition of the proposed ADU

Floor Area Ratio:

Floor Area: An attached or detached ADU may exceed site floor area requirements up to 175 square feet subject to the following conditions:
• The site is already developed with an existing single family residence
• The site would exceed the maximum floor area with the addition of the proposed ADU
• The proposed ADU is one story

Kitchen / Bath:

Junior ADUs may include separate bathroom, or may share a bathroom with the existing structure, and must have an efficiency kitchen with the following:
• Sink w/maximum 1.5-inch waste line diameter
• Cooking facility with appliances that do not require more than 120 volts, natural, or propane gas
• Food preparation counter and storage cabinets

School Zone

For property located in the DHS district - refer to the SOFA Coordinated Area Plan Phase I

Daylight Plane

Daylight Plane (height limitation that defines a building envelope)
Same as residence (underlying base district)

Begins at a height of 8 feet at the property line and extends upward at a 45-degree angle
None, must be located within existing residence or structure
None, must be located within existing residence

Privacy

Attached ADU, Detached ADU
2-Story ADUs in RE / OS, use techniques to lessen views on neighbors, such as, landscaping, obscure glazing, and windows above eye level None

Conversion of Floor Area Existing and Permitted as of January 1, 2017 Junior ADU*
2-Story ADUs in all permitted districts, use techniques to lessen views on neighbors, such as, landscaping, obscure glazing, and windows above eye level None

Residential Building Code:

The California Building Code (CBC) 2016 is adopted with the following amendment(s): 5383 to 5396 CALGreen

Palo Alto City Planning Offices
Permitting

Development Services

250 hamilton ave palo alto ca 94301 1st Floor - Across City Hall Palo Alto, CA 94301

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Read Palo Alto Housing Market Update

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Costs / ROI

APPRECIATION ESTIMATE

* upon completion of ADU

CONSTRUCTION COST ESTIMATE

* based on local average price per sqft

RENTAL ESTIMATE

* estimated by location

MORTGAGE ESTIMATE

* 30 years / 5% interest rate / 20% down payment

BASED ON LOCAL AVERAGE PROPERTY DATA & VALUE

Appreciation Estimate = (Base Value: $) / (Home's Living Space: sqft) * (ADU's Living Space: sqft)

Rental Estimate = (Rent Per Sqft: $7.51) * (ADU's Living Space: sqft)




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