STATEWIDE UPDATE: New California ADU Bills SB13, AB68, AB881, AB670 have passed. These laws will create more options for building an ADU in Santa Cruz 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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Santa Cruz ADU Guidelines Last Updated 08/11/19


The city government of Santa Cruz will approve ADUs under California's statewide mandated regulations.
The California Building Code (CBC) 2016 is adopted with the following amendment(s): 2016-15, 2016-16
Relevant state bill updates for SB13, AB68, AB881, AB670 are shown in green below.


City Hint: The city permitted a total of 52 ADU project(s) in the past year of 2018, which makes it above average for ADU production compared to other cities statewide.


Number of ADUs allowed:

The parcel may have no more than one existing single family dwelling. An ADU can also be constructed concurrently with one single family dwelling.

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

Types of ADUs allowed:

Only one ADU may be constructed per parcel. A parcel may have EITHER a habitable
Accessory structure with a bathroom OR an ADU, but not both.

The ADU may be attached or detached from the main unit. Within the Urban Services Line, the ADU must be located within feet of the primary dwelling, and cannot be accessed by a separate driveway or right-of-way unless a variance is issued.

Lot size:

New Construction in the Urban Area; Parcel Size <5,000 square feet 5,000+ square feet Size of ADU 10% of Parcel Size 640 square feet New Construction in the Rural Area Parcel Size <10,000 square feet; 10,000 square feet to < 1 acre; 1 acre or larger Size of ADU 640 square feet 800 square feet 1,200 square feet Conversions Parcel Size <5,000 square feet 5,000+ square feet Size of ADU Up to 50% of the existing habitable Square feet of the primary dwelling, not to exceed 640 square feet Use standards for New Construction ADUs in the tables above.

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

ADU size:

The total gross floor area of the ADU may not exceed 640 square feet within the Urban Services Line, or 10% of the parcel size for parcels less than 5000 square feet Outside of the Urban Services Line, on parcels less than 10,000 square feet, ADUs may be up to 640 square feet, between 10,000sf and 1 Acre, ADUs may be up to 800 square feet, and on parcels 1 acre or larger, the unit may be up to 1,200 square feet.

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.


No setback shall be required for an existing garage that is converted to a accessory dwelling unit, and a setback of no more than five feet from the side and rear lot lines shall be required for an accessory dwelling unit that is constructed above a garage. (State requirements)

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.


One additional parking space is required for each bedroom in the ADU, unless the unit
Qualifies for an exception. In addition, the primary dwelling must also meet current parking requirements, which are based on the number of bedrooms.

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

Fire Safety:

Fire Sprinklers are required only where they are already present in or required for the
Primary dwelling. Fire Agencies may require alternative methods for complying with the fire code.

Shape, materials and style:

The ADU should be architecturally compatible with the main unit in terms of design, color and materials. Doors, windows, balconies, etc., should be situated to preserve the privacy of neighbors.


Units inside the Urban Services Line shall not exceed 17 feet in maximum height and 14 feet in average height unless they are constructed above a garage, in which case
they may be up to 22 feet in maximum height and 19 feet in average height.

Design review:

All development standards (i.e., setbacks, lot coverage) for the applicable zone district must be satisfied. Ministerial review process.

Number of Bedrooms:

Not specified by State Standards.


The parcel must be owner occupied as evidenced by the filing of a home owner's property tax exemption, or other appropriate documentation.

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

Utility connections:

Local health officer approval where a private sewage disposal system is being used, if required. (State requirements)

Permit Fees

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


An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an additional, self-contained housing unit that is secondary to the main residence.


1.) Exceptions from the parking standard are available if the ADU is being created as a
conversion of an existing structure, or if it falls within the mapped half-mile buffer of the
County’s primary transit routes, see SCCC 13.10.681(F)(2). When the ADU qualifies for
an exception, the primary dwelling may maintain any existing parking configuration.

2.) Exceptions to site standards: ADUs built above garages may be built with 5 foot side and rear setbacks in all residential zone districts. Conversion ADUs may utilize any existing legal structure on the property, regardless of compliance with other site standards, provided they conform to the appropriate size limit based on parcel size, and be updated to comply with current Building and Fire Codes.


For the construction of ADUs within subdivisions or elsewhere where the developer will not be the final occupant, owner-occupancy requirements apply to the purchase of a property w/an ADU, but not to the developer, and occupancy of the ADU will be permitted upon the filing of a Homeowner’s Tax Exemption.

Allowed Zones:

The parcel must be zoned Residential or have a General Plan designation of Residential.
Outside of the Coastal Zone, parcels may also be zoned for Agriculture.

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

Existing Structures

Only structures that were constructed legally may be converted to a Conversion ADU (See SCCC 13.10.681(E)). ADUs that are created by converting any existing habitable or non-habitable area are not
required to provide additional parking, and may also be exempted from some fees. Up to
65% of structural components may be replaced in the course of the conversion, but no
additional space may be added or enclosed.

SB13 Update: Amnesty program to permit unpermitted units will be administered statewide, allowing non-health and safety code violations to be deferred.

Environmental Requirements

To file a building application for an ADU, a “Clearance to Apply for Building Permit” form
from Environmental Health Services will be required if a septic system is to be used. Fire,
Sanitation and Water Districts' approval requirements must be satisfied during the Building Permit process.

Residential Building Code:

The California Building Code (CBC) 2016 is adopted with the following amendment(s): 2016-15, 2016-16

Santa Cruz City Planning Offices

Santa Cruz ADU Marketplace

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Featured Financing Program

ADU Financing

CA Statewide

Tailored to ADU construction.

Based on project size & appreciation.

Learn how to qualify.

Karyn Jones

Program Representative

Call Now (760) 496-5959

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Costs / ROI


* upon completion of ADU


* based on local average price per sqft


* estimated by location


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


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

Rental Estimate = (Rent Per Sqft: $3.83) * (ADU's Living Space: sqft)

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How does it work? Get started on your project with expert assistance and without commitment using our customized ADU Property and Design Reports as your first step. Then, get on-site visits from local contractors who can provide you with guidance and estimates for your ADU project.

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Use our ADU Property & Design Reports as a starting point to plan your ADU project. Our experts will do the legwork with your city or county planning office and design custom ADU concepts for your property and your needs.

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Use our local contractor database to get on-site visits and cost estimates to compare services for your ADU project.

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