Accessory Dwelling Units
SB 897: Accessory Dwelling Units: junior accessory dwelling units


As California continues to look at ways to provide more affordable housing for low-income Californians and reduce the costs to renters and homeowners, an issue area that has been a consistent topic for just under a decade is the establishment of new laws around Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU).  In the fifth installment of CALBO’s “Guide to Changes in State Law,” we will focus on the most recent law passed to increase ADU development in the state.  As what feels like an annual tradition in Sacramento, California passed yet another new law on ADUs in 2022.  Senate Bill 897 (SB 897) by Senator Wieckowski was signed by the Governor on September 28th.  SB 897 was CALBO’s major bill fight this year and CALBO members played an important role in amending the bill to continue to protect public safety while reducing costs to homeowners hoping to increase ADU production on private property.  Below is a summary of the major changes to ADU law that will go into effect in 2023.

SB 897 sets new requirements building departments need to be aware of when permitting an ADU or JADU.  First, there is a requirement that local agencies must review and issue a demolition permit for a detached garage and the proposed ADU at the same time.  Second, the bill prohibits a local agency from denying a permit for an ADU due to nonconforming zoning conditions, building code violations, or unpermitted structures that do not present a threat to public health and safety. It also prohibits the denial of a permit for an unpermitted ADU that was constructed prior to January 1, 2018, due to a violation of building standards unless the local agency makes a finding that correcting the violation is necessary to protect the health and safety of the public or occupants of the structure.  Third, SB 897 states that the construction of an ADU cannot have a Group R Occupancy Change under the local building code unless the enforcement agency makes a written finding based on substantial evidence in the record that the construction of an ADU could have a specific, adverse impact on public health and safety. Fourth, the bill states that the construction of an ADU on a property does not trigger a requirement for fire sprinklers in the proposed or existing primary dwelling. Finally, the bill requires a permitting agency to approve or deny an application for an ADU or JADU within 60 days of receiving the application.  The takeaway from these sections is that local building departments have flexibility in some of the new requirements by focusing on what evidence can be found to show that public health and safety are at risk due to building code violations or occupancy changes.  Due to the overwhelming number of letters sent by CALBO members to legislative offices, CALBO was able to get more flexibility in the law that should help local building departments protect public safety while complying with the new requirements.  The next section discusses some of the new design requirements and regulations that will become law in 2023 that are not as impactful to building departments but are notable requirements to be aware of.

SB 897 increased the height limits for some ADUs.  Specifically, the bill increased the maximum height limit for ADUs that are within half a mile of a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor from 16 feet to 18 feet.  It also increased the height limit to 25 feet if the ADU is attached to the primary dwelling so long as it is not an ADU that is taller than 2 stories.  The bill prohibits a local agency from requiring modifications to an existing multifamily dwelling to satisfy the requirements above.  Additionally, the bill prohibits local agencies from imposing any parking standards on an ADU that is included in an application to create a new single-family or multifamily dwelling unit on the same lot.  The bill specifies that parking requirements may not be required for ADUs in the following instances: if it is located within a half a mile walking distance of public transit, an architecturally or historically significant historic district, is part of a proposed or existing primary residence, if on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupant of the ADU, and if there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the ADU. Finally, the bill specifies that enclosed uses within a proposed or existing single-family residence such as attached garages are considered part of the primary single-family residence.

SB 897 is a complex bill with several implications for the development of ADUs.  CALBO’s legislative team strongly urges local building departments to work with their respective city attorney’s office should any legal questions or concerns arise.  You can find the exact language of SB 897 here.  Hopefully, the language improvements to the bill allow local jurisdictions to provide low-cost ADUs while also focusing on CALBO’s mission of protecting public health and safety in the built industry.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Brady Guertin, CALBO’s Public Affairs Manager at