How to Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to Your San Francisco Home

How to Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to Your San Francisco Home

How to Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to Your San Francisco Home

Are you looking for a way to increase your living space, income, and property value in San Francisco? If so, you may want to consider adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to your home.

An ADU is a small, self-contained unit that shares a lot with a primary residence. It can be created by converting existing space, expanding the building, or building a new structure. ADUs are also known as secondary units, in-law units, or cottages.

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Benefits to adding an ADU to your San Francisco Property

ADUs offer many benefits for homeowners in San Francisco, such as:

  • Housing for family, friends, or caregivers: You can use an ADU to provide a comfortable and private space for your loved ones or helpers.
  • Rental income and property value: You can rent out an ADU to generate extra income and increase the value of your property.
  • Affordable and diverse housing options: You can help address the housing shortage and affordability crisis in the city by creating more housing options for different needs and incomes.
  • Environmental impact: You can reduce your environmental footprint by using existing infrastructure and resources to build an ADU.

San Francisco has made it easier for homeowners to add ADUs to their properties. In 2016, the city launched the Accessory Dwelling Unit Program, which allows ADUs in all zoning districts that permit residential use. In 2020, the city adopted new state laws that further simplify and streamline the ADU process.


Types of ADUs in San Francisco

Depending on your property type and the ADU program, you can choose from different types of ADUs, such as:

  • Conversion ADUs: These are units that convert space in an existing residential building, such as basements, garages, or attics.
  • Attached ADUs: These are units that expand an existing residential building, such as additions or extensions.
  • Detached ADUs: These are units that are separate from the main residence, such as backyard cottages or laneway houses.
  • Junior ADUs: These are units that convert up to 500 square feet of space in a single-family home, such as a bedroom or a closet.


Steps to add an ADU to your San Francisco Property

To add an ADU to your property, you need to follow these steps:

  • Check your eligibility and requirements: You can visit the San Francisco Planning Website to see if your property qualifies for an ADU and what requirements you need to meet.
  • Hire a design professional: You need to hire a licensed architect or engineer to prepare your plans and drawings for your ADU project.
  • Apply for a permit and pay the fees: You need to submit your application online through the Digital Services Portal and pay the required fees. You can also apply for fee waivers or reductions if your ADU meets certain affordability criteria.
  • Notify your tenants and neighbors: You need to inform your tenants and neighbors about your ADU project and address any concerns they may have.
  • Schedule inspections and approvals: You need to coordinate with various city agencies to inspect and approve your ADU project. You can also benefit from an expedited review process if your ADU complies with the state laws.
  • Complete the construction and occupancy: You need to finish the construction of your ADU according to the approved plans and obtain a certificate of occupancy from the city.

The whole process may take more than 18 months from start to finish. However, you can get help from various resources and incentives offered by the city, such as:

  • Pre-approved plans: You can save time and money by using one of the pre-approved plans for detached ADUs that have been reviewed and approved by the city.
  • Technical assistance: You can get guidance and advice from city staff and experts on how to design, build, and finance your ADU. You can also attend workshops and webinars on various topics related to ADUs.
  • Financing options: You can explore different financing options for your ADU project, such as loans, grants, tax credits, or equity sharing. You can also check out the ADU Financing Guide for more information.

If you are interested in adding an ADU to your property in San Francisco, you can learn more about the program and the process on the SF Planning website

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