By Joe Kidd, Project Manager
Anyone who’s ever lived or sought to live in our beautiful State of California has recognized two things: we have great sunny weather, and it’s expensive to live here. But the scenery is not the sole culprit for the high cost of living; it is the perfect storm of high demand, tough requirements for building, high labor costs, and high government fees, all of which inhibit the construction of new homes statewide. With limited land and large acreage requirements for building new plots in urban areas, the City of San Diego has looked to an alternate solution to the problem: Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs.
According to the 2015 report, “California’s High Housing Costs – Causes and Consequences” by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state would have to add approximately 210,000 dwelling units per year to keep pace with approximately 284,000 jobs added to the State per year. In reality, only about 90,000 new dwelling units are added per year, and it has created a situation where there are many jobs to fill, but not enough homes to house those workers. This has created a less than 4% vacancy statewide and housing costs have ballooned as a result.
This effect fans out from the urban areas and forces those willing to work to live outside of the city, county, and even the state, with workers traveling in to San Diego from as far as Los Angeles and even Phoenix every day to get in to work. Aside from just the effect on housing costs, this exacerbates already congested traffic and works against California’s dedication to decreasing their environmental impact with greenhouse gasses.
Many solutions have been brought to the table, such as the Affordable Housing Density Bonus program, 11th Code Update, Affordable/Sustainable Expedite Program, and Streamlined Environmental Review. One in particular stands out for its benefits to not just large developers and renters, but to average homeowners as well: Accessory Dwelling Units also called a secondary unit or ‘granny flat’. An ADU is an additional single or dual dwelling unit that is built on a property without subdividing into separate lots. It is separate from the main building, and though it may have separate water, gas, and electrical meters, and possibly even a separate address, it still rests on the same plot of land as described in the property’s legal description.
The rules for building are simple, though not always easy. It requires that the unit be considered as part of the main property upon selling and cannot be sold separately, it requires passing not only the usual building and zoning regulations, but also passing environmental and traffic impact studies, as well as parking requirements. Each one of these comes with its own fee, paid to the local jurisdiction. Prior to 2018, those fees really started to add up. Rather than paying simple remodeling fees as if the addition were attached to the main house, the fees were closer to the cost of building a new home.
These fees are divided by two types of communities in the county; FBA communities and DIF Communities. An FBA community is where there is still land available for developing; the impact fees pay all of the public service requirements for that area, and will tend to be higher than in a DIF community. A DIF community is one where the area is near maximum buildout; in the DIF community, the fees only cover the impact on already-in-place public services. So if you live in an FBA community such as Carmel Valley or Torrey highlands, the fees averaged in the $30,000 to $50,000 range last year, going as high as $120,000. However if you lived in a DIF community such as North Park, Kearny Mesa, Clairemont, Golden Hill, Downtown, etc., the fees were significantly lower to an average of $8,000 to $17,000, with some communities as low as $1500 to $4000.
What does this mean for your remodel project? For most projects, you are looking at an average fee reduction of $15,000. In addition to these reductions, certain cities are taking things a step further. In Encinitas, for example, the city has accepted a “pre-approved design” for a granny flat. Essentially, so long as you stick to the pre-approved design, you will not have to go through the usual plan check process, the plans are already accepted as in compliance, further reducing the time and cost of hiring architects and time spent going through the layers of plan check.
Whatever your jurisdiction, whatever your budget, Berkley Construction is committed to making your plans for an accessory dwelling unit a reality. We offer everything from consultation packages to pre-service agreements including existing on-site research and value-engineering to verify your job is feasible and under-budget. Whether you are thinking of adding a space for a relative, or looking to increase your income through an accessory dwelling unit, there has never been a better time!
Contact our sales department to make your dream remodel a reality.
For more information on City of San Diego Development impact fees, see: https://www.sandiego.gov/facilitiesfinancing/fees
For more information on City of San Diego Companion and Junior units:
For more information on City of San Diego Planning fees: https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/dsdib501.pdf
For unincorporated areas within the County of San Diego: https://www.countynewscenter.com/granny-flats/