Building a Secondary Unit Is Getting A Lot Easier
The requirement for an additional parking spot killed most plans to add a legal secondary unit to a single-family residence (SFR). But that major roadblock and several others have been lifted for Golden Gate and other areas near mass transit.
Early last year, City Council voted to ease restrictions on the building of secondary units – also known as in-law apartments or accessory dwelling units (ADUs) – to help address the housing crisis in Oakland and increase density within a half-mile of transit hubs, such as the 72R bus on San Pablo Avenue and BART.
The ADU amendment also ended the requirement that SFR owners must live in either the ADU or the main residence. Later in 2016, the Planning Commission approved an increase in the ADU maximum square footage from 750 feet to 800 feet. The City Council is expected to approve that increase in early 2017.
ADU Uptick in Major Cities
ADU construction has spread across the U.S. as a viable way to:
- Generate income for property owners to age in place
- Provide affordable units for extended family, friends, and caregivers
- Increase density without changing the neighborhood character
ADU Equity Measures
To maximize the benefits of ADU liberalization, especially for property owners with low or fixed incomes, Oakland must still provide financial incentives such as:
- Reduced or eliminated permit fees
- City-generated architectural drawings for new ADUs
- Automatic approval for those drawings
- Amnesty and streamlined process for legalizing existing or nonconforming units
ADU incentive programs are typically funded through special grants to cities. Oakland Planning Department is now identifying possible funding sources for 2017-2018.