Building Accessory Dwellings in Woodside California


As Part of New Avenue’s efforts to profile local towns and building processes, today we review the quaint and rustic town of Woodside California. Woodside has become famous as home to celebrities and tech titan’s and the locally renowned restaurant The Village Pub.
Incorporated in 1956, the town of Woodside as adopted the 1958 General Plan’s stated purpose to “maintain Woodside as a rural residential community”. Comprised of 11 square miles covering the rolling woodlands east of 280, a rural valley of oaks and grasslands, and redwood forest of the western coastal range. Approximately 2,000 existing homes with large lots ranging from 1 to 5 acres make Woodside properties the ideal place to consider adding an accessory dwelling.

Accessory dwellings in Woodside require approval by the Planning Department and are covered under the Residential Design Guideline and in Section 153.049 in the Municipal Code.
A number of considerations come into play when designing and planning your accessory dwelling project in Woodside. Namely Woodside’s goal to preserve their rural and historic heritage, the equestrian lifestyle, and emphasis on blending projects into the natural terrain and setting.
However some specific information regarding Lot Area and Building Limitations and should be considered. It should be noted that the area of all accessory buildings be considered in calculating building coverage. Additionally the maximum height of any accessory building
shall be limited to one story and shall not exceed 11 feet from the exterior grade to the highest ceiling plate height and shall not exceed 17 feet from the exterior grade to the highest point on the structure. More details can be found here.

Woodside proves to be a great town and perfect place to consider adding an accessory dwelling.With large lots and rural community, we are sure your project can complement the natural scenic town.

Adding a Second Unit in Piedmont, CA


Piedmont may be known as a small city (just 11,000 people!) that’s packed with mansions.  But  it’s not just an enclave for the wealthy and in fact that city has very progressive and welcoming codes in regards to accessory dwellings or guest houses.

In fact, many of the homes scattered throughout Piedmont have guest houses that are home to a diverse group of people.   Piedmont makes it much easier to get a permit if you agree to make it affordable for a short period of time too. This isn’t required, but it is an option that is offered.   So if you’re thinking about a place for your artist sister, retired parent or hopefully soon to be employed recent college grad, then you may be in luck!

Check out the City Code Section 17.40 for definitions, requirements, and exemptions on everything Second Unit related.

Section 17.40.6 defines the standards. Here are a few. There are also variances and exceptions in the code.

  • The second unit shall not exceed 700 square feet.

  • The total floor area of habitable structures on the lot with an existing primary residence shall comply with the floor area ratio requirements of this Chapter for the zone in which the property is located.

  • The lot on which the second unit is located must comply with the  lot coverage requirements of this Chapter for the zone in which it is located.

  • For new construction, the dimensions of the front, side and rear yards of the lot must conform to the setback requirements of this Chapter 17 the zone in which it is located.

  • The lot on which the proposed second unit is located must contain the required number of covered, non-tandem parking spaces for both the primary and the second units, as set forth in Section 17.16.1.

  • Except for an exempt second unit, the owner of a second unit must occupy either the primary unit or the second unit, if both units are used for habitation. The owner shall record with the County Recorder a declaration of restrictions, in a form provided by the City.

Clearly, a lot depends whatever zone the unit will be located. For example, Zone E, which covers single family residential development includes:

  • Max height of 35’;
  • For primary structures, front, side, and rear setbacks of 20’
  • If accessory structure unit is 7′ high or smaller: Location must be no less than 4′ from rear lot line, no less than 20′ from front lot line or side street lot line
  • If accessory structure unit is above 7′ high: Location can be within 4′ from rear lot line subject to Staff Design Review
  • If the lot is a corner lot or through lot, the accessory structure can be within the 20′ front and street side setbacks
Section 17.16 defines parking requirements. In a nutshell, with regards to accessory structures, in Zone A and Zone E one off-street, covered non-tandem parking space is needed for every dwelling unit 700 square feet or less.
You can check out the land use map in the city’s General Plan document to figure out your zoning. Verify with the Planning Division to make sure.

You can find Piedmont’s Second Unit Permit here.

Three Shades Southern Living: 100+ Years of Accessory Dwellings in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham


This post is about three accessory dwellings around Birmingham, Alabama that are worlds apart in how they are used.

Last fall, I made a trip to Birmingham to reconnect with an old friend and found a surprising number of accessory dwellings that ranged from century old estates to recently converted garages that are now ‘Bama football man caves. My friend had recently moved from New York City to Birmingham with his wife who was starting a new job at Southern Living Magazine.  To my surprise their first apartment in Birmingham was a great little accessory dwelling designed and owned by Marcy Miller.

It turns out accessory dwellings are common around Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.  We just reconnected with Marcy when she emailed a few photos and I dug up a few more from my weekend in and around Birmingham and I have three great stories to share.    They range from decadent homes of a foregone era to Marcy’s new accessory dwelling that’s serving her family in many ways such as rental income, a future home for mom, for hobbies and car and storage

The  three small homes that we came across are:

  • Plantation:  Mr Pursell’s 3,500 farm
  • Man Cave:   A game shack outside the Alabama Football Stadium
  • Marcy’s Carriage House for Mom (and classic cars)

1) Mr Pursell’s FarmLinks

When we dropped by the 3,500 acre Pursell Farms outside of Birmingham and passed this main home with a guest house just off to the side, I got a sense of what the phrase “southern gentry” means.     This 3,500 acres farm is open to the public for golfing, fishing, hunting and events.

Fortunately, they built a bunch of small cottages around the ground and you can stay there.  They keep a “Cottage Gallery” here:

2) ‘Bama Football Man Cave:  The second surprise of Birmingham accessory dwellings is due to the phenomenon better known as Roll Tide aka ‘Bama Football.   Their stadium holds 104,000 and they sell out.   Another 150,000 people tailgate outside the stadium.  That adds up to 250,000 people descending on the 93,000 person town of Tuscaloosa and that means there’s a slight shortage of beds.   Hence the local phrase “Game House”.   Game houses range from mansions that are reserved for entertaining the big donor alumni to the much more accessible garage conversion that we found ourselves in.

All these people have to go somewhere:

 Apparently, nine of them can sleep in this fixed up garage:

This is a two-car garage with the garage doors swapped out for some classy French doors, a Home Depot kitchen on the left side, bunk beds, a couch and a bathroom.  It’s the definition of a man-cave.

The interesting and all too common occurrence with this little man-cave is that it was done with permits but the building department came up with the odd request that the owner can only have furniture inside during game weekends.  Considering that it would be a bit of a hassle to move bunk beds and a couch in and out of the building each game weekend, he hasn’t quite followed the strict letter of the law since that request was made seven years ago.  But I’m sure they’re going to start soon;)

3) Marcy’s Carriage House: The third accessory dwelling from Birmingham is a perfect example of a job done right and it is the only one that is a real home that is used by real people.   It is actually the apartment that my friend first moved to when arriving in Birmingham.

The owner, Marcy, has her own private practice advising people on design and remodeling work works with future clients around Birmingham. We are planning to design and build a few accessory dwellings with her.

Marcy her husband and two kids built this accessory dwelling after buying the main home.   It was supposed to be just a garage on the lower level but the reality of aging parents that will someday live with them lead them to add an entire second floor.  Considering that this is for 90+ year old at some point potential elevator access is part of the design.   While the parents are still living independently, this home has served the following purposes since being built in 2008:

  • Home for the family of four while they remodeled their main home
  • Rental apartment for recent arrivals
  • Home office
  • Two-car garage for a car guy husband plus storage for motorcycles and bikes.

About New Avenue:

New Avenue’s mission is make it easy for everyone to build an accessory dwelling such asa backyard cottage, guest-house, or in-law apartment.   We love them for the character they bring to neighborhoods and the fun they bring to peoples lives.  And, yes, we believe that every home is better and life is simply more interesting when a backyard cottage is near.

Part of this mission means we want to share the stories of who builds accessory dwellings and why they do it.   We will be sharing the best examples of accessory dwellings so that others can see what we see.    If you have a story of a backyard cottage, accessory dwelling, guest house, bunk house that you’d like to share, please shoot a note to and we can share your story with our readers.

Santa Cruz Open House of Mid-Construction Backyard Cottage, Saturday July 19th, 12-2pm

Santa Cruz ADU

Cedar custom 1x4" fabricated and rabbited on site

Tour a 1,000 sq.ft. accessory dwelling under construction on Saturday, July 19th from 12-2pm in Santa Cruz.  The drywall just went up, so it’s a perfect time to get a sense of the size and flow of a beautiful ADU, with all the finishes still up to your imagination! Kathleen and John are building this home for Kathleen’s father.  The space has a 2-car garage, loft, full kitchen and lots of storage space for this active couple’s paddle boards, surf boards and bicycles!

New Avenue representatives will beElevations on hand answering any questions you have about our process and how projects like this work.  Feel free to invite your friends and family. Simply click here to RSVP and get the address.

Stay tuned for invitations to more open houses and events like this one. Please call us at 855.563.9283 or email with any questions about this project or one you might have in mind for yourself.

Backyard Music Studio May Be the First Accessory Dwelling with Tandem Parking in Albany


The City of Albany is advancing legislation to allow tandem parking for accessory dwelling units.  Tandem parking is the parking of two cars in a row as opposed to two cars side by side.

One project that may benefit is a music studio being designed in Albany for Ellen Hershey, an avid flutist with plans for garden concerts in the home she has owned for nearly 50 years.  She is excited about the potential to make this more than a music studio, and to have the opportunity to use the new space as a small home for her son to move into.

New Avenue is excited to announce that Christopher Sullivan is the lead architect.  Chris joined New Avenue’s distributed team of independent architects last December, and has already has accepted ten projects.  Ellen is happy with the process, stating “Chris is designing such a nice cottage that I might just move in myself and rent out the main house! “

New Avenue is a tech startup that makes it easier for homeowners to complete remodels or add accessory dwellings.  The company promotes transparency and accountability in the remodeling and building industry, and partners with small local design firms and general contractors that have an established track record of providing the highest standard of service.  With over 1,900 clients initiating projects, New Avenue’s success has prompted the company to launch a recruitment effort for architects that are committed to their shared goal of designing and developing accessory dwellings.

Kevin Casey, CEO and Founder of New Avenue, said, “Chris’s passion for our mission to help homeowners build accessory dwellings is evident through his interactions with his clients.  We are excited to have Chris as a member of our team of architects.”

“As an architect and design partner to New Avenue, my objective is to provide solutions to the changing way we live.  Because we are living longer and because living expenses are increasing, the challenge is to provide safe, secure and comfortable spaces for people to thrive” said Sullivan.   He further describes how New Avenue offers the opportunity to work with a variety of clients with a variety of family structures, who are looking to modify their current living situations to suit older and younger generations within the family unit.

Sullivan received his bachelor of architecture at University of Detroit Mercy and his master’s degree of architecture from University of California, Berkeley.  Previously he was project manager for Construction Management West and a project architect for Tom Eliot Fish.  In 2012 Sullivan started his own practice, which he continues to run while contracting with New Avenue.

New Avenue continues to actively recruit architects.  If you are an architect or designer and are interested in learning more, email or visit

For more information about New Avenue’s architect partners, visit

Bevan + Bartlett Team Up with New Avenue


Mike and Carrie, a couple in Oakland, wanted to build a home in their backyard so Mike’s mother can be nearby.  Not sure of where to start, they turned to New Avenue for help.

 New Avenue assigned two of their newest design professionals to the project: James Bevan and Patrick Bartlett of Bevan + Bartlett Architects.  Bevan and Bartlett’s architectural expertise were perfect for this client, as they are familiar with Oakland’s ADU policies and have overall experience in the east bay region.  Since joining New Avenue in February, Bevan and Bartlett have accepted several projects, including Mike and Carrie’s 500 sq ft cottage with a loft.  The loft, it was decided, could serve as an additional sleeping space for a second person.  For example, a caregiver, should Mike’s mother need additional help in the future.

New Avenue contracts with their architect partners, allowing Bevan and Bartlett to run their firm’s primary business, as well as accept accessory dwelling unit (ADU) projects offered by New Avenue.  Bartlett describes the benefits of his newfound partnership, stating how “New Avenue has helped to take the work of finding and attracting new clients off of our to-do list, allowing us to focus on what we enjoy doing the most – designing for these clients”

Bartlett is a licensed architect in the states of California and Texas.  Bartlett brings over

Patrick Bartlett

fourteen combined years of design experience from the architectural design profession. He specializes in custom residential design and renovations, bringing clients’ project ideas to realization.  Recent projects include two condominiums in San Francisco: 5800 Third Street Condominiums and Candlestick Heights.

James Bevan

Bevan brings over fourteen years of design experience and over ten years managing and operating an independent design consulting firm. His extensive experience with residential, ground up construction and existing renovations is another key component of the design services offered by their practice.  In addition to being a licensed architectural designer, Bevan is also a licensed general contractor.  Both received their bachelor of architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

With over 1,800 clients initiating projects, New Avenue’s success has prompted the company to launch a recruitment effort for architects that are committed to their shared goal of designing and developing accessory dwellings.  New Avenue continues to actively recruit architects.  If you are an architect or designer and are interested in learning more, email or visit

For more information about Bevan+Bartlett Architects or New Avenue’s other architect partners, visit or visit

Award-Winning Green Builder, M.S. Builders, Joins New Avenue; Santa Cruz Project Breaks Ground


New Avenue recently enlisted Marc Susskind’s Company, M.S. Builders to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Santa Cruz.  The project, a one-level 500 sf dwelling with a 2-car garage, broke ground last month and is already halfway complete, thanks to their management and expertise.

  New Avenue has recently noticed a pent up demand for accessory dwellings throughout the bay area region.

“MS Builders is an excellent addition to the team,” states Kevin Casey, CEO and Founder of New Avenue.  “Their extensive experience with ADUs, custom homes and green building ensures we are delivering a quality product for our client.”

MS Builders is a foundation to finish building team, providing all of the parts from start to finish ensuring that each project is completed in a timely and efficient manner.  They built their clientele entirely word of mouth, having solidified their reputation by treating each project and client with the same respectful approach with a focus on quality, economy and efficiency.

Marc has been building for the past 20 years and has been a licensed general contractor since 2001, the year he founded MS Builders.  MS Builders has received numerous awards, including Fine Homebuilding’s Best New Home, Santa Cruz Straw Bale House, 2012 and four Santa Cruz Green Building Awards for various projects within the City.  MS Builders has been building ADU’s in the City of Santa Cruz since the new ADU ordinance was adopted 10 years ago.

For more information about MS Builders, visit

Fink Architecture Partners with New Avenue! Company Launches Recruitment Effort for Architects Due to Rapid Growth


Robert Fink of Fink Architecture joined New Avenue in April 2014.  With over 1,800 clients initiating projects, New Avenue’s success has prompted the company to launch a recruitment effort for architects that are committed to their shared goal of designing and developing accessory dwellings.  New Avenue’s business model provides their architect partners, like Fink, the flexibility to continue their own practice.

Robert Fink

“We are very pleased and fortunate to have Fink Architects join our efforts,” states Kevin Casey, CEO and Founder of New Avenue.  “I have long admired Robert’s work. His experience and talent will be a great addition to our collaborative team”

Robert Fink founded his firm in 2005. His work portfolio ranges from custom furniture, and wineries to restaurants and homes.  Prior to starting his own company, he practiced with Backen Gillam Architects for seven years.

Since he’s joined, Fink has accepted two New Avenue projects, Fairfax and Berkeley.  The Berkeley project is an addition for a family creating space for their children’s grandmother, who just moved from Oregon. It is important for the family to develop a comfortable living space that is accessible for the grandmother.

New Avenue continues to actively recruit architects.  If you are an architect or designer and are interested in learning more, email or visit

For more information about Robert Fink and New Avenue’s architect partners, visit or visit

Why New Avenue is a B Corp


We were invited to participate in a roundtable about what it means to be a Benefit Corporation, or what is more commonly called a B-Corp.

This is a quick summary of what we will speak to:

Who we are:  New Avenue is a venture backed technology company based in Emeryville, CA that manages services provided by architects and contractors.    The company was founded in 2009, we partner with local architects and local contractors and we have worked with 1,900 online projects and 95 homeowners across the country.

What we do: New Avenue is the leading consumer platform for managing architects and contractors for an entire remodel or construction of a new home from start to finish.

Why we do it: We founded New Avenue because the suburban housing model is 100 years out of date and our homes need to be completely reinvented to serve the needs of our modern families.

Being a B-Corp:  As a mission driven organization, becoming aa B-corp was a simple decision.   We were excited to receive a ”B Score” of 146 when the median is 80. As a result, New Avenue has been named as a “Best for the World Honoree” in the annual B Corp awards list for every year since we became certified.

What this really means to us as a company, and why it mattes to you:

1) We have a high score because we employ and impact our immediate community.   There are three key measures where we stand out:  employees, community and environment.

Due to the nature of creating affordable and sustainable housing we receive a substantial number of points for the following:

1) > 60% of our employees come from low income communities
2) > 60% of suppliers are local businesses
3) >60% of suppliers have a sustainability certification or product verification

What does B Corp mean for us: The surprising benefit to us is that at least once a month we are approached by a reporter or potential employee because they are tracking B-Corps to either cover or apply for a job.   This has lead to new clients, new strategic partners and new employees.

If you want to read more about B Corps you can do so here:

Or our page on B Corp:

Portland Accessory Dwelling Tour


We’re just back from a great trip to Portland where, we learned that Portlandia is, in fact, a documentary.  They all work 20 hours a week at Starbucks, have chicken coops, ride their bikes all day, everyday.  Or at least, the east side of Portland fits that description.  The west side, we are told, is different.  There are rumoured to be Republicans on that side of town.  It seems doubtful, but none the less, this is about the East Side and more particularly, this great little Accessory Dwelling we visited – Susan’s PDX Cottage.

It’s a beautiful city (in the summer, at least) packed with 100 year old craftsman homes and they are really making accessory dwellings happen.

Susan’s PDX Cottage is a converted garage. Here are several pictures of her little cottage.

That’s owner storage for mostly gardening equipment on the right.

Interestingly,  edgy modern furniture can make a classic old garage exterior really work.

It’s official, SMEG refrigerators are the best looking appliances around:

You see that little hanging spice rack – that’s a $10 IKEA accessory.

Open shelving really works in small spaces.

One of the squares of Ladd’s Addition – the Portland neighborhood with such a unique layout that it is noticeable from space.

DIY landscaping can save thousands and thousands or even tens of thousands.