Planning and Building Permit Rules For a Remodel, Addition and Accessory Dwelling in Orinda, CA

At New Avenue we have paid over 30 different types of permits to get residential projects approved.  These are “normal” projects too such as additions, remodels, restorations, accessory dwellings accessory structures and custom homes.

One of the architects who is a partner at New Avenue’s recently completed in depth research for the permitting fees of a new Accessory Dwelling in Berkeley, CA.   Here are his findings from June and July 2016.

We guarantee your project will be different!  This is a great starting point if you are researching.  Most people have never heard of all these fees.

Three phone conversations with Daisy Allen, Orinda Planning Department, over months of June and July, 2016

Q: What is the zoning district?

A: RL-20 (Residential Low Density 20,000)

Q: What is the allowable coverage? How is it measured

A: 4,440 Square Feet (parcel size X .2). Coverage is measured at exterior wall face and includes accessory structures. Covered porches do not count if sufficiently open.

Q: Is there a floor-area ratio (FAR) between the Main Home and the Second Unit? What is it?

A: No

Q: What is the maximum allowed size for the Second Unit?

A: N/A

Q: Do chimneys, window boxes, and/or bay windows count toward the square footage of the Second Unit?

A: Chimneys: yes. Window boxes/bay windows: no.

Q: Do other structures count toward the existing footprint? What are they?

A: Accessory structures do. Decks do not.

Q: Does the basement and/or attic count toward the floor area of the Main Home?

A: No basement. Attic is excluded where ceiling height is less than or equal to 8 feet.

Q: Can the Second Unit have two floors?

A: House can have two floors

Q: Can the Second Unit have a loft, mezzanine, open storage, closed storage, and/or attic?

A: House can have a loft, mezzanine, open storage, closed storage and an attic.

Q: Can the loft be habitable space?

A: Yes

Q: Can the Second Unit have a basement, workspace, or other area? Do they count toward square footage?

A: N/A

Q: What landscaping requirements and exceptions are there

A: Only required to provide landscaping plan if there are significant alterations.

Q: Is this a liquefaction zone?

A; No

Q: Is this a fire zone?

A: W.U.I.


Q: Is this a flood zone?

A: No

Q: Is this an environmental zone?

A: No

Setbacks and Dimensions

Q: What is the front setback?

A: 25′

Q: What are the side setbacks?

A: 15′ (Daisy had originally said 10′ for interior sides but has since corrected herself)

Q: What is the rear setback?

A: 15′

Q: What are the required setbacks to the Main Home?

A: See above

Q: What are any other required setbacks? Special setbacks may be needed for creeks, power lines, key or corner lots, etc.

A: N/A

Q: Are there any setback exceptions?

A: Eaves may extend 3′ into setbacks. Open stairs may extend 4′ into setbacks.

Q: Can the Second Unit be connected to the Main Home? If not, how far apart do they have to be?

A: N/A

Q: Can we continue a wall of an existing structure within a setback? Is there a maximum length for walls

A: Vertically with an Exception Application. Per Daisy Allen, this would likely be granted considering the corner lot condition and existing non-conforming garage.

Q: What is the maximum height limit? Is there a max average height limit? Can we match the height of the existing house?

A: 27′ above grade. Limit follows topography. 27′ is measured to the mid-point of dormers or architectural elements.


Q: Do we measure from the sidewalk, the property line, or from somewhere else?

A: From the right-of-way

Q: How many parking spaces are required for the Main Home? Sizes? Do they need to be covered? What configuration or access must they have?

A: 2 enclosed and 2 unenclosed.

Q: How many more new spaces are required for the property? Sizes? Do they need to be covered? What configuration or access must they have? Do they require a border around them?

A: None

Q: Is there a turning radius or other parking rule to test?

A: N/A

Q: Enter any additional notes.

A: Project will require General Planning Application, Design Review Application (because of second story addition) and Exception Application (because of vertical extension of existing walls in setback)


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