Recent Permit Rules for Creating an Accessory Dwelling in Oakland, CA

The following is a summary of our research into a new accessory dwelling in Oakland, CA.   These answers are based on a conversation directly between one of New Avenue’s partner architects and a planner who works for the City of Oakland Planning Department.  These also apply to a specific parcel in Oakland. This is a good guideline , but your project is guaranteed to be different. 


Q: What is the zoning district?

A: RH-3

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

A: 40% coverage for any and all structures. No more than 50% of the rear yard set back may be covered by an ADU.

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

A: 750 square feet OR 75% of main house, whichever is smaller


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

A: 750 square feet


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

A: Chimneys do. window boxes and bay windows do not.


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

A: Any structures on the site: main house, ADU, Garage, sheds.


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

A: No.


Q: Can the Second Unit have two floors?

A: No.


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

A: Yes.


Q: Can the loft be habitable space?

A: No.


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

A: Yes, but it counts toward the square footage


Q: What landscaping requirements and exceptions are there

A: None, per Moe.


Q: Is this a liquefaction zone?

A: Identified as a “potential liquifaction” zone.


Q: Is this a fire zone?

A: Yes, a wild fire zone.


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: 20 feet from property line


Q: What are the side setbacks?

A: 6 feet or 10% of the lot width, whichever is greater.


Q: What is the rear setback?

A: 25 feet plus 6″ for ever foot of site depth over 100 feet up to a maximum of 15 additional depth.


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

A: 10 foot minimum for planning, but Building Code will regulate if we have windows in the cottage wall facing the main building.

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

A: ADU’s are allowed to have side and rear yard set backs as small as 4 feet.


Q: Are there any setback exceptions?

A: No.


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

A: Yes, but then then it is and SDU, and the special set backs do not apply.


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

A: No.


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

A: Maximum roof height is 14 feet. Maximum wall height is 10 feet


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

A: Set backs are measured from the property line


QL 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 parking spots are required for the main house. They are not required to be covered. Parking cannot be in the front yard set back (drive way parking is not considered parking by Planning).


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?

AL 1 parking spot is required for the ADU – new legislation will not apply as this property is not in a transportation zone. New parking not required to be covered. New parking cannot be in the front yard set back (driveway). Limited to a single 19 foot wide curb cut. Minimum drive width is 9 feet.


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

A: Depends on parking configuration, but generally no.

Q: Enter any additional notes.

A: The ADU will have to be fire sprinklered. Soils report will be required because of liquifaction zone. Fire Department review required because of Fire zone. We will have to determine the property line locations with some amount of confidence.
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