Contra Costa County and Residential Accessory Dwellings

Contra Costa County allows residential second units in certain zoning districts but the permitting process is downright terrifying here.

Before we get to the terrifying part, here are some of the development standards:

  • Lot Size. The minimum size of a lot with a primary residence and a second unit is six thousand square feet.
  • Second Unit Size. A second unit may not exceed 1,000 square feet, but for lots smaller than 10,000 square feet: Secondary dwellings may have a maximum floor area of 640 square feet.
  • Lot Coverage. In single-family residential districts, the second unit may not cause the maximum total structural lot coverage to exceed 40%

  • Living Provisions. A second unit must provide complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation. The second unit may include one kitchen, living room, and dining room, and no more than two bathrooms and two bedrooms.

  • The additional parking space may be in tandem, or the additional space may be in the existing driveway if the additional space is outside the existing setback or side yard.

Those standards are all fine and quite in line with other regions.  The scary thing in Contra Costa County is the “Impact Fees”.   Fees for second unit permits will be in amounts established by the board of supervisors in the community development department’s fee schedule. Second unit866470ZBhixq_display_image2 (1)s are subject to all new development fees, including but not limited to development impact fees, park fees, and assessment district assessment allocations.  For Spring’s Casita in 2012, the summary of fees are approximately $24,821.  However, most of these fees go away if the cottage doesn’t have a kitchen.

  • Building Permit: $3,500
  • Lamorina Transportation:  $3,723
  • Waste Management: $80
  • Drainage Review: $175Fire Review: $215
  • Sewer Impact Fee $7,000 (Noted this is $600 if it is not a “Dwelling” unit)
  • Water $5,500 for a new meter

For many projects in Contra Costa the impact fees will actually add up to almost $50,000.  This is painful for everyone but we do have to agree that you do get quite a bit for those fees (3rd bore tunnel, summer recreation programs, insanely good schools).    Some people who don’t really need a full guest house with a kitchen but really just want an office or pool house with a shower will benefit greatly from making sure they get the permits for something that is not a “dwelling”.

Also, in January of this year the County adjusted their fees.  Verify with the Planning Division and zoning ordinance to confirm your requirements in your zoning district. Learn more about accessory dwellings by learning about our process.

You can contact us for additional plans, budgets or sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

The Duplex and Accessory Dwelling

 

Duplex and Garage
Duplex and Garage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interested in building a duplex and an accessory building on one Berkeley property, Rivero contacted New Avenue on April 2013.   Here is a copy of the initial schedule of values, approximately $25,0000, for one structure.

If you are interested in pursuing your own accessory dwelling in Berkeley, we encourage you to further review the municipal code for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions.  Some of the current regulations for accessory dwellings include:

  • Lot size requirement: Minimum  lot size is 4,500 sq ft
  • Maximum size: 640 sq ft or 25% of main house
  • Parking: Additional, non-tandem parking space required

However, the City of Berkeley is moving towards amending these restrictions in the near future, allowing for a streamlined and less costly approval process for this project type.

Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements for your home, or call New Avenue!  Learn more about accessory dwellings, remodels and major home renovations by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in pursuing your own home project.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Accessory Dwellings in the City of El Cerrito

Here are a few of the requirements related to Second Units for the City of El Cerrito, though you’ll have to review the New Accessory Dwelling code for 2017 for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions:

  • The maximum FAR (floor area ratio) shall not exceed 750 sq ft or 40% of the floor area of the primary dwelling, whichever is less, except that an attached Second Unit of 400 sq ft in floor area is permitted regardless of the size of the primary dwelling. Up to 1200 sq ft or 75% of the floor area of the primary dwelling, whichever is less, may be permitted with the approval of a Conditional Use Permit.
  • The maximum height of a detached Second Unit is 15 feet. A detached Second Unit may exceed 15-feet in height with the approval of a Conditional Use Permit.
  • The required additional parking space for the Second Unit may be in tandem with required parking of the principal dwelling unit.
Dennis and Lisa's Paradise in El Cerrito, CA
Dennis and Lisa’s Paradise in El Cerrito, CA

Here’s a link to a client story for a recent El Cerrito project.  This home was also featured on NPR!  Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements in your zoning district. Learn more about accessory dwellings by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in building your own backyard cottage.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Woodside and Accessory Living Quarters

Nestled in San Mateo County and filled with ranches and horse properties, the town of ar135976903004569Woodside has done better than some of its neighbors in providing additional housing.

They town planed for 17 low-income units in the last housing element, but 24 were actually built, all of them accessory living quarters.

 An accessory living quarter is a living area that is: (1) within or attached to a main dwelling or within or attached to a detached building or structure, subordinate to the main dwelling; and (2) designed, built or used for human habitation.

Many accessory living units in Woodside are built to be occupied by people who work on a property, to provide rental income or to allow older residents a place age in place, allowing their adult children and their families to move into the main house.

Here’s an overview of the key differences between accessory structures and accessory living quarters.

Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements for your home, or call New Avenue.  Learn more about accessory dwellings, remodels and major home renovations by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in pursuing your own home project.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Carriage Houses and Second Dwelling Units of San Ramon

The City of San Ramon is seeking to amend their development standards to encourage more second dwelling units.  According to their housing element, the city will revise the zoning ordinance to facilitate second unit development.  Specifically, 50 second dwelling units within the 2014-2022 housing element planning period.

What qualifies as a second dwelling unit per the city’s standards? Although the terms are used somewhat interchangeably in the city’s planning code, a carriage house is a type of second unit located on an upper floor above

Carriage House
Carriage House

the detached garage of a single family dwelling.   A second dwelling unit is the comprehensive term.  According to the city’s definition, a second dwelling unit is:

“A second permanent dwelling that is accessory to a primary dwelling on the same site.  A second unit or carriage house provides complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, sanitation, and parking, and if attached to the primary dwelling, is provided exterior access separate from the primary dwelling.”

Here are a few of the requirements related to second dwelling units in San Ramon, though we recommend you review the zoning ordinance for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions:

  • Whether it’s attached or detached, second dwelling can range from 350 – 1,200 sq ft, but no larger than 35% of main house (whichever is less)
  • If attached, setback min is 15’-0”, but if detached, this reduced to 7’-0”
  • Maximum height is 35’-0”
  • New address assignment is required
    • Separate water meter is required for a new address
  • Must pay sewer connection fee and school district fees
  • 1 additional parking is required
  • No design review if the dwelling is a single-story structure, but must pay a $300 fee for a 2-story unit

Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements in your zoning district. Learn more about transforming your home by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in building your own second dwelling unit, carriage house or other home project.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

New Avenue Process Series: Phase V – Months 18-26

The hard work of making design decisions, planning and permitting is now over. Phase V is when you get to watch it come to life. Depending on site conditions and the size of the home construction will take 2-4 months.

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The most satisfying and remarkable aspect to the construction phase is how quickly it advances day by day. Through the site work, demolition, drainage, concrete and foundation you will see crews prepping the site, digging trenches, laying plumbing and setting a foundation. It is clear that work is happening but the progress being made doesn’t jump out at you. Then it comes time for framing and in what feels like a short weekend, the wall and roof framing goes up and the outline of your new home is all of a sudden standing in your backyard.

Framing is when you first get to see the real life version of the drawings you’ll have been working with for the previous months. Throughout the construction process you’ll have subcontractors coming through to work and the city inspectors coming by to confirm that the project complies with earthquake and fire safety in addition to building code standards for plumbing, gas, electricity and water.

A New Avenue team member is available to you throughout the whole process to interact with the construction team, monitor the project to stay on budget and deal with any variety of questions that might arrive. Our goal is to deliver a seamless, enjoyable experience from the beginning through to you moving in.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

New Avenue Process Phase IV – Months ~8-12

In Phase IV it’s time to put the full permitting process, with all the proper documentation, into motion with your city’s building department. The building permit fee and impact fees are paid to the city at this time. The processing time to receive a building permit can vary from 2 weeks to 4 months depending on the human resources available at your city’s building department and the number of projects they have in the queue.

 

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Phase IV builds in time to go back and forth with the city. Proper organization and expertise will minimize the time spent in this process. The building department will review the plans and submit questions, comments and changes back to our team. We respond in kind.

When approved, you will have a full and final set of architectural plans that include as-built drawings, site plans, demolition plans, floor plans, cross-sections, engineering, interior and exterior elevations, and finish schedules. Structural engineering is completed by a licensed engineer. You receive your building permit and are ready to start construction.

Continue to the next section – New Avenue Process Phase V – Weeks 36-52

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

New Avenue Process Phase III – Months 3-9

The principal focus of Phase III is choosing the specific products to go into your project like floor type, siding, windows and doors, roofing, tiling, faucets and other fixtures. We work on scheduling all of the subcontractors. Though small homes are small construction projects a remarkably large number of people will be involved. (See our master list of trade professions involved)

 

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This is an exciting part of the process because picking out products is a tangible feeling step towards completion. It can also be one of the most stressful due to the number of decisions you have to wade through. Working with one of our architect’s is a big help here.

These are the decisions that need to be made before the construction documents to the city.

  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Plumbing Faucet Manufacturer
  • Drywall Texture
  • Interior Doors and Trim
  • Heating system: in-floor radiant, gas, electric, mini split, solar
  • Flooring
  • Curbless Showers – See our blog post on this.
  • Mirrors and Shower Enclosures
  • Tiling
  • Hardwood for transition areas in the home
  • Appliances

Continue to the next topic – New Avenue Process Phase IV – Weeks 21-36

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

New Avenue Process Phase II – Months 2-4

Our clients typically take a couple weeks to digest the estimate before deciding to continue so we pick up Phase II at week 10. Two fundamental project components are in place from Phase I. We understand the zoning & permitting requirements that need to be followed for your city, and we understand the functionality you need from a small home and budget you want to achieve.

Here’s what weeks 10-17 look like:

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 Let’s take a look at each item.

1. Survey – Some cities require a survey to verify your property lines. Even if it is not required it can be a smart move to verify property lines and potentially win more buildable space.
2. Geotechnical/Soil Stability Report (needed for 1/10 projects) – This report is an analysis of the soil composition in your backyard to analyse what type of foundation work is needed.
3. Existing building investigation – As the utilities for your cottage will attach to the main home it is important to verify that the water, electrical and gas lines are capable of handling extra capacity.
4. Conceptual design with elevations and floor plan – You work with one of our architects to start transforming sketches into a full set of construction documents.
5. Meetings to review and modify design (elevations and floor plans) – You’ll want to take time to sit with the designs, speak with friends and family, visualise it in your yard and modify as necessary.
6. Furniture Plan – Adding furniture to the floor plans makes it much easier to visualise what the interior space will feel like.
7. Project Schedule – New Avenue starts putting together a project plan with our subcontractors.
8. Verification of city requirements – As design modifications are made, we need to verify that everything adheres to city regulations before submitting the paperwork.
9. Zoning fee to city (Range $800-$20,000, Average is $2,000) – The first step in the project approval process is submitting the zoning application and paying the fee.

You will spend Phase II working with one of our architects on the shape and size of your home and big design questions like orientation, number of windows, relationship to your main home and square footage of the living area.

Our team will meanwhile figure out what upgrades might be needed on your site, develop a project schedule with you, and collect all the necessary city required information before submitting for the zoning approval.

Continue to the next topic – New Avenue Process Phase III – Weeks 17-26

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

New Avenue Process – Research and Design Books

It’s crucial to dedicate appropriate time to gather your thoughts and consult with friends, family membera and neighbors before making a decision to start. Take the time to collect ideas in design magazines, looking online, visiting friends cottages, attending open houses, snapping photos of styles you like and deciding what you need, what you want and what would be the dream. By putting in some hours up front brainstorming and organizing thoughts, you’ll end up with a enjoyable project experience and reduce the likelihood of needing to make changes mid stream.

We built the Design Book tool specifically for this purpose. It gives you a notebook, scrapbook and photo organizer all in one. Design Books are to get you thinking about what products and options go in a small home project and all the big and little decisions you’ll need to make. You can use it to get your feet wet before moving on to speak with designers and architects.

The Design Book tool lets you collect ideas for 9 different ‘Spaces’ of a cottage.

The spaces we give you to work with are:

1. Architectural Style – General look and feel of the home.
2. Bathroom – Tile, Vanity’s, Tubs, Showers, Faucets…
3. Bedroom – Lofts, Queen’s, King’s….
4. Entry & Outdoor Space – Decks, Patios, Breezeways…
5. Kitchen – Countertops, Islands, Pot Racks, Sinks…
6. Floor Plans – Different interior arrangements for similar square footage homes.
7. Living Room – Cathedral Ceilings, Natural Lighting, Wood Beams…
8. Office – Different styles and designs.
9. Systems & Sustainability – Green Roofs, Grey Water Systems, Recycled Materials…

You can save pictures of styles you like to each Space by searching our selection, uploading your own or using our bookmarklet to save pictures from anywhere on the web. If you like to clip magazine images, you can transfer them to your design book easily by taking snapshots with a smartphone. You can do the same for any drawings or sketches you make yourself.

We encourage you to browse other member’s Design Books for inspiration and publish yours when you’re ready to show it off for fun.

Your Design Book allows the New Avenue team to see what you see and get on the same page with your vision. Creating an account takes 10 seconds and you’re ready to start.

Continue to the next topic – New Avenue Process Phase I – Weeks 1-7

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.