How do I get permits for an accessory dwelling (ADU)?

 

Navigating the planning and building permit offices in your city or county when trying to build an accessory dwelling or structure can be a frustrating experience. You walk in with some simple ideas and often walk out feeling more confused with little or no options.

After dealing with many permitting offices throughout the many second unit projects we’ve been involved with, we’ve learned that the more you can speak the language of the people with the rules, the better off you’ll be. Saying that you want to build a house in your backyard will quickly get a “you can’t do that.” Saying that you want to build an accessory structure, which might be the same thing to you, will get much better results.

We’ve also learned that you need to ask the same questions multiple times with multiple people. One person might interpret your question differently than another and you want to feel confident when building your accessory dwelling that you’re doing things right. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you’re taking a risk.

Another great idea is working with a good architect. They’re professionals who have navigated this path many times before and do things much more quickly than you can as the homeowner.

Many people call us saying that they’ve talked with the city and building a backyard cottage isn’t possible on their lot, only to have us look into it for them and learn that what they want to build might be called something else and it is in fact possible. It’s an interesting learning experience to go to the city on your own, but most people quickly find out that it’s worth it to have someone like us do it for them.

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.

Planning & Zoning Permits? Yes we can

When a homeowner first has the idea to add a cottage or office or art studio or addition of any kind, it is an exciting, creative brainstorm about how you can re-imagine your living space.  The next set of thoughts aren’t nearly as fun. They are usually something along the lines of “do I have to get this permitted?” and “what am I allowed to do?”. The de facto assumption being that odds are stacked against you, someone’s going to make it a problem and the whole thing is going to be a nightmare. It’s a perfectly fair emotional reaction because there is a good deal to familiarize yourself with – zoning terminology, concepts, procedures…etc.

However it’s typically not as painful as the reputation would have you believe. We have always successfully obtained permits for our clients and have two recommendations on the approach to take. The first is to treat permitting as part of the creative design process. It’s the difference between telling the city I want to do “x” and having them tell you “no”, and telling the city I want to do “something like x” and having them help you figure it out.  Many times a planner will have better ideas that what you originally thought of.  They do after all, spend all day looking at hundreds of lots and building footprints and problem solving design proposals.

The second is to learn what exemptions requests can be put through and keep an open mind to the path of least resistance between a structure, detached cottage and an addition. In the grand majority of cases there is a way to get the functionality of what you had originally envisioned even if the form changes. If you can’t do a detached structure, you might be able to extend off the back but keep the feel of a detached space.  Or if you can’t get as much square footage as you would have liked in the cottage, you might be able to make up for it with a shared structure between the cottage and the main home.

What we’ve learned is that 95% of the time there is a path through city regulation to deliver our clients what they are looking for and we’re most successful at getting there in a timely manner when we enlist the city as partners in the process.

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.