In-Law Studios: A Creative Housing Solution for San Francisco

In-Law Unit
In-Law Unit

Grappling with their affordable housing crisis, the City of San Francisco is evaluating this pressing issue from many different angles. One unique solution is encouraging the development of accessory dwelling units (also commonly known as secondary dwelling or in-law units).   Recently, the Board of Supervisors passed two pieces of legislation that now supports this type of housing:

First, Supervisor David Chiu’s ordinance grants legal status to existing illegal units built before January 2013. The ordinance also prohibits the costs of legalization from being passed through to the tenant.  Recognizing the existing illegal units can potentially add anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 units to the City’s housing stock.

The second recently passed ordinance was Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation that legalizes the new construction of accessory dwelling units in District 8, primarily the Castro neighborhood. Density and other planning code requirements are waived to support the development of in-law units. To ensure these accessory dwellings meet the City’s goals of offering these units as additional affordable housing options, the Planning Department will monitor the rents and publish a report evaluating the effectiveness of the ordinance.  Other requirements  include:

  •  limiting the maximum square footage to 750 square feet
  • the units must be built within the existing building envelope
  • for buildings that have less than 10 existing dwelling units, only one in-law unit is permitted
  • buildings with 10 or more units are permitted to have up to two in-law units

Now, Wiener is proposing yet another piece of creative legislation to spur the increase of in-law units. His legislation would allow property owners who are mandated to do seismic work on their buildings to add in-law units within their soft-story buildings. This provides an opportunity for the property owners to earn additional rental income that will make the necessary retrofits viable.

As stated in San Francisco’s Housing Element, the housing market continues to be tight and housing costs are beyond the reach of many households. In-law units in existing residential buildings represent a simple and cost-effective method of expanding the City’s housing supply. Click here to learn more about San Francisco’s planning code for accessory dwelling units.

If you are interested in pursing your own accessory dwelling units, reach out to New Avenue at 855-5NewAve or email info@newavenuehomes.com.

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.

Little Atherton’s Big Housing Market – How Small Homes Strike a Balance

An unincorporated area of San Mateo County, the tiny town of Atherton has a major market for mansions.  In fact, Atherton is Atherton, CAreportedly the most affluent zip code in the nation and is home to Silicon Valley’s tech darlings like Facbook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Google’s Eric Schmidt.  For this reason,  Planning for the required number of housing units has proved especially difficult for this Peninsula community with their limited space for new construction.  By utilizing the expansive lots and existing infrastructure of their single family homes, these accessory dwellings are a practical solution.  Other benefits of these small homes include the valuable opportunity for multigenerational living, supplemental income for owners and affordable housing for renters. Here are a few of the requirements related to accessory dwelling units in Atherton, though you’ll have to  review the municipal code for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions:

  • The second unit shall not exceed 1,200 sq ft (doubled in 2010 from previous maximum of 600 sq ft)
  • May enroach into the side and rear yard setbacks by not more than twenty percent of the required setback
  • Maximum height is thirty feet
  • Parking requirements are 1 space per number of bedrooms in second unit

In addition, the owner must occupy either (or both) the main house or second unit.  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.

Summer in Southern Ontario (Backyard Cottages Galore!)

I’m just back from a week in Silver Bay, Ontario where I had a great time with family and old friends. Silver Bay is a little bay on Lake Erie south of Toronto and west of Buffalo, NY. I grew up spending summers here and spent time in and around a number of little backyard cottages. There was the bunk house that we used to crash in after sneaking Labatt’s Blue past the parents, the mansion with a “gate house” that I rode past on my way to a summer camp, and the backyard cottage that a friend’s mother built for herself so her kids and grandkids could live in the main home.

While there I took a quick bike ride through some neighboring bays to see how many other small cottages might be tucked in corners or hidden back in wooded lots and hoped to find something worth sharing. I was shocked to see that there were tons of backyard cottages that came in all shapes and sizes.

The bays along Lake Erie’s north coast (yes, a lake can have a coast) has been a part of Canada’s cottage country for over 100 years. Trains used to cut across Canada to get from New York to Buffalo to Detriot, Chicago and beyond. A quick shot across the Canadian side of Lake Erie was the most direct route and since this was before cars were common, people would hop a train and ride 10, 20 or 30 miles, (just far enough to escape the city heat and get away from the belching smoke of the steel mills) then hop off at their stop and walk one mile from the tracks to their cottage. And then they’d stay there for months. It was a summer we’d all dream of: truly off the grid and literally unplugged.

Here are a bunch of the backyard cottages, guest houses and in-law cottages that are tucked away on dirt roads and little firelane’s around Silver Bay, Ontario.

A few old friends enjoying a martini (or two or four) on the deck of their main home.

And the backyard cottage behind where their children currently live.

2 - Jake and Sue Laneway House

This mansion was build over 100 years ago… and came with two great little gate houses that are now perfect little homes.

3 - Mega Mansion

One of two gate houses to that accompany that mega mansion.

4 Gate house 1 of 2 for the mantion - front

The second gate house.  This is just across from the blue one.  5 Gate House 2 of 2 for the mansion

6 Gate House 1 of 2 for the mansion

Here’s a second stone mansion on acres of land.  The little house on the left was truly a carriage house when the original home was built approximately 100 years ago. The carriage house is now it’s own nice little second unit. 7 Carriage House on the left

A close up of the carriage house…8 Carriage House - Now a private home

Another mega “cottage” in the back right that came with a carriage house that is now a perfect little beach front home. 9 Big 100 year old house and carriage house

That little cottage on the right is an old garage that has grown and evolved overtime.  It hosts a small business part time and family the rest of the time.

10 Guest House tucked away behind the main home 11 Guest house tucked away between the street and the main home

This guest house was a big surprise.  It’s tucked away in the woods but it’s an architectural gem and frankly, way nicer than you’d expect in a little bay outside of Buffalo, NY. 13 Guest House Cedar Bay

The side of the Cedar Bay guest house.

14 Guest House Cedar Bay - privacy lattice

The front of the Cedar Bay guest house. This is the front deck that looks out over Lake Erie. 15 Front of Guest House in Cedar Bay

There’s the main house on the left and the little guest house on the right. 16 Cedar Bay Big and Little House

This is standing on the beach looking back.  You can see a bit of the guest house hidden in the trees on the left. 17 Guest house tucked away on th left

This cute little cottage is not all that little, but the red is inspiring.

20 Not a small home.. but looks great

If I was a gambling man, I’d bet that everyone who has stayed here enjoyed profound clarity of thought, deep soul filling happiness and they wrote a novel while there. 22 Stone Guest House

This was once a garage but is now a serving a much more important role in this universe… it hosts poker nights, sleepovers, and rowdy games of eucher. 23 Garage Conversion

I’m really not sure if this is just storage or if it’s a working cottage.  It looks like it has some history to it and hopefully it will have a colorful future too. 24 Guest room… needs a little TLC

25 Squatters

People are often looking for barn doors.  It’s not necessarily an expensive project that has $2,000 custom doors and $700 hardware… there are countless sheds and barns with simple hardware like this shed has…28 Rolling Barn Door - the budget variety It’s not all mansions with carriage houses around here.  There are a number of smaller homes with us regular folk living there.  This little guest house made of reclaimed windows is a great little backyard cottage. 29 DIY guest room

This is neither tiny, nor small, nor a backyard cottage, but it’s such great design that it’s worthy of inclusion here.  30 Huge Porch on a not so small cottage

31 Fireplace

Technically the little detached guest room does qualify as a second unit… 32 Tiny Guest room

33 Tiny Guest Room

When a growing family needed more space they added a second cottage just slightly behind the first one.  It looks quite separate from the street now and they feel like two totally separate homes while only being about eight feet apart. 34 Two little houses 35 Two litle houses 2

Lastly,  this little guy has been hanging around for a while and there never seems to be a summer weekend when it isn’t put to use.  36 This works too!

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.