San Carlos Accessory Dwelling

In the draft Housing Element, the City of San Carlos will promote the develocraftsman-exteriorpment of second dwelling units (SDU) to increase housing opportunities. Some of the incentives for secondary dwelling units include encouraging local agencies, districts and utility providers to reduce hookup or other fees to facilitate the development of second units.  The City also aims to modify some of the second unit development standards, such as eliminating the 400-foot distance standard currently required between secondary dwelling units.  Another progressive goal for the city is identifying possible sources of funding for secondary dwelling units and “research potential funding sources for remodels of existing homes to create an autonomous second unit within the existing structure”.   The city will also continue to promote the amnesty program to legalize existing unpermitted second units.

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

  • Attached SDU may be 30% of the home’s square-feet in area up to a 1,200 square-foot maximum. Detached SDU is limited to 640 square-feet maximum.
  • A Detached SDU must have a minimum of five feet from all side and rear lot lines. Detached SDU may be located in the rear one half of the lot and have a second floor element only if located over a detached garage.
  • Maximum height is 15’ unless located over a garage, bringing the height limit to 28’.
  • A tandem parking space may also be used to meet the parking requirement for the second dwelling unit, providing such space will not encumber access to a required parking space for the primary single-unit dwelling

Second units are not allowed if there is another second dwelling unit within 400 feet measured from nearest edge of the lot line of each respective or proposed second dwelling unit. However, the homeowner can obtain a waiver for this restriction.  Two other waivers related to the SDU are for the 5’ setback requirement (only for SDUs created prior to January 1, 2003) and window and door openings.

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

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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.

Menlo Park addresses Housing by making it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

  Menlo Park took this opportunity to meet their RHNA of 655 dwelling units by concurrently amending their ADU ordinance. Now it’s easier for residents to build a backyard cottage!  Some of the adopted regulations include:

  • Reducing the required interior side setback to five feet
  • A maximum size of 640 square feet but may be built up to 700 square feet to allow access for disabled residents
  • Increasing the maximum height to 17 feet
  • Allowing parking in required front and interior side yards
The ordinance was adopted on May 13, 2014 and became effective on June 13, 2014.  Visit the City of Menlo more information on the revised zoning code, and for a copy of the amendment, click here.  We look forward to seeing more backyard cottages, in-law studios, private home spas, guest houses, music rooms, art studios and more!
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Erin’s In-Law Studio photo credit: Scott Kline
New Avenue did a project in Menlo Park not too long ago. Check out Erin’s story.

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.

Portland Accessory Dwelling Tour


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We’re just back from a great trip to Portland where, we learned that Portlandia is, in fact, a documentary.  They all work 20 hours a week at Starbucks, have chicken coops, ride their bikes all day, everyday.  Or at least, the east side of Portland fits that description.  The west side, we are told, is different.  There are rumoured to be Republicans on that side of town.  It seems doubtful, but none the less, this is about the East Side and more particularly, this great little Accessory Dwelling we visited – Susan’s PDX Cottage.

It’s a beautiful city (in the summer, at least) packed with 100 year old craftsman homes and they are really making accessory dwellings happen.

Susan’s PDX Cottage is a converted garage. Here are several pictures of her little cottage.

That’s owner storage for mostly gardening equipment on the right.

Interestingly,  edgy modern furniture can make a classic old garage exterior really work.

It’s official, SMEG refrigerators are the best looking appliances around: http://www.smegusa.com

You see that little hanging spice rack – that’s a $10 IKEA accessory.

Open shelving really works in small spaces.

One of the squares of Ladd’s Addition – the Portland neighborhood with such a unique layout that it is noticeable from space.

DIY landscaping can save thousands and thousands or even tens of thousands.  

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.