Accessory Dwelling Units in San Diego – Facts & Benefits Every Homeowner Should Know

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Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, are a great way to add an extra income stream by renting out an addition to your property. Plus, they expand your space and add to your home’s long-term value. So, is it the right choice for your home?

ADUs are an increasingly popular option for homeowners in San Diego, but there are important things you need to know about Accessory Dwelling Units before deciding if building an ADU is right for you. That way, you can maximize your space without worrying about compliance.

Keep reading to learn exactly what an Accessory Dwelling Unit is, the benefits of building one on your property, the requirements for constructing ADUs, and how to get started  adding your own ADU.

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, is a separate, additional living space built on the same property as your primary home. They are also known as granny flats, backyard cottages, or guest houses.

ADUs have become very popular in recent years as a way to not only earn additional income for the homeowner but also to improve the quality of life in the region by increasing the amount of available housing in San Diego County. Housing affordability has become a major issue in San Diego, and ADUs have become a valuable part of the solution.

While rules may vary in the different cities throughout the county, the City of San Diego defines an Accessory Dwelling Unit as an attached or detached residential dwelling unit up to 1,200 square feet in size.  An ADU must provide complete living facilities for those who occupy the space including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation.

Some municipalities, including the City of San Diego, also allow homeowners to create smaller Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU) on their property. These spaces are anywhere from 150 to 500 square feet, can be created within your existing home, and do not require separate bathrooms.

This makes a JADU a more affordable option for homeowners who want to create an additional living space for long-term rental, guest area, room addition, or other purpose. With JADUs, for example, you can do a garage conversion into a living space without the additional expense of building an entirely new structure.

However, other than the size and rule differences, both options offer similar benefits for homeowners in San Diego.

Benefits of an Accessory Dwelling Unit

Now that you have more of an understanding of what an Accessory Dwelling Unit is, let’s look at some of the advantages of adding one to your property!

Earn Rental Income

By renting out your Accessory Dwelling Unit, you do a few great things: you provide someone with a place to live, you help alleviate the housing crisis in San Diego, and you can also earn a monthly income that can help you repay the costs of constructing the ADU, cover your regular expenses, or enhance your retirement plans.

How much you can earn depends on a variety of factors, including the area of San Diego you’re in, the size of the ADU, and other aspects and amenities of the property. But, the fact is that rent prices in San Diego show no signs of decreasing anytime soon, so building an ADU in San Diego is a good long-term investment for many homeowners.

Expand Living Space

An ADU expands your living space, even if you don’t have immediate plans for using it as an income-generating rental property. With this extra space, you can provide a place to live for an aging parent or other family members who need long or short-term housing.

You can also use an ADU to set up an on-site suite for your college-aged kids or just have more space for your family to spread out. You can also use the Accessory Dwelling Unit to create a home office, a gym, or an entertainment area. Whatever the purpose, an ADU or JADU will enhance your property with the additional space it provides for you and your family.

Increase Home Value

An ADU or JADU room addition in San Diego also increases the value of your property for the two reasons mentioned above: it provides an opportunity for additional income and expands the square footage of the living space. This provides more equity to tap into and can enhance the property price when you’re ready to sell.

Home values in San Diego continue to rise. Adding to the amount of living space on your property will accelerate that increase. Plus, San Diego home remodeling experts can include the latest amenities and features in your ADU, which will attract and appeal to both renters and buyers.

Important Considerations for Building an ADU in San Diego

While the rules for building ADUs vary from city to city within San Diego County, it’s important to know that there are various codes and regulations, size and provisions, zoning and location standards, and rental terms that apply to Accessory Dwelling Units. You need to consider these when you’re deciding if it’s a good choice to build an ADU on your property.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the current regulations for the City of San Diego. While you can go to to find this information, if you choose Kanna Construction for your project, we’ll make sure you’re in compliance with all requirements to ensure your ADU project goes smoothly.

ADU and JADU Size and Provisions

While we already referred to the provision and size requirements for an ADU and JADU in San Diego, it’s worth reiterating.

  • ADUs are 1,200 sq ft or less and provide independent living facilities, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation.
  • JADUs are 150 to 500 sq ft and may include separate sanitation facilities or share them with a single dwelling unit. They can also be created within the existing dwelling unit or by converting an attached garage.

Parking Requirements

Parking spaces are not required for an ADU in San Diego except when the property is located within the Beach Impact Area of the Parking Impact Overlay Zone.


Even in those cases, parking is not required if the accessory dwelling unit is:

  • 500 square feet or smaller
  • Located within a residential permit parking district
  • Located in an established historic district
  • Attached to the existing primary residence
  • Within a half-mile of public transit, including bus stops

However. if you don’t meet those conditions, then an ADU must provide 1 parking space that can be within the setbacks or as tandem parking in the existing driveway of your primary residence.

Rental Terms

Since San Diego is facing a housing shortage and affordability crisis and the region is also a major tourist destination, Accessory Dwelling Units cannot be leased for periods of less than 31 consecutive days. This rule ensures available housing is provided to people who live, work, and go to school here instead of tourists.

Therefore, new ADUs cannot be used for short-term travel accommodations or as an Airbnb, as they would not comply with the city’s requirements.

Get Started with Your ADU Project with Kanna Construction, Your Trusted San Diego Home Remodel Experts

We understand that building an ADU in San Diego is a big undertaking. There are a lot of design, finance, and regulatory factors to consider. So, if you’re looking for “Accessory Dwelling Unit home additions near me” we can help you through the entire process.

Our San Diego general contractors and remodeling experts will review zoning and make sure you comply with every requirement to create a successful ADU or JADU that earns income, expands living space, and increases property value.

To get started, we’d love to learn why you want to build an Accessory Dwelling Unit and start developing a cost-effective plan to help you reach your goals. Click here to get started with a free consultation today!