March 20, 2024

ADU Laws and Regulations in San Jose - 2024

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Overview of ADU Laws in San Jose

The laws governing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in San Jose reflect the city's commitment to housing flexibility and align with California's broader housing legislation. These regulations have been updated to facilitate the creation of additional residential units, catering to the diverse needs of its growing population.

Understanding ADU Ordinance

The ADU ordinance in San Jose establishes clear guidelines for the development of secondary housing units on residentially zoned properties. These units, which include ADUs and Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs), must comply with certain standards to meet eligibility criteria. The ordinance allows these units to be constructed in conjunction with single-family, duplex, or multifamily properties, with each maintaining a separate kitchen and bathroom facility.

Relevance of California ADU Legislation

State laws greatly influence San Jose's ADU policies. California legislation has been pivotal in reducing barriers to ADU construction, streamlining approval processes, and expanding ADU accommodation capacity. For instance, changes effective as of January 1, 2021, underpin the local ordinance structure and promote the development of ADUs in alignment with state-level efforts to address the housing shortage. The City of San José responds to these laws by aligning its municipal code with state mandates, ensuring consistency across jurisdictions.

Key Updates to San Jose ADU Requirements

San Jose has made significant updates to its ADU requirements to comply with new state legislation. Key changes include the adjustment of size limitations, occupancy requirements, and the elimination of certain fees. For detailed comparisons between past and current regulations, the San Jose Development Services Permit Center provides a comprehensive table outlining these alterations. These updates are designed to simplify the process for homeowners while expanding the potential for ADU construction throughout the city.

ADU Planning and Approval Process in San Jose

When planning an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in San Jose, it is essential to understand the approval process and city requirements. From navigating the official online portal to understanding the review procedures, this process requires attention to detail and adherence to the current regulations.


San Jose’s official permitting website,, is the primary portal for ADU plan submissions. Applicants must create an account to submit their ADU plans for review. The ADU Universal Checklist is a critical resource available on the website, helping identify property-specific requirements.

ADU Plan Review Procedures

The ADU plan review process is integral to obtaining the necessary building permits for construction. Plans are reviewed for compliance with zoning and building codes. San Jose's ADU Plan Review & Permit Process page offers a step-by-step guide through this procedure.

Exemptions and Simplified Procedures

Certain projects may qualify for exemptions or simplified procedures. Detached ADUs that meet specific criteria outlined in the ADU Universal Checklist can bypass some of the more complex aspects of the plan review. To determine eligibility for streamlined review, consult the ADU Ordinance & Updates page.

Required ADU Forms and Digital Submissions

All ADU projects in San Jose require specific forms and digital submissions via sjeplans electronic plan submittal system. This platform allows applicants to upload project files and track the status of their permit application. For assistance, the sjeplans FAQs provide valuable information on navigating the digital submission process.

Building and Construction Standards for ADUs in San Jose

When constructing an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in San José, builders must adhere to specific standards to ensure safety, compliance with regulations, and compatibility with various ADU sizes and types.

ADU Construction Codes and Regulations

In San José, ADU construction must be in alignment with the California Building Standards Code and local amendments. Plans for new ADUs are assessed during the permit application process, ensuring they meet the Bulletin 211 ADU Building Plan Requirements. These regulations cover the gamut from structural integrity to energy efficiency.

  • Construction Materials: Use must be made of materials that meet the approved building codes.
  • Building Permits with Plan Review - Instructions: Builders should submit comprehensive plans for review, detailing all structural, electrical, and plumbing work.

Fire Safety and Requirements for ADUs

Fire safety is of paramount importance in the construction of ADUs. The Building Division Directive #B-007 stipulates detached ADU fire separation distance requirements, aiming to reduce the risk of fire spread between structures.

  • Materials: Employ fire-resistant materials for exterior facing and roofing.
  • Fire Requirements: Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and adhere to ingress and egress regulations for safety in case of a fire.

Planning for Various ADU Sizes and Types

The City of San José accommodates a range of ADU sizes and types, from Junior ADUs under 500 square feet to larger detached units. Each ADU type must comply with specific construction codes, impacting material choice and design considerations.

  • Setbacks and Size Restrictions: These vary based on the ADU type and location, influencing the layout and square footage.
  • Design Standards: Ensures compatibility with existing primary residences and neighborhood character.

Compliance with Zoning and Land-Use Policies in San Jose

Navigating the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) landscape in San Jose requires meticulous attention to the city’s zoning code and land use policies. Homeowners and developers must consider various regulations that govern where and how an ADU can be constructed, ensuring adherence to zoning restrictions, space requirements, and specific rules for different property types.

Zoning Code Considerations for ADUs

The City of San José has tailored its zoning code to accommodate ADUs while aligning with new California State laws. Homeowners need to verify that their lot size and zoning district permit the construction of ADUs. For example, areas within a geohazard zone or flood zone might have additional constraints or might not allow ADUs at all. It's crucial to review the most recent ADU Ordinance & Updates for the changes effective as of 2020.

Setbacks, Height Limits, and Lot Coverage

San Jose specifies setbacks from property lines and the main residence, ensuring adequate space between structures for safety and privacy. For instance, ADUs typically must meet a minimum rear yard coverage to conform to local land-use policies. Height limits also factor into the equation, as ADUs are expected to remain within a less obtrusive range, often determined by the property's zoning designation. Homeowners should consult San Jose ADU Setback Rules for detailed information on the specific requirements that may impact their ADU project.

Special Requirements for Multifamily Properties

Multifamily properties carry unique requirements for ADU establishment. The city permits ADUs on duplex and multifamily properties since the ordinance passed on December 17, 2019. Understanding these distinctive guidelines is essential for compliance. The regulation details, including how they dovetail with statewide directives, can impact how these units are distributed on the property and the total number possible for development. For accurate guidelines, individuals should consider the current rules as stated under the ADU FAQs provided by the City of San José.

Design Approvals and Building Permits in San Jose

In San Jose, the process for design approvals and obtaining building permits for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is governed by a structured system. This system aims to simplify procedures for homeowners and developers alike through various services targeting different project scales.

Streamlined Review Processes for Residential Projects

The City of San Jose offers Streamlined Tenant Alteration Review (STAR) Service designed to expedite approval processes for small-scale residential projects. The service is tailored for simple projects that meet certain criteria, offering a quicker review compared to traditional channels. Additionally, the Residential Express Service facilitates speedier reviews for eligible residential construction tasks, reducing the time taken for design approvals significantly.

Acquiring Building Permits for ADUs

Obtaining building permits for ADUs requires compliance with the City of San Jose's zoning regulations. A key part of the process is the Simple Projects Service, which helps residents navigate the permit process for uncomplicated ADU projects. For those with ready-to-issue projects, the Approved Permit Issuance Service enables efficient finalization of permits. Meanwhile, the Resubmittal/Revision Service manages changes to plans that are under review or have been previously issued a permit.

Role of the Building Division in Permit Issuance

The Building Division plays a crucial role in San Jose's ADU permit issuance. It oversees the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Service for immediate permit services on smaller, less complex projects, allowing for on-the-spot approval in some cases. They also provide comprehensive building permit services for all scales of residential projects, ensuring safety and compliance with the city's construction codes and regulations. Throughout the process, the Building Division ensures that proposed ADUs meet the necessary standards for design, structure, and habitability.

Parking, Accessibility, and Utility Considerations in San Jose

When planning an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in San Jose, it is essential to understand the specific local regulations regarding parking, utility services, and accessibility. These regulations are designed to ensure that ADUs are integrated smoothly into the community and that they meet both the homeowners' needs and city standards.

Assessing ADU Parking Requirements

In San Jose, ADU parking requirements stipulate that one parking space is required for the ADU unless the property is eligible for an exemption. Exemptions are granted under certain conditions, such as proximity to public transit or if the ADU is within walking distance to car-share vehicles. More information on the exemptions can be found in the ADU parking requirements and exemptions provided by the City of San José.

Utility Service Requirements for ADUs

The water company and other utility providers have specific requirements for ADUs to ensure they have adequate services. These can include assessments for water supply, sewage, electricity, and gas. The homeowner must ensure their ADU has independent or shared utility connections, following San Jose’s regulations that aim not only at viability but also at cost-effective solutions for utility services.

Managing Accessibility with Public Works

Collaboration with public works is paramount when planning accessibility for ADUs. The path of travel to the ADU must be publicly accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when applicable. This involves considering clearances, slopes, and surfaces, all of which contribute to the safe and convenient access to ADUs for all individuals, including those with disabilities.

Financing and Affordability of ADUs in San Jose

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) offer an opportunity to increase the housing supply in San Jose. They provide a flexible housing option that can be financially attainable for homeowners while contributing to affordable housing efforts. Understanding the costs associated with ADU development and the impact on affordable housing is crucial for informed decision-making.

Cost Estimates and Fees for ADU Development

The development of an ADU involves various costs and fees that potential builders must consider. The California Department of Housing and Community Development provides guidelines on the baseline costs for ADU construction. Charges can include but are not limited to:

  • Building permits and utility fees: Required for the legal construction and connection to city services.
  • Impact fees: For ADUs larger than 750 square feet, these fees help cover the costs of public services.

The estimated cost breakdown for a project includes permit fees ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, construction costs varying between $100,000 and $350,000, utility hookups anticipated to be within $5,000 to $25,000, and impact fees that vary.

These estimates can fluctuate based on various factors such as size, location, and finishes chosen for the ADU.

Affordable Housing Impact and ADU Contribution

ADUs contribute to the stock of affordable housing in San Jose by adding rental units to existing properties without the need for new land. These units can be rented out at below-market rates, offering more affordable options in high-cost areas. The addition of ADUs aligns with policies from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to combat the housing shortage and promote diverse housing types.

Moreover, San Jose has seen changes in ADU regulations to encourage their construction, which includes:

  • Reducing or waiving certain development fees for smaller ADUs.
  • Streamlining the approval process for eligible properties.

By expanding the housing supply, ADUs serve as an important supplement to traditional affordable housing programs and contribute to addressing the housing shortage in urban environments where space is at a premium.

Property and Owner Considerations in San Jose

In the landscape of ADU development in San Jose, certain legal and regulatory checks are paramount. Property owners must navigate deed restrictions and adhere to owner-occupancy requirements to ensure compliance with local ordinances.

Deed Restrictions and Property Agreements

Deed restrictions, also known as restrictive covenants, may impact the ability to construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), commonly referred to as granny flats or secondary units, on a property. It is crucial for homeowners to review their property deed and any associated agreements for clauses that could prohibit or limit the construction of an ADU. Restrictions might include limits on the size, placement, or even the existence of such structures despite zoning regulations that allow for them.

Owner Occupancy and Renting Out ADUs

The City of San Jose asserts that the owner of the property must occupy either the primary residence or the ADU. However, as of 2020, new state legislation offers some leniency, permitting property owners more flexibility with owner-occupancy requirements for ADUs. If considering renting out an ADU as a means of income or providing affordable housing, they must understand these requirements as they stand, referenced in the ADU Universal Checklist. Regulations may change, so staying informed is essential. Renting out either unit is permissible under current guidelines, but they must follow the city's standards for rental properties.

Innovative ADU Models and Alternatives in San Jose

The City of San José provides avenues for innovative housing solutions that include Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOWs), accommodating both residential and business needs.

Permitting Process for Tiny Homes on Wheels

San José has laid out a structured permitting process for Tiny Homes on Wheels, which are recognized as accessory dwelling units when they meet specific criteria. The city’s Bulletin 291-Tiny Home on Wheels Permit Checklist is a comprehensive tool that guides homeowners through required standards such as size, design, and utility connections. As a streamlined approach, the checklist ensures that THOWs become a safe and legal dwelling option.

ADUs as Solutions for Businesses

Businesses in San José can leverage ADUs to address space constraints and housing for employees. These units not only serve as a flexible space solution but also as a strategy to increase property value. ADU Ally, an entity in the region, offers services to businesses interested in exploring ADUs as a viable option. This includes navigating zoning laws, planning, and maximizing the use of property space with ADUs.

Special Cases and Unique Scenarios in San Jose

When exploring the intricacies of accessory dwelling unit (ADU) laws in San Jose, there are exceptional cases that require a specialized understanding. For homeowners navigating historic districts, fire hazard zones, or considering conversions, each scenario comes with specific regulations.

ADUs in Historical Districts and Fire Hazard Areas

It is imperative that those who own property in a historic district or a fire hazard zone understand the additional scrutiny and requirements for ADU applications. These areas often have strict guidelines to maintain historical integrity and ensure safety. In San Jose, ADUs within a historic district must adhere to both city and state preservation standards, which could affect design, materials, and construction methods. Similarly, fire variances may be necessary in fire hazard areas to meet fire safety regulations, potentially altering standard ADU construction plans.

Conversion of Garages and Existing Accessory Buildings

Converting a garage into an ADU presents a cost-effective solution for San Jose residents. However, conversions must comply with specific building codes and may not impede on parking requirements. Homeowners should check the city's ADU ordinance to understand the implication of motor vehicle parking regulations when converting an existing garage or accessory building. Retrofitting an existing structure might limit the size and placement of an ADU, and one must ensure that it remains detached if the original structure is not attached to the main residence.

Transportation Proximity and ADU Placement

Proximity to public transportation has a direct impact on ADU development in San Jose. Homes located within a half-mile walking distance of a rail station or other public transit hubs may experience relaxed parking requirements for their ADUs. Moreover, these strategic locations can benefit from expedited processes as the city encourages transit-oriented housing to alleviate traffic and promote the use of public transportation. However, homeowners must still ensure the ADU placement complies with all zoning and setback regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses common inquiries regarding the laws and expenses associated with the development of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) within the city limits of San Jose as of 2024.

What are the new ADU building regulations in San Jose for 2024?

The City of San José has adopted new regulations for ADUs that are aligned with California State laws. Details include size restrictions, height, and design criteria that must be met.

How much does it typically cost to obtain an ADU permit in San Jose?

Permit costs can vary significantly, usually starting in the low thousands and depending notably on the size and complexity of the project. Potential builders should consult the City of San José's official fee schedule for current pricing.

What are the zoning restrictions for constructing ADUs in San Jose?

Zoning restrictions dictate where ADUs can be built, with considerations for lot size, existing structures, and density. Detailed zoning information can be found by reviewing San Jose's zoning code pertaining to ADUs.

Are there specific requirements my property must meet to be eligible for ADU construction in San Jose?

Properties must meet various criteria, including lot size, parking, and ownership. To check if a property is eligible, property owners should refer to the ADU Universal Checklist provided by San Jose, which reflects state law.

Is it permissible to build an ADU in the front yard of a property in San Jose?

Generally, ADUs are required to be constructed in the backyard; however, regulations can change, and it's essential to confirm current policies through San Jose’s ADU FAQ section for the latest guidelines.

What are the setback requirements for ADUs in San Jose?

Setback requirements have specific minimum distances from property lines that vary depending on the type of ADU. The City provides comprehensive guidelines, including already-approved regulations for setbacks in their ADU ordinance updates.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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