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(831) 540-2387 ext: 980
Schedule ADU Consultation (831) 540-2387 ext: 980

Santa Cruz ADUs

Everything about building Accessory Dwelling Units in Santa Cruz, CA

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Santa Cruz ADU Guidelines Last Updated 04/05/20

The city government of Santa Cruz will approve ADUs under California's statewide mandated regulations.
The California Building Code (CBC) 2019 is adopted.
Relevant state bill updates for SB13, AB68, AB881, AB670 are shown in green below.


City Hint: The city permitted a total of 52 ADU project(s) in the past year of 2018, which makes it above average for ADU production compared to other cities statewide.

Number of ADUs allowed:

According to state law, all single-family homes are allowed at least one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). Additionally, single-family parcels which are owner-occupied may create one Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) and one JADU. Also, multi-family parcels may now add one ADU per every four existing residential units, so long as they were legally established.

As of January 1st, 2020

Types of ADUs allowed:

Detached ADU, Attached ADU, Junior ADU are allowed. ADUs may be new construction or converted from existing space. Junior Accessort Dwelling Unit (JADU)s must be converted from existing space.

Lot size:

Residential lots will not be subject to any minimum lot size for Accessory Dwelling Units by ordinance or of the underlying zoning district. ~ Updated: State Law AB-68

As of January 1st, 2020

ADU size:

Single-family and multi-family Parcels will be allowed to add up to 850 sq. ft. for a one bed ADU or up to 1,000 sq. ft. for a two bed ADU, regardless of the underlying zoning standards of the property. A Junior ADU up to 500 sq. ft. is allowed. The minimum size of any living unit (including ADUs and Junior ADUs) is 150 sq. ft. according to Califronia Residential Code. ~ AB68

As of January 1st, 2020


The maximum required setback for a detached new construction Accessory Dwelling Unit shall be no more than 4 ft from the rear and side property lines. Setbacks will not be required for Accessory Dwelling Units and Junior ADUs converted from existing space that was legally eastablished. Attached Accessory Dwelling Units and conversions from existing space to be expanded will be required to comply with the setbacks of the underlying zone. ~ AB-68

As of January 1st, 2020


Replacement parking shall not apply to lots which convert an existing garage to an Accessory Dwelling Unit or JADU. ~ AB-68

As of January 1st, 2020

Fire Safety:

Fire Sprinklers are required only where they are already present in or required for the
Primary dwelling. Fire Agencies may require alternative methods for complying with the fire code.

Shape, materials and style:

The ADU should be architecturally compatible with the main unit in terms of design, color and materials. Doors, windows, balconies, etc., should be situated to preserve the privacy of neighbors.


Units inside the Urban Services Line shall not exceed 17 feet in maximum height and 14 feet in average height unless they are constructed above a garage, in which case
they may be up to 22 feet in maximum height and 19 feet in average height.

Design review:

All development standards (i.e., setbacks, lot coverage) for the applicable zone district must be satisfied. Ministerial review process.

Number of Bedrooms:

Not specified by State Standards.


Between between 2020 and 2025, owner occupancy requirements will not apply to new ADUs. (applicable to new construction and conversion units) ~ SB-13

As of January 1st, 2020

Utility connections:

Local health officer approval where a private sewage disposal system is being used, if required. (State requirements)

Permit Fees

SB13 Update: As of January 1st, 2020, local impact fees for ADUs will be reduced substantially statewide.


An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is an additional, self-contained housing unit that is secondary to the main residence.


1.) Exceptions from the parking standard are available if the ADU is being created as a
conversion of an existing structure, or if it falls within the mapped half-mile buffer of the
County’s primary transit routes, see SCCC 13.10.681(F)(2). When the ADU qualifies for
an exception, the primary dwelling may maintain any existing parking configuration.

2.) Exceptions to site standards: ADUs built above garages may be built with 5 foot side and rear setbacks in all residential zone districts. Conversion ADUs may utilize any existing legal structure on the property, regardless of compliance with other site standards, provided they conform to the appropriate size limit based on parcel size, and be updated to comply with current Building and Fire Codes.


For the construction of ADUs within subdivisions or elsewhere where the developer will not be the final occupant, owner-occupancy requirements apply to the purchase of a property w/an ADU, but not to the developer, and occupancy of the ADU will be permitted upon the filing of a Homeowner’s Tax Exemption.

Allowed Zones:

*** Beginning in 2020, according to state law, all residential zoning districts, including single-family and multi-family, are allowed to build Accessory Dwelling Units. ***

The parcel must be zoned Residential or have a General Plan designation of Residential.
Outside of the Coastal Zone, parcels may also be zoned for Agriculture.

As of January 1st, 2020

Existing Structures

Only structures that were constructed legally may be converted to a Conversion ADU (See SCCC 13.10.681(E)). ADUs that are created by converting any existing habitable or non-habitable area are not
required to provide additional parking, and may also be exempted from some fees. Up to
65% of structural components may be replaced in the course of the conversion, but no
additional space may be added or enclosed.

SB13 Update: Amnesty program to permit unpermitted units will be administered statewide, allowing non-health and safety code violations to be deferred.

Environmental Requirements

To file a building application for an ADU, a “Clearance to Apply for Building Permit” form
from Environmental Health Services will be required if a septic system is to be used. Fire,
Sanitation and Water Districts' approval requirements must be satisfied during the Building Permit process.

Residential Building Code:

The California Building Code (CBC) 2019 is adopted.

Santa Cruz City Planning Offices

Call/Text ADU Operator (831) 540-2387
Call Santa Cruz ext: 980 |
'Text to Check' Your Property sms: "123 Main St, Santa Cruz"

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ADU Example Designs

ADU Model 594 sqft

W 27 ft L 22 ft

ADU Model 700 sqft

W 35 ft L 20 ft

Santa Cruz ADU Marketplace

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Use our ADU Services and Marketplace to get expert assistance, permit-ready ADU designs and on-site contractor estimates on one platform.

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Featured Financing Program

ADU Financing

CA Statewide

Tailored to ADU construction.
Based on project size & appreciation.
Learn how to qualify.

Karyn Jones

Program Representative

Call Now (760) 496-5959

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Featured ArticleSanta Cruz, CA
Featured ArticleSanta Cruz, CA

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A recent customer review:

"Hausable fills a much needed space between the homeowner and the architect. No longer do I have to spend countless hours trying to reach someone at the city permit office to answer the many questions I have before even hiring an architect. I find this service invaluable."

Susan in Pasadena, CA

Customer since August, 2018

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Costs / ROI



* upon completion of ADU


* based on local average price per sqft


* estimated by location


* 30 years / 5% interest rate / 20% down payment


Size: 500 sqft


Appreciation Estimate = (Base Value: $) / (Home's Living Space: sqft) * (ADU's Living Space: sqft)

Rental Estimate = (Rent Per Sqft: $3.83) * (ADU's Living Space: sqft)

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How does it work? Get started on your project with expert assistance and without commitment using our customized ADU Property and Design Reports as your first step. Then, get on-site visits from local contractors who can provide you with guidance and estimates for your ADU project.

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Expert Feasibility & Zoning Research

Expert Feasibility & Zoning Research

Use our ADU Property & Design Reports as a starting point to plan your ADU project. Our experts will do the legwork with your city or county planning office and design custom ADU concepts for your property and your needs.

Get Your ADU Design Permit-Ready

Get Your ADU Design Permit-Ready

Getting your designs ready for city permitting and construction can speed up your ADU project and reduce unforseen costs later on in the process.

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