Schedule ADU Consultation
(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

Research local zoning codes for ADU design
Calculate returns and costs to get financing
Estimate your project costs and timeline

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Santa Cruz ADU Guidelines Last Updated 10/13/20

The city government of Santa Cruz will approve ADUs under California's statewide mandated regulations.
The California Building Code (CBC) 2019 is adopted.


City Hint: The city permitted a total of 64 ADU projects in the past year of 2019, which makes it above average for ADU production compared to other cities statewide.

Number of ADUs allowed:

Single-Family parcels: 1 ADU and 1 Jr. ADU
Multi-Family parcels: up to 2 new construction ADUs and up to 25% (all decimals round up – minimum of 1) of the number of existing units as Conversion ADUs (non-livable space only for multi-family Conversions)

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

ADU size:

New Construction Detached ADUs: Largest of 800 sf or 10% net lot area
Conversion ADUs Can be created from existing legal structure, regardless of size, may expand structure up to 150 sf, not to exceed 1200 sf.


New Construction Single Story Detached: Front - Zone district site standards that apply to primary home. Side: 3 feet. Rear: 3 feet
New Construction Two Story Detached: Front - Zone district site standards that apply to primary home. Side: First story: 3’ Above 16’in height: 5’* Rear: 10’ (any portion of the structure that exceeds 16’ in height)*
New Construction Attached: Zone district site standards that apply to primary home.
Conversion: Maintain existing. (Any addition required to meet current ADU standards)
*When an ADU faces an alley, the required setback for a two-story ADU is 4’ from the side and rear property lines.
minimum 6 feet building separation required.


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

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.


New Construction Single Story Detached: 16’ at roof peak
New Construction two Story Detached: 22’ at roof peak
New Construction Attached: Zone district site standards that apply to primary home
Conversion: Maintain existing or expand up to 2’ in 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

Utility connections:

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


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.

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.

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
Dial Ext: 980
Garage Conversion in Seaside, CA $5,675 saved

ADU Design Library

Browse hundreds of models to find the right fit for your property.

ADU Model 676 sqft

W 26 ft L 26 ft

ADU Model 920 sqft

W 33 ft L 30 ft

ADU Model 1060 sqft

W 40 ft L 29 ft

Customer Reviews

"Housable has been a great resource regarding my ADU project. I purchased both the Property and Design Reports. In both cases, they delivered as promised and on time."

Ed in Corona, CA

"My experience with Housable was exceptional. The team was extremely helpful and responsive. I am very satisfied and happy to have used these services. As a home owner I do not know the construction lingo or process but the Housable team very kind and helpful and patient with me. My expectations were exceeded. Thank you for everything."

Monica H. in Oakland, CA

"The property report was great! Made me feel like my project is feasible."

Alexandria in Santa Ana, CA

Complete 5-Step Process

Browse hundreds of permit-ready ADU designs and order one to customize to your needs.
Connect with local contractors to get site visits and cost estimates for your project.
Mark up changes to your plans and provide critical info needed to permit your project.
Finalize your project blueprints to submit for building permits.
Select your contractor and build your project.

What our customers say:

Customer Reviews

"My permits were APPROVED, thank you for all your hard work. I am in the process of meeting with contractors. "

Mary S. in San Jose, CA

"I just wanted to let you know that the permit process has been completed and we are currently in the construction phase. The work you guys did was great and I will definitely be using this service again in the future. I will keep you guys updated on anything important. Thanks!"

Patrick L. in Orange County, CA

Detached ADU - Completed in 2020
1,003 sq. ft., 3 bed, 2 bath

Estimate Your ADU Potential
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)

Check your property's zoning, browse designs & get contractor estimates for your ADU project:

Everything you need to get accurate estimates from contractors for your ADU project. Get help with ADU feasibility, design, permitting and sourcing contractors for your project in one place.

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