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Santa Cruz ADUs

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Santa Cruz ADU Guidelines Last Updated 09/24/21

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 of Santa Cruz permitted a total of 98 ADU projects in the past year of 2020.

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:

a. The floor area for new construction detached accessory dwelling units shall not exceed ten percent of the net lot area or eight hundred fifty square feet for a studio or one-bedroom ADU, or one thousand square feet for an ADU with more than one bedroom, whichever is greater, and no detached new construction ADU shall exceed a maximum of one thousand two hundred square feet of habitable area.

b. The floor area for new construction accessory dwelling units attached to the principal residential use on the property shall not exceed fifty percent of the existing habitable floor area of the principal residential use on the property, or eight hundred fifty square feet for a studio or one-bedroom ADU, or one thousand square feet for an ADU with more than one bedroom, whichever is greater.


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.


No off-street parking shall be required for any accessory dwelling unit. Any parking spaces, covered or uncovered, removed in order to create an accessory dwelling unit shall not be required to be replaced.

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

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