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Laneways Around the World: Los Angeles



Image from: adu.lacity.org


In the second part of our series in exploring various Laneway Suites across the globe, we will be analyzing Los Angeles as a case study to understand the differences in comparison to Toronto.


Los Angeles has been one of the cities in the United States to explore and legally pass the concept of backyard housing units. Back lane housing, also often referred to as granny flats, infill housing, coach houses, or accessory units, has been adopted as a new way of providing space in single-family areas that have the intention of renting the added space on their own property.


In 2017, the state of California loosened the laws for acquiring building permits for ‘Accessory Dwelling Units’, otherwise known as ADUs, which launched a new industry of housing. According to Los Angeles’s Department of Building and Safety, “An ADU is an attached or detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary residence. It shall include permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation on the same lot as the single-family or multifamily dwelling is or will be situated.”

Additionally, the city has also passed legislation for other iterations of backyard housing, which are: Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) and Movable Tiny House (MTH). A JADU is a unit that is no larger than 500 square feet in size and exists entirely within a single-family residence. A JADU may have separate sanitation facilities, or might actually share sanitation facilities with the pre-existing structure.

An MTH is a closed space meant for separate living quarters of one family, must be licensed and registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and be of appropriate size for movement within public transportation roads.


ADUs, JADUs, and MTHs are all allowed in any residential zone by right, and parking space for newly constructed ADU is not required if it is located within a one-half mile walking distance of public transit.

ADUs are enforced to comply with all appropriate Zoning, Building, and Residential Codes.


ADU Laws and Regulations

Since January 1, 2020, five bills have been made effective to amend and replace previous laws as a way to aid with the construction and approval process. The bills and their key provisions include:


AB 68 and AB 881:

  • Require permits for ADUs and JADU to be approved or denied within 60 days, instead of 120 days

  • A JADU is an ADU of no more than 500 square feet and must be within a proposed or existing single-family home or accessory structure, such as a garage

  • Allow only one ADU and one JADU on any residential property

  • Allow multiple ADUs within an existing multi-family dwelling, or up to two detached ADUs on a multi-family property

  • Remove parking replacement requirements when an ADU results in the demolition or conversion of existing parking


SB 13:

  • Allows an ADU to be built in the same location and physical dimensions as an existing accessory building that is demolished to provide an ADU, along with a 150 square feet addition, if provided for ingress/egress

  • Prohibits owner-occupancy requirements until 2025

  • Eliminates impact fees for ADUs under 750 square feet and requires fees to be proportional to the square footage of the primary residence


AB 670 and AB 671:

  • Prevent homeowners’ associations from barring ADU construction on single-family properties or imposing reasonable restrictions

  • Require local housing agencies to incentivize and promote the construction of ADUs that can be offered at affordable rental rates to very low, low-, or moderate-income households


Los Angeles is a relevant example of how a new method of housing can allow easier access to living in single-family areas. Additionally, the city requires newly constructed, detached ADUs to incorporate solar panels within their final design, as a way for units to produce their own energy. Within a short time since the launch of the new bill, the state had received more than 1,900 applications for ADU approval, and now has been increased three times. The ADUs illustrates the high demand for providing more affordable housing and an efficient way of enriching neighbourhoods.


If you are interested in Garden/Laneway Suites or have any further questions, please send us an email or book a meeting.


Sources: adulacity.org and ladbs.org


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