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El Cerrito’s Requirements For Building An ADU

There is a lot to consider when it comes to building accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and recent changes to El Cerrito’s requirements are important. Discover what you need to build an ADU in El Cerrito as we walk you through the specific guidelines and regulations around getting a permit and building in this coveted Contra Costa city. From zoning rules to size guidance, you will learn everything you need to know.

Whether you are a homeowner looking at options or a developer with an eye to maximize your profits, this comprehensive guide explains El Cerrito’s requirements. Be informed of the legislation so that you can embark on your ADU journey with confidence.

construction of a home addition for el cerrito adu requirements
Renee White
Written by Renée White
  / February 19, 2024

Renée White is a top-producing real estate broker with over 20 years of experience and an annual average of 200 sales. Clients are drawn to Renée for her deep knowledge of the local Contra Costa market.

Table of content
    • El Cerrito’s ADU ordinance tells you everything you need to know about planning, gaining permits, construction, and uses for ADUs in the city.
    • Recent California changes have impacted ADUs in El Cerrito.
    • El Cerrito ADUs must be no larger than 1,200 square feet and 16 feet tall.
    • An ADU must function as its own separate dwelling, with a kitchen and bathroom on the lot.
    • We are a leading real estate agency in El Cerrito and can advise on the execution, sale, and renting of ADUs in the city.

    What Are El Cerrito’s ADU Requirements?

    There are various names for ADUs – you may know them as secondary units, granny flats, guest houses, or something else. In any case, it’s important to understand El Cerrito’s ADU requirements if you want to build one, so you must expand your knowledge of the rules and regulations. These additions can be attached to the house, fully detached units, or conversions of existing constructs like a standalone garage. Here are the basic requirements for building an ADU in El Cerrito:

    • It must be in accordance with the relevant zoning regulations.
    • You must acquire a permit via an application to the City of El Cerrito, CA.
    • Size and setback requirements must be conformed to.
    • Compliance with legislation for parking, design, and utilities is mandatory.

    In 2023, we saw state-wide changes to ADU regulations for the whole of California. One particular change was that they became eligible for sale as condos, easing certain restrictions around front setbacks and size, and the 60-day rule for permitting decisions became more transparent. New Assembly Bills and Senate Bills were passed to ease the process of building ADUs in El Cerrito and elsewhere in California. Let’s have a look at the specific guidelines for El Cerrito:

    • Detached ADUs: A detached ADU on a single-family residence in El Cerrito has a maximum square footage of 1,200. For multi-family lots, there is a little extra flexibility, but detached unit height can never exceed 16 feet.
    • Attached ADUs: These are limited to being a maximum of 50% of the square footage of the main residence, up to 1,200 square feet. The height limit is 25 feet or the main residence’s height – whichever is lower.
    • Converted ADUs: No restrictions exist for these since the building is already in place.

    If you are looking to construct an ADU in El Cerrito to rent or sell as a separate dwelling, be advised that the owner will need to pay Contra Costa property taxes. Let’s look at some more requirements for ADUs in El Cerrito.

    house design diagrams for el cerrito adu requirements

    Who Do You Need To Be?

    El Cerrito ADU requirements are such that you would need to be a property owner and have sufficient funds for the design, planning, and construction work to build an ADU. You also need the space on your land to meet the compliance requirements. If you own a property and are able to meet the rules and regulations, you may be able to build an ADU.

    What Income Do You Need?

    This really depends on the scale of the project you have in mind. There are fees for obtaining a permit, and it costs to have designs made up and construction to take place. As a rough guideline, the process from concept to completion can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $300,000+, so you need to assess whether you meet these criteria to build an ADU to rent or sell in El Cerrito.

    Where Do You Need To Be?

    To fall under the El Cerrito ADU requirements, you need to be based in El Cerrito. However, the rules are essentially the same no matter where you are in Contra Costa County. Elsewhere in California, specific ordinance may vary, so you would need to educate yourself on the exact rules and regulations for your location.

    What Is El Cerrito’s ADU Ordinance?

    El Cerrito’s ADU ordinance is a list of strict regulations that are the rules governing the design, construction, and use of ADUs on residential properties. As previously detailed, ordinance covers various key considerations, including:

    • Design standards
    • Zoning needs
    • Obtaining permits
    • How the property is used

    ADU ordinance provides specific guidance on the maximum allowable size of ADUs, whether or not a unit can be sold or rented, permitted setbacks from property lines, and more. One key thing to consider is compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood, and this has long been a common barrier for planning departments. The recent legislative changes make it harder for local authorities to block permits for ADUs in El Cerrito.

    The ordinance exists to strike a balance between preserving community character and meeting the ever-growing need for additional housing options. It can vary in different California counties, but must meet the state-mandated changes as California authorities seek to address concerns about housing shortages. This post details the latest El Cerrito ADU requirements in 2024, but there could be more new developments in the coming years.

    What Are El Cerrito’s Local Ordinances For ADU Requirements?

    As leading real estate professionals in El Cerrito, we are always up-to-date on developments in our industry. 2023 saw some substantial changes to ADU requirements in El Cerrito, potentially causing a shake-up in the wider housing market. Here are some of the crucial legislative updates:

    • SB 897: This modifies the restrictions on ADU size, setting a maximum size limit of 1,500 square feet. At present, the limit in El Cerrito is 1,200 feet, so watch out for possible updates to these restrictions.
    • AB 2221: This bill is aimed at easing the process of building ADUs by streamlining the permitting process and allowing the development of JADUs with fewer requirements and regulations.
    • AB 157: The bill that allows ‘parking-free’ ADUs, removing one of the most frequent approval barriers.
    • AB 916: Paving the way for financial incentives for homeowners to construct ADUs.

    With all this to keep on top of, it is a load off to have a professional team in your corner. We can offer local expertise and specialize in helping people buy and sell properties. Let us provide expert insights into the renting or selling of an ADU on your lot to aid the design process.

    What Qualifies As An ADU In El Cerrito?

    El Cerrito ADU requirements define an accessory dwelling unit as a secondary residential unit on a single-family property. It must function as a complete, independent dwelling of its own, incorporating a bathroom and kitchen with all the necessary utilities built in. There are also certain building regulations and zoning restrictions, but ADUs can now provide extra housing options in El Cerrito.

    Recent legislative changes have shaken up the El Cerrito market for ADUs. These were implemented to address long-standing problems – here are some more specific bills that have changed the landscape:

    • AB 881: Designed to cover several areas relating to the construction ADUs, defining rules for heights and setbacks.
    • AB 68: The bill that permits more than one ADU on a single-family lot, and also lowers the lot size requirements for ADUs in El Cerrito.
    • SB 13: Specifically targets problematic ADU barriers like construction fees, parking regulations, and approval timeframes.

    If you are set on building an ADU as a homeowner in El Cerrito, ADU requirements must be carefully adhered to. Keep up-to-date on the latest regulatory changes to ensure you can proceed smoothly. Come to us if you need help with this.

    The El Cerrito ADU And Zoning Laws

    The new regulations have made it such that El Cerrito ADU requirements are shifting the goalposts on zoning laws. The first notable change is that you are now able to add 2 units to your lot (if you have enough space). Under AB 68, the City of El Cerrito is required to approve an ADU of up to 1,200 square feet or a JADU up to a maximum of 500 square feet. On a multi-family lot, up to 2 detached ADUs are permissible, along with multiple ADUs attached to the existing structure(s).

    The requirements relating to ADU size, setbacks, and lots have also been relaxed. Local authorities cannot impose a maximum size of less than:

    • 800 square feet
    • 16 feet in height

    The rear and side yard setback can now be as little as 4 feet. El Cerrito currently permits a maximum size of 1,200 square feet, but watch for updates that may increase this limit in future. If you intend to rent out your ADU as a condo in El Cerrito, we can offer expert advice to help make it happen.

    How To Build An ADU In El Cerrito Following All The Requirements

    The process for obtaining a permit has been simplified in the updated El Cerrito ADU requirements. Restrictions on size and zoning have been relaxed, and barriers like front setbacks and off street parking essentially removed, so it is now much easier to be compliant. Liaise with planning departments for full clarity on what is required of you and it should now be relatively straightforward to create a successful proposal. Once you submit your application, there is still a 60-day approval/denial window, but the City of El Cerrito must be more transparent about refusal reasons, including recommendations for success.

    Your budget is central to the entire process. There are fees to pay as you go about obtaining a permit, and your specific plans will determine the full cost of your project. We are seeing financial incentives for building ADUs in some regions, so keep an eye out for announcements on this from the El Cerrito authorities. There are also various financing options to explore if you don’t have the capital available, and we can help you find the options available to you. If you have the means to add an ADU on your lot, it could be a sound investment, particularly if you aim to rent or sell your ADU upon completion.

    construction of a home addition for el cerrito adu requirements

    Reduced Parking Requirements For ADUs

    Cities are no longer able to make off-street parking a pre-requisite for the approval of prefabricated ADU construction when locations are:

    • Within half a mile of public transportation
    • In a historic district
    • A key part of the main house or a pre-existing ancillary structure

    Parking restrictions have become a notorious barrier for securing ADU permits. The easing of these El Cerrito ADU requirements will make it far easier to create a compliant plan and obtain a permit for your ADU. We expect this to have a substantial impact on the housing market in El Cerrito, neighboring Richmond, and beyond. One of the major obstructions for people seeking ADU approval has now been removed.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What Are The Requirements To Build An ADU In El Cerrito?

    An ADU must be a secondary dwelling on an existing residential lot, and must function completely independent of the main residence. In El Cerrito, they can currently be up to 1,200 square feet with a minimum side/rear setback of 4 feet.

    What Are El Cerrito's Local Ordinances For ADU Requirements?

    The local ordinances are El Cerrito’s ADU requirements. They outline the comprehensive regulations that relate to planning, building, and using ADUs in the city. It is important for property owners and developers to have a strong understanding of these.

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