San Diego, California

Zip Codes: 92101, 92102, 92103, 92104, 92105, 92106, 92107, 92108, 92109, 92110, 92111, 92113, 92114, 92115, 92116, 92117, 92119, 92120, 92121, 92123, 92124, 92126, 92127, 92128, 92129, 92130, 92131, 92139, 92140, 92145, 92147

Neighborhoods: Black Mountain Ranch, Carlsbad, Carmel Valley, City Heights, Clairemont, College Grove, Encanto, Encinitas, Grantville, Hillcrest, Kearny Mesa, La Jolla, Linda Vista, Logan Heights, Mira Mesa, Mission Valley, Navajo, Normal Heights, North Park, Ocean Beach, Oceanside, Old Town, Pacific Beach, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Paradise Hills, Point Loma, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Sabre Springs, Scripps Ranch, Serra Mesa, Sorrento Valley, Tierrasanta, Torrey Hills, University City

Our quick take on San Diego: ADU-Friendly

San Diego Manufactured and ADU Homes has permitted or is in the process of permitting numerous projects within the City of San Diego. As such, we know the city’s regulations and processes very well. Turnaround times at the city are protracted right now, with the intake process alone taking 40+ days (as of April 2022). This process include a pre-screen and plan check fee component before plans will be reviewed. San Diego requires digital submissions which helps keep costs and permit turnaround times down. Also, some of San Diego is in the coastal zone and requires a Coastal Development Permit in those areas, which may add 9-12 months to the permitting process and a cost of $16,500 for the development permit.

San Diego Regulation & Permitting Requirements:


What size detached ADU can you build in San Diego?

San Diego allows for a detached ADU up to 1200 sqft. ADUs up to 800 square feet are exempt from lot coverage requirements. (Meaning: You can build an ADU of this size even if you’re maxed out on lot coverages).

What is the height requirement for an ADU in San Diego?

The height of a detached ADU can be at least 16′ per state regulations. You can actually build higher than that in San Diego, subject to the height maximums for the underlying zone. Max building height in San Diego for most residential properties is 24′ to 30′, with a few going up to 35′. (§131.0444 Angled Building Envelope Plane / Maximum Structure Height in Residential Zones)

Can you build a 2-story ADU in San Diego?

Two-story ADUs are allowed in San Diego, per the above info on height requirements. However, for ADUs located above a garage or other accessory building, the maximum height for flat-roofed structures is 21′ and the maximum structure height for sloped-roofed structures is 30′ (§141.0307 (f) Guest Quarters or Habitable Accessory Buildings). Also note that the City of San Diego requires all stairs to be a minimum of 5′ from the property line.

Does San Diego allow roof decks on ADUs?

Generally roof decks would be permitted, but must meet the height restrictions for the zone. Roof decks cannot encroach into the required setbacks. Generally railings & access staircases above 42″ are included in height calculations.

How big can an attached ADU be in San Diego?

The square footage of any attached ADU may not to exceed 50% of the primary dwelling square footage, or 1,200 sqft, whichever is less, but not less than 800 square feet.

What are the requirements of the exterior of the ADU?

The exterior roofing, trim, walls, windows and the color palette of the ADU shall incorporate the same features as the primary dwelling unit.

Can you build an ADU with an attached JADU?

The City of San Diego does allow you to have a junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU) attached to the ADU, though the JADU must be contained within an existing accessory structure. One example of what would be allowed is to construct a 1200 sqft ADU with a 500 sqft attached garage, then convert the garage to a JADU. We raised this scenario to the City of San Diego in April 2022 to an associate planner, who confirmed the code does seem to permit this, provided the detached accessory structure already exists and is permitted.


What is the setback requirement for an ADU in San Diego?

ADUs must comply with the front yard setbacks, with a 0′ side yard and rear setback. In other words, you can technically build all the way up to the property line.

However, an important note is that if you are closer than 5′ to the property line, building code requires that the structure must be fire-rated, which will increase your build cost by several thousand dollars. Also, we require a clearance of at least 4′ from existing structures on property lines to facilitate construction work (it is possible to build closer than that, but it’s more expensive since it requires more manual labor). So for these reasons, we recommend allowing more than a 5′ setback when possible. Leaving this buffer will also reduce your risk of being required to provide a survey to prove the location of your ADU is allowed.

Lastly, any staircases must be at least five feet from the property line in the City of San Diego.

What is the minimum distance the ADU must be from existing structures?

The minimum required distance between structures is not applicable, though fire codes will require special materials when closer than 10′.


Does San Diego require in-person submission of plans for an ADU?

No, San Diego allows digital submission of applications for an ADU.

Does San Diego require a soils report for an ADU?

No, San Diego does not mandate soils reports for ADUs.

Does San Diego require coastal development permits?

Yes, accessory dwelling units developed within the coastal zone are subject to a coastal development permit (CDP). This process will typically take 9-12 months (the coastal review happens before the building department will even look at the submission). The coastal development permit costs $16,500, plus roughly $3,500 for document preparation.


How many ADUs does San Diego allow for multifamily properties?

Two detached ADUs on multifamily lots, plus a potential bonus of additional units if restricted to low income housing.

Can you stack detached ADUs on top of each other?

Yes, you can stack ADUs on top of each other in San Diego. (Per City of San Diego Planning department consult Oct 2021)

Can you attach two ADUs to each other in San Diego?

Yes, you can attach two ADUs to each other in San Diego.

Can you convert existing space to an ADU?

Yes, existing non-livable space may be converted to ADUs (e.g. storage areas and garages). In the City of San Diego, there is no limit on the number of ADUs that can be created in this manner. These conversions are in addition to the allowed number of detached ADUs.


What is the parking requirement for an ADU in San Diego?

A parking space is not required for an ADU in any of the following instances:
o Within a one-half mile walking distance from public transit, which includes bus stops.
o Within an established historic district.
o Converted from the existing space of a primary residence or accessory structure, or are attached to an existing or proposed primary residence.

Where can a parking space be located?

If a parking space is required, it may be located within the setbacks and in an existing driveway as tandem parking. Parking spaces don’t need to be replaced when a garage, carport, or covered parking structure is demolished in conjunction with the construction of an ADU or converted to an ADU.


How much will an ADU rent for in San Diego?

Below are median rental prices by zip code and bedroom count. Be sure to run comps for your specific area or check with a realtor.

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