ADUs in the San Francisco Bay Area

You'll learn about:

  • How ADUs have transitioned from informal additions by individual property owners to effective local housing strategies

  • San Francisco Bay Area success stories (and challenges) of adopting ADU programs, and the role of state legislature in embracing this housing strategy

  • Different approaches to overcoming common concerns with ADUs and outstanding challenges Cities face to adopt these programs.

Accessory Dwelling Units—commonly known as “in-law units,” “granny flats,” or “backyard cottages”—are units added to existing residential buildings, often single-family homes. Once an informal approach property owners took to address the demand for housing after World War II, local jurisdictions have increasingly adopted ADUs into their local housing strategies in recent years. Suburban communities or single-family neighborhoods in major cities have historically rejected ADUs with many concerns. However, the looming housing crisis in major metropolitan areas, and especially in the San Francisco Bay area, has convinced even the most resistant communities to embrace ADUs as one solution to the ever-increasing housing demand.

Oakland and Berkeley have both recently provided flexibility in their ADU regulation, specifically around parking controls. In San Francisco, the recently established program imposes certain restrictions which guaranteed success in removing the political barriers against ADUs. In each jurisdiction, decision makers shaped the ADU programs differently to overcome unique controversies around ADUs. A new wave of property owners is approaching architects and contractors to build these units, and each city is employing a combination of marketing campaigns, flexible controls, and fee reductions to incentivize owners.  

Examine the successes and challenges of these local programs, the intersection of these plans, strategies to expand to other jurisdictions, and ways to incentivize property owners.