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ACCESSORY DWELLING UNITS, Part 2: Decisions, Decisions

In part 1 we went over some of the initial considerations for those thinking about building an Accessory Dwelling Unit. In Part 2 we are going to go deeper into some of the choices you will need to make once you have decided to take the leap.


Depending on the layout of your property and your needs, you have some choices as to the type of ADU you build.

Junior ADU’s or JADU’s are created out of space already within your home. A JADU does not require its own bathroom but it does require its own separate outdoor entrance and a small cooking area including a sink.  An Attached ADU would be an addition that shares a wall with your main residence but is still required to have a distinct, separate entrance and would have its own bathroom.  If you have the space a Detached ADU is an entirely separate structure. You can also Repurpose Existing space, ie a garage or basement. A popular option is to add a second story to a free standing garage, thereby preserving parking and also not taking up additional yard space.

Speaking of parking, this is another accommodation you must factor in to your construction. There are many rules and exceptions to navigate in making sure you have the appropriate parking, check with



In choosing floorplan of your ADU you need to look at who will be using the space. If you are using it as a rental you would probably include a full kitchen rather than a smaller kitchenette.  If you have more limited space you can choose a studio layout that utilizes a murphy bed. If space allows there are floorplans that accommodate one or two full bedrooms.  Our publisher Tracy went with a 1BD/1BA layout that includes a full kitchen, living room, bedroom and bath with washer/dryer, all in 426 square feet.


The city of San Diego has always been a vacation destination, but with affordable housing in short supply, the recent changes to ADU laws have created an opportunity for renters and homeowners to capitalize on the shift in regulation.

More sectors than just the rental housing market are benefitting from the loosening of California’s ADU regulations. The increased demand for accessory dwelling units, has had a ripple effect on construction and small-home builders.  One such local business is Instant Guest Homes; they pivoted aspects of their offerings to meet the rising demand. We spoke with Instant Guest Home founder Michael Avery, a California Architect and Licensed Builder about the recent boom:

“We started before the new ADU laws were enacted. Back then it was called Medical Cottages. After the Red tape had been cleared for homeowners to build ADUs, our business boomed. We now have more than one type of client and are now serving families who stay together – both elderly loved-ones and younger family members who prefer to stay close to home.  We have a lot of clients looking to supplement their retirement or offset the cost of their home with rental income. There are also many investor-clients who see a fast and legal opportunity to turn one rental home, into two.”

Some San Diegans fear the looser regulations could result in loss of neighborhood personality, especially since HOAs, CC&Rs or neighborhood groups cannot prevent homeowners from building ADUs on single-family lots. To ease these concerns, cities like Encinitas provided numerous permit-ready plans with flexible material choices. Additionally, many builders offer semi-customizable units to blend with the character of the surrounding area.

“We allow our customers to modify their new homes with colors and finishes and even window and door placements. We have structural and roof options also,” states Michael, “Our goal is to allow anyone to design their own custom home.”

Custom options allow homeowners to protect the investment overall and ensure that their new ADU serves to increase their property value, not detract from it. This is one reason why choosing your contractor/builder is the most important step in this process.

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