• Meghan Turner-Patel

ADU Los Angeles: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan 12

Add valuable living space to your property with an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

a dining room addition decorated for the holidays

California is currently in the middle of an ADU movement, and the city of Los Angeles is at the forefront. The number of ADU permits issued has skyrocketed in recent years, jumping from 97 in 2015 to 6,747 in 2019. So, what’s the craze about? Not only are ADUs helping combat the state’s housing crisis, but also ADUs also add incredible home value and necessary square footage.


Now, you may be wondering: What exactly is an ADU, and what can it do for me? We have the answer.


What is an ADU?

ADU stands for “accessory dwelling unit” and goes by nicknames such as granny flat, in-law unit, backyard cottage, secondary unit or mother-in-law suite. This type of structure functions as a standalone home with a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. It can be either detached or attached to the main single-family home on the property. Depending on the property and its structures, an ADU can be built from the ground up or through a garage conversion.

Why Build an ADU in Los Angeles?

There are many benefits to building an ADU in Los Angeles. Because the cost of homes and land in the LA area is quite expensive, many people choose to create more space on the property they already own. ADUs have become a more affordable (and less stressful) alternative to selling a home and moving.


Likewise, not only is this structure affordable, but also it provides additional living spaces outside of the existing home. This creates greater flexibility for both the homeowners and their guests. In-laws or elderly family members could move into the ADU, enabling family members to be close to one another while maintaining privacy. ADUs can also act as an additional form of income for homeowners who rent out the space, whether as a vacation property or long-term living space.


Several of the most popular ways to utilize an ADU in Los Angeles include:

  • Guest House

  • Man Cave

  • She Shed

  • Office

  • Gym

  • Pool house

  • Vacation Rental

  • Long-Term Rental

How to Build an ADU

The state of California has passed multiple laws to facilitate the building of ADUs. In 2017, a state law took effect, giving cities more flexibility in approving ADU builds. In 2018 and 2019, additional legislation was passed to promote the development of ADUs.


To build an accessory dwelling unit in Los Angeles, there are several criteria your property must meet. First, you must own a single-family home. Next, consider the amount of backyard or garage space available. Los Angeles County does not dictate a minimum lot size requirement. However, you need to have a large enough area to build the structure. The main consideration here? An ADU cannot exceed 50% of the square footage of the main house. For more information, review this one-sheet on ADU development standards.


Then, ensure there is enough space for an additional parking spot—but only if your home is more than a half-mile from public transit. Once you’ve determined your eligibility, you can enlist a professional like South Land Remodeling to draw your ADU designs and blueprints. After, apply for an ADU permit with your local government or the Department of Regional Planning in the city of Los Angeles. Finally, the department will review the plan and determine if it is approved. If approved, ADU construction can begin!


*South Land Remodeling actually manages the permit process for our ADU Los Angeles clients, along with the design and construction.

The Cost to Build an ADU

Los Angeles homeowners can expect to pay between $100,000-$150,000 to convert a garage into an ADU. California residents are allowed up to 1,200 square feet for a new structure built from the ground up, which runs approximately $400 per square foot. However, the final cost of building an ADU is determined by several factors including:

  • Garage Size

  • Garage Age

  • Existing Structural Integrity

  • Garage Features & Amenities

  • Backyard Size

  • Budget

  • Preferred Design & Size

  • Architecture Costs

  • Construction Costs

  • Permit Costs

  • Finishes

How to Save Time Building an ADU

Los Angeles residents can save time when building an ADU by utilizing one of the city’s pre-approved ADU plans. The ADU Standard Plan Program provides 28 housing units from which to choose, each of which guarantees an expedited permit process.

Finding the Right ADU Contractor

Although you may be itching to get started on your ADU, it’s important you take the time to choose the right contractor for your location, budget and needs. To find the right ADU contractor, take these six steps:

  1. Check the ADU Contractors’ Reviews & References

  2. Ensure They Are Licensed & Insured

  3. Contact at Least Three Contractors

  4. Compare Costs, Expertise and Customer Service

  5. Thoroughly Read the Contracts and Proposals

  6. Choose the Contractor with the Best Value, Reviews, References & Project Examples



Looking for a Los Angeles ADU contractor who can convert your garage or build a custom mother-in-law suite? We can help! Contact us today for a free estimate. Plus, take a look at one of our recent ADU projects.


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