LA City Planning Loosens Restrictions on Building Secondary Units on R1 lots

March 1st, 2017

Angelenos can now collect some extra cash with a secondary unit or “granny flat”.  As of January 1st, applicants can apply for a permit to construct a secondary unit if the dwelling meets state standards as opposed to city law, which means homeowners can construct a 2nd unit on lots zoned R1 and even rent them out.

Secondary units, now called accessory dwelling units (ADUs), may provide an important housing option to both potential renters and homeowners.  They typically cost less than other types of housing, provide convenient housing for family members, help ease the rental housing deficit, maximize limited land resources and existing infrastructure, and provide homeowners with supplemental income.

Key Takeaways:


  1. They are not allowed in hillside areas.
  2. They are not allowed between the front of the primary residence and the street.
  3. Limited to only one per lot and limited in size to 50% of the primary residences square footage with a maximum of 1200 square feet.
  4. Allowed on any lot zoned for single-family or multifamily use that contains an existing single family dwelling.
  5. Detached accessory dwellings must abide by the setbacks of the local building code.
  6. No setbacks are required for an existing garage that is converted to an ADU.

Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1069 and AB 2299, known as the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) State law, effective January 1st, 2017.

Many affordable housing scholars have argued the development of even a small numbers of these units can have numerous positive benefits on an area’s housing market.

If these granny flats popped up on 10% of the single-family lots in L.A., that would make up roughly half of the 100,000 new units Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to create by 2021.

However, many of those against the loosening of these restrictions fear the character and scale of some residential neighborhoods may be negatively impacted and disrupted.  

Some residents fear shoehorning in more granny flats could do exactly that.  Neighborhood groups have pushed for the city to retain stricter rules on second units than California law would otherwise impose.

“Diana Nave, who chairs the planning committee for the Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council, said residents worried that a “free for all” for granny flats could worsen parking and traffic. “We spend all this time making sure we have housing that fits into the neighborhood — and they’re just going to wipe that all out,” Nave said.

Relying on the state standards has troubled some neighborhood groups, which want the city to impose its own stricter rules on granny flats to stop “out-of-scale” units. California prohibits cities from requiring a discretionary process to decide which granny flats are allowed — as the old L.A. ordinance did — but it still allows cities to set some local standards for their size and placement.” 

Current homeowners are afraid neighbors may build monstrosities and fear the landscape of their neighborhoods may change if a high density of ADUs are erected in their community.

It’s unclear at this point how many homeowners will elect to build new units.

Some fear the scale and character of their neighborhood may be negatively impacted and disrupted with the new change.

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Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez

Teles Properties CALBRE #: 01859103

About Me: Father, husband, realtor, hockey player and taco enthusiast

Goal: Providing my clients, friends, and colleagues with timely, intelligent and actionable advice.  I am always available to answer your questions.  Text, call or email 818-395-5517 |

Professionally Speaking: In my 6 years as a licensed sales agent, I have climbed the ranks of the LA residential sales industry, distinguishing myself both locally and nationally. I am closing in on sales upwards of 200 properties throughout the LA area and in a variety of neighborhoods with a wide range of property types. I have successfully sold complex Estates, land, income property, single family, luxury leases and condos. I have widely been recognized by both colleagues and clients as a respected professional whose reliability, dedication, and expertise is second to none.