Grades

We reviewed the 201 ordinances received by California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by September 6, 2019. We evaluated the text of the ordinances submitted to HCD, and when information was missing from an ordinance (e.g., for data on fees), we searched the jurisdiction’s website. With some 540 jurisdictions expected to submit ordinances, this represents 37.2% of the state. In some cases, jurisdictions have modified their ordinances but failed to notify the state; we have evaluated an additional three ordinances in this category, for a total of 204. When jurisdictions fail to submit an ordinance, State law governs their ADU regulations. In these instances, we do not provide a grade.1

In order to “grade” the ordinances, we created a rubric to score the ADU regulations of each city or county. There are 16 equally weighted criteria. Some of these come from the legislation passed in 2016 or 2017, while others come from the 2019 reforms. Three of these offer opportunities to gain extra credit, which include Parking Requirements for ADUs, and Maximum Size for Attached and Detached ADUs.2 Each criterion is valued between 5-20 points, with the exception of Additional Layers of Entitlement or Review, for which jurisdictions may only receive negative points. Points within each grading criteria are cumulative. We added the scores for each of the criteria to get a final numerical score for each jurisdiction, which we then used to construct a curve and assign letter grades.

A good grade reflects a regulatory environment friendly to ADU construction. Jurisdictions with high scores do not impose excessive zoning and permitting barriers that could get in the way of ADU construction. A bad grade reflects a regulatory environment that places unnecessary and/or significant barriers in the way of homeowners constructing ADUs. Jurisdictions with low grades generally have burdensome regulatory requirements that restrict ADU construction despite the requirements of the state ADU ordinance.

 

1 Presumably, by following state standards, they deserve a good grade; but without the ordinance, we have insufficient evidence to assess their implementation.
2 Jurisdictions received extra credit for Parking Requirements for ADUs if they reduce parking barriers beyond what is required in CA ADU law. For example, not requiring parking for ADUs that are studios (with zero bedrooms) or allowing parking in tandem and/or setbacks. We also gave jurisdictions extra credit for Maximum Size for Attached and Detached ADUs if they did not include the language limiting the maximum size percent increase for either or both criteria. This is another indicator that the jurisdiction is reducing barriers to ADU development.
  • The mean and median ADU ordinance grade in California is a C+. Not Surprisingly, grades varied across the state.

  • California’s rural region did relatively well, with an average B- score among its jurisdictions.

  • There is a positive correlation between a jurisdiction’s grade and how many ADUs it permitted in 2018. Many of the bigger municipalities that have already amped up their ADU production got scores in the A- or B range. For example Los Angeles County, with an A-, permitted 706 ADUs in 2018, and San Francisco, with an A-, permitted 364.

  • Across California, jurisdictions tend to score points for allowing generous ADU sizes, as well as including detailed language such as about junior ADUs (JADUs).

  • Jurisdictions lost points for adding additional layers of review or entitlements, or charging extra fees ranging from impact fees for parks, to fees for utility connections, to permitting fees. In general, Northern Californian jurisdictions perform worst in terms of these onerous requirements.

  • Jurisdictions in the southern half of the state adopt a variety of other measures that may slow ADU production.
    • Inland Empire jurisdictions stand out for high minimum lot sizes, low height limits, challenging setback regulations, and arduous parking requirements.
    • Height limits are also problematic in Los Angeles County jurisdictions, and high minimum lot sizes are a barrier in neighboring Orange County jurisdictions as well.
    • Jurisdictions in the Capitol and San Diego regions do not do well in terms of height limits and parking requirements.
    • Many jurisdictions in the Central Valley and rural parts of the state have ordinances which are extremely vague, and others have overly strict setback regulations.
    • Almost all jurisdictions in the state have owner occupancy requirements of some kind.

These grades do not account for any ADU ordinances that were not submitted to HCD, or ordinances that were adopted after December of 2019. New grades reflecting more recent legislative updates are forthcoming.

Letter Grade Point
A 89 <
A- 75 to 89
B+ 60 to 74
B 45 to 59
B- 30 to 44
C+ 15 to 29
C 0 to 14
C- -15 to -1
D -40 to -16
F < -40
Criterion Definition Rationale
Lot Size Minimum Enforced minimum area of a lot which an ADU is built on Jurisdictions may use unreasonable lot size minimums as a way to prevent the construction of ADUs. Low minimum lot sizes also allow for more affordably sized units to be constructed for lower-income residents. Our rubric considers a low minimum lot size or no minimum lot size at all to be a positive factor influencing the accessibility of accessory dwelling units particularly to lower income residents.
Lot Coverage and Floor Area Ratio (FAR) Requirements How ADUs must comply with the maximum lot coverage and/or FAR requirements for the underlying parcel Jurisdictions that include ADUs in the lot coverage and/or FAR for the underlying parcel may limit the size and overall ability to construct an ADU.
Parking Requirements for ADU Number and configuration of required parking spaces Lack of accessible parking to fulfill requirements can serve as a major deterrent to a resident who wishes to construct an ADU. Jurisdictions are eligible to receive bonus points for this criteria if they grant any additional parking exemptions (i.e., allow parking in tandem or setback areas), on top of the five standard parking exemptions included in the CA code.
Parking Requirements for Main House Replacement parking for the primary unit if a garage or parking structure is converted into or demolished in conjunction with the construction of an ADU. Lack of accessible parking to fulfill requirements can serve as a major deterrent to a resident who wishes to construct an ADU. Many residents who convert their garage or parking structure into an ADU do so because of a lack of space for the construction of a new structure, meaning that they lack extra room on their residential parcel to be used for off-street parking requirements.
Setback Requirements: Conversion Setback rules for a garage or parking structure which is converted into an ADU California ordinance AB 494 requires that ordinances do not contain any setback requirements for a garage or parking structure which is converted into an ADU. By requiring setbacks, jurisdictions are restricting the accessibility of ADU construction for homeowners with existing garages close to the lot line.
Setback Requirements: New ADU Setback rules for an ADU which is a newly constructed structure and not the product of the conversion of a previous structure. By law, homeowners may construct an ADU within the setback of the primary unit and by requiring extra setbacks for new ADUs or by requiring new ADUs to conform to district requirements, jurisdictions are restricting the accessibility of ADU construction for residents who are unable to comply.
Maximum Size - Detached & Attached Maximum floor area (in square feet) of the ADU allowed by the ordinance. Jurisdictions may limit resident’s access to building permits by requiring an unreasonably low maximum size for the ADU. Jurisdictions are eligible to receive bonus points for this criteria if they do not include ordinance language limiting maximum size percent increase.
Height Limit Maximum height (in feet) of the ADU stated in the ordinance. Jurisdictions may minimize residents’ ability to construct an ADU by providing unreasonably strict height limits. We issued a grade based on the larger height limit in the event that more than one height limit was stated in an ordinance (i.e., one height limit for detached, and another for attached ADUs).
Multiple ADUs and Multi-Family Zoning Districts Zoning districts within which ADU construction is allowed (single-family or multiple-family) Limiting the allowable zoning districts for ADUs prevents some homeowners from building ADUs. This criteria also refers to whether or not the ordinance allows for the construction of ADUs on multi-family zoned parcels or if it only allows for the construction of ADUs on single-family zoned parcels.
Review Timeframe Number of days that may pass after an ADU application is submitted before the application is ministerially approved California ordinances SB 229 and AB 494 require that ADU applications be ministerially approved; by delaying the process of ministerial approval, jurisdiction make it more difficult for a homeowner to obtain permits and begin construction.
Additional Layers of Entitlement or Review Additional permit and approval requirements for ADUs, such as design review or deed restrictions These may include design review, recordation of deed restriction, conditional use permits (for height, size, lot coverage, etc), approval of adequate water / sewer infrastructure, and more. These additional layers may incur more time and costs, which may inhibit the homeowner’s ability to build an ADU. Jurisdictions only receive negative points for this criterion.
Fees Common fees associated with unit construction including building permit or application fee, utility fees, connection or capacity charges, park fees, affordable housing fees, and school fees. This criteria considers not only common fees but also reduction or waiver of planning or impact fees. Fees may act as a major deterrent to residents, especially low-income residents, who wish to construct an ADU.
JADU / Efficiency Units Contents of ordinance language and rules regarding junior accessory dwelling units and efficiency units JADUs and efficiency units are a very accessible option for residents who do not have the resources to construct a detached accessory dwelling unit and by restricting them or omitting them entirely, jurisdictions may prevent their construction.
Owner Occupancy Requirement Requirements for the owner of the ADU and primary dwelling unit to live in either the accessory dwelling unit or the primary dwelling unit. Jurisdiction may restrict access to ADU construction through strict requirements regarding owner occupancy, which then hinder financial viability for homeowners who need the rental income, or have constraints that prohibit them from living on-site.
Clarity of Program or Ordinance Including all key code and procedural information in the ADU ordinance or clearly elsewhere in the municipal code or handouts online Ordinances must provide information in a user-friendly format and make it publicly accessible to homeowners.
JurisdictionGradeNumber of ADUs Permitted in 2018Year Ordinance Adopted/Amended
ADELANTO----
AGOURA HILLSB+62018
ALAMEDAB02018
ALAMEDA COUNTYC+202017
ALBANY--39-
ALHAMBRAD272018
ALISO VIEJOB-02017
ALPINE COUNTY--1-
ALTURAS--0-
AMADOR----
AMADOR COUNTY--0-
AMERICAN CANYON--3-
ANAHEIMC-152017
ANDERSON--0-
ANGELS CAMP--1-
ANTIOCHB-42019
APPLE VALLEYC+02019
ARCADIAC+162017
ARCATA--18-
ARROYO GRANDEC+262018
ARTESIAC-02018
ARVIN--0-
ATASCADERO--11-
ATHERTON--13-
ATWATER--0-
AUBURN--1-
AVALON--0-
AVENAL--1-
AZUSAB-122017
BAKERSFIELD--0-
BALDWIN PARK--13-
BANNING--0-
BARSTOWC02018
BEAUMONTC-2017
BELL----
BELL GARDENS----
BELLFLOWERC-02018
BELMONTB+112017
BELVEDERE--0-
BENICIAB32019
BERKELEYB-1372018
BEVERLY HILLSC+02017
BIG BEAR LAKEB-32019
BIGGS--0-
BISHOP--1-
BLUE LAKE----
BLYTHE----
BRADBURY----
BRAWLEY--0-
BREA--0-
BRENTWOOD--7-
BRISBANEB-82018
BUELLTON--0-
BUENA PARKC-82018
BURBANKB-832018
BURLINGAMEC-102018
BUTTE COUNTY--15-
CALABASASC+72019
CALAVERAS COUNTYB-02018
CALEXICOB-02018
CALIFORNIA CITY----
CALIMESA--1-
CALIPATRIA----
CALISTOGAB62017
CAMARILLO--9-
CAMPBELLC82016
CANYON LAKE--0-
CAPITOLA--3-
CARLSBADB-692017
CARMEL----
CARPINTERIA--0-
CARSON--0-
CATHEDRAL--2-
CERES--2-
CERRITOS--0-
CHICOC72018
CHINOC-02017
CHINO HILLSD02017
CHOWCHILLAC+02018
CHULA VISTAC162018
CITRUS HEIGHTSB+62017
CLAREMONT--4-
CLAYTON--0-
CLEARLAKE--0-
CLOVERDALE--8-
CLOVIS--9-
COACHELLA--0-
COALINGA--0-
COLFAX--0-
COLMAC+02017
COLTONC+42019
COLUSA----
COLUSA COUNTY--2-
COMMERCE----
COMPTON--6-
CONCORDB352017
CONTRA COSTA COUNTYD942017
CORCORAN----
CORNING--0-
CORONAB32019
CORONADOD132018
CORTE MADERAB-122017
COSTA MESAD62018
COTATI--2-
COVINA--1-
CRESCENT CITY----
CUDAHY----
CULVER CITYD542018
CUPERTINO--15-
CYPRESS----
DALY CITY--130-
DANA POINT--6-
DANVILLE--39-
DAVISB-252019
DEL MAR--3-
DEL NORTE COUNTY--3-
DEL REY OAKS--0-
DELANO--0-
DESERT HOT SPRINGS--0-
DIAMOND BAR--12-
DINUBA--0-
DIXON--0-
DORRIS--0-
DOS PALOS----
DOWNEYC+32018
DUARTED72017
DUBLIN--30-
DUNSMUIR--0-
EAST PALO ALTOC72017
EASTVALE--0-
EL CAJONC202019
EL CENTRO--18-
EL CERRITO--16-
EL DORADO COUNTY--24-
EL MONTE--6-
EL SEGUNDOB52017
ELK GROVE--0-
EMERYVILLEC+02017
ENCINITASB+552019
ESCALON--0-
ESCONDIDOC242017
ETNA--0-
EUREKAA-142019
EXETER--0-
FAIRFAXB122017
FAIRFIELDC+52018
FARMERSVILLE--0-
FERNDALE----
FILLMORE----
FIREBAUGH--0-
FOLSOMC-152017
FONTANA--18-
FORT BRAGG--5-
FORT JONES----
FORTUNA--3-
FOSTER CITYC-12018
FOUNTAIN VALLEYB-192017
FOWLER----
FREMONTC432017
FRESNO--9-
FRESNO COUNTY--1-
FULLERTONC+192017
GALT--0-
GARDEN GROVEC-2017
GARDENAB-122017
GILROYC02018
GLENDALEC682018
GLENDORAC+82017
GLENN COUNTYC+-2017
GOLETAC+02018
GONZALES--0-
GRAND TERRACEC02017
GRASS VALLEY--0-
GREENFIELD--1-
GRIDLEY--0-
GROVER BEACH--5-
GUADALUPEC22019
GUSTINE----
HALF MOON BAY--12-
HANFORD--0-
HAWAIIAN GARDENS--0-
HAWTHORNE--14-
HAYWARDC+52017
HEALDSBURGA-182017
HEMETC+02018
HERCULESC12019
HERMOSA BEACHC+32018
HESPERIA----
HIDDEN HILLS--1-
HIGHLAND--2-
HILLSBOROUGHB+292019
HOLLISTER--0-
HOLTVILLE----
HUGHSON--0-
HUMBOLDT COUNTY--12-
HUNTINGTON BEACH----
HUNTINGTON PARK----
HURON--0-
IMPERIAL--0-
IMPERIAL BEACH--4-
IMPERIAL COUNTY----
INDIAN WELLS--0-
INDIOC02017
INDUSTRY--0-
INGLEWOOD----
INYO COUNTY----
IONE--0-
IRVINEC+12018
IRWINDALE--0-
ISLETON--0-
JACKSON--2-
JURUPA VALLEYB-72018
KERMAN--1-
KERN COUNTYD02017
KING CITY--3-
KINGS COUNTY--0-
KINGSBURG----
LA CANADA FLINTRIDGEC52017
LA HABRA--5-
LA HABRA HEIGHTS--0-
LA MESAA-242019
LA MIRADA----
LA PALMA--0-
LA PUENTE----
LA QUINTAC+02019
LA VERNE--3-
LAFAYETTEB-112016
LAGUNA BEACH--13-
LAGUNA HILLSC+02019
LAGUNA NIGUEL--1-
LAGUNA WOODS--0-
LAKE COUNTY--6-
LAKE ELSINORE--0-
LAKE FORESTC+22017
LAKEPORT--0-
LAKEWOOD--16-
LANCASTER--1-
LARKSPUR--2-
LASSEN COUNTY----
LATHROP--0-
LAWNDALE--9-
LEMON GROVE--12-
LEMOORE--0-
LINCOLN--3-
LINDSAY--0-
LIVE OAK--0-
LIVERMOREC+432018
LIVINGSTON--0-
LODI--0-
LOMA LINDA--4-
LOMITAB+132018
LOMPOC--2-
LONG BEACHC+592018
LOOMIS--0-
LOS ALAMITOSC+-2017
LOS ALTOSB322019
LOS ALTOS HILLS--21-
LOS ANGELESA-50492018
LOS ANGELES COUNTYB+7062019
LOS BANOS--0-
LOS GATOSA-452018
LOYALTON----
LYNWOOD--0-
MADERA--0-
MADERA COUNTY--0-
MALIBU--6-
MAMMOTH LAKESC+12017
MANHATTAN BEACH--0-
MANTECA--0-
MARICOPA--0-
MARIN COUNTY--10-
MARINA--16-
MARIPOSA COUNTY--4-
MARTINEZ--3-
MARYSVILLE--0-
MAYWOOD----
MCFARLAND----
MENDOCINO COUNTYB-02018
MENDOTA----
MENIFEE--0-
MENLO PARKC-272017
MERCED--0-
MERCED COUNTYC-42017
MILL VALLEYC+292017
MILLBRAE--1-
MILPITAS--1-
MISSION VIEJO--0-
MODESTO--2-
MODOC COUNTY----
MONO COUNTY--3-
MONROVIAC-102017
MONTAGUE--0-
MONTCLAIR--1-
MONTE SERENOC-122019
MONTEBELLO----
MONTEREY--13-
MONTEREY COUNTY--20-
MONTEREY PARK----
MOORPARKC42019
MORAGAC+12018
MORENO VALLEY--1-
MORGAN HILLC-2018
MORRO BAY--8-
MOUNT SHASTA--1-
MOUNTAIN VIEW--11-
MURRIETA--0-
NAPAB-452017
NAPA COUNTY--16-
NATIONAL CITY--0-
NEEDLESB02019
NEVADA CITY--1-
NEVADA COUNTYC+192019
NEWARK--0-
NEWMAN----
NEWPORT BEACHC32019
NORCO----
NORWALKC+12018
NOVATOB112018
OAKDALE--0-
OAKLANDB+4052018
OAKLEYC02019
OCEANSIDEB442018
OJAIB242017
ONTARIO--0-
ORANGE--15-
ORANGE COUNTY--17-
ORANGE COVE--0-
ORINDAC82018
ORLAND--0-
OROVILLE--0-
OXNARDC+252016
PACIFIC GROVE--7-
PACIFICAC+102019
PALM DESERT--0-
PALM SPRINGSB--2019
PALMDALE--0-
PALO ALTOC+362019
PALOS VERDES ESTATES--1-
PARADISE----
PARAMOUNTF02018
PARLIER----
PASADENAC-142017
PASO ROBLES--15-
PATTERSON----
PERRIS--0-
PETALUMA--30-
PICO RIVERA----
PIEDMONTB232017
PINOLED42017
PISMO BEACH--4-
PITTSBURG--0-
PLACENTIA--2-
PLACER COUNTYC+482017
PLACERVILLEC42017
PLEASANT HILL--9-
PLEASANTONC+142017
PLUMAS COUNTY--2-
PLYMOUTH--0-
POINT ARENA--0-
POMONA--19-
PORT HUENEMED22019
PORTERVILLE--6-
PORTOLA----
PORTOLA VALLEYC+142019
POWAYD12018
RANCHO CORDOVA--0-
RANCHO CUCAMONGA--5-
RANCHO MIRAGEC-02019
RANCHO PALOS VERDES--2-
RANCHO ST. MARGARITA--0-
RED BLUFFC02018
REDDINGC+02017
REDLANDS----
REDONDO BEACH--16-
REDWOOD CITY--52-
REEDLEYB-12019
RIALTO----
RICHMOND--1-
RIDGECREST----
RIO DELL--0-
RIO VISTA--0-
RIPON----
RIVERBANK--0-
RIVERSIDEC+22019
RIVERSIDE COUNTY--51-
ROCKLIN--1-
ROHNERT PARKB32017
ROLLING HILLSC+-2018
ROLLING HILLS ESTATES--0-
ROSEMEADB-1062018
ROSEVILLEC+62018
ROSS--1-
SACRAMENTOB-1282019
SACRAMENTO COUNTY B-382018
SAINT HELENAA-112017
SALINASB-92016
SAN ANSELMOB-172017
SAN BENITO COUNTY--8-
SAN BERNARDINO----
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTYC+52018
SAN BRUNOC182017
SAN BUENAVENTURAC-12017
SAN CARLOS--19-
SAN CLEMENTE--13-
SAN DIEGOB2152017
SAN DIEGO COUNTY--110-
SAN DIMASD22016
SAN FERNANDOD962017
SAN FRANCISCOA-3642019
SAN GABRIELC+302018
SAN JACINTO--1-
SAN JOAQUIN--0-
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY--59-
SAN JOSEB2472018
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA--0-
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO--2-
SAN LEANDROC+42017
SAN LUIS OBISPOB542017
SAN LUIS OBISPO CO.--28-
SAN MARCOS--4-
SAN MARINOC-52017
SAN MATEOC372018
SAN MATEO COUNTYB372018
SAN PABLOC-52017
SAN RAFAEL--76-
SAN RAMONB112018
SAND CITYC+12017
SANGER--0-
SANTA ANAC+422018
SANTA BARBARAB-1862018
SANTA BARBARA COUNTYB-952018
SANTA CLARA--76-
SANTA CLARA COUNTYC-252017
SANTA CLARITA--50-
SANTA CRUZD392019
SANTA CRUZ COUNTYC862018
SANTA FE SPRINGSC+52017
SANTA MARIA--30-
SANTA MONICA--21-
SANTA PAULA--0-
SANTA ROSAB892018
SANTEEC+12017
SARATOGAD162018
SAUSALITOC+72017
SCOTTS VALLEY--3-
SEAL BEACH--0-
SEASIDE--2-
SEBASTOPOLA-162018
SELMA----
SHAFTER----
SHASTA COUNTYC-202017
SHASTA LAKE--0-
SIERRA COUNTY----
SIERRA MADREC62016
SIGNAL HILL--4-
SIMI VALLEYC+552018
SISKIYOU COUNTY----
SOLANA BEACHD52016
SOLANO COUNTYF172018
SOLEDAD--0-
SOLVANG--3-
SONOMAB-72017
SONOMA COUNTY--142-
SONORA--0-
SOUTH EL MONTE--6-
SOUTH GATEC-252019
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE--0-
SOUTH PASADENAD42016
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCOB-122019
STANISLAUS COUNTY--4-
STANTON--12-
STOCKTON--4-
SUISUN CITY--1-
SUNNYVALEC+582018
SUSANVILLE----
SUTTER COUNTY--4-
SUTTER CREEK--0-
TAFT--0-
TEHACHAPI--1-
TEHAMA--0-
TEHAMA COUNTY--0-
TEMECULAC32017
TEMPLE CITYC+152019
THOUSAND OAKSC-202017
TIBURONC+52017
TORRANCEC32017
TRACY--7-
TRINIDAD----
TRINITY COUNTY--0-
TRUCKEE--9-
TULARE--0-
TULARE COUNTY--1-
TULELAKE--0-
TUOLUMNE COUNTY--0-
TURLOCK--6-
TUSTIND-2017
TWENTYNINE PALMS--0-
UKIAHC+82017
UNION CITY--9-
UPLAND--0-
VACAVILLEC92018
VALLEJOB382018
VENTURA COUNTYB-632018
VERNON--0-
VICTORVILLE--3-
VILLA PARKC-32018
VISALIA--2-
VISTAC-02017
WALNUT--19-
WALNUT CREEKC+-2017
WASCO--1-
WATERFORD--0-
WATSONVILLE--5-
WEED--0-
WEST COVINAD02018
WEST HOLLYWOODB122018
WEST SACRAMENTO--0-
WESTLAKE VILLAGE--0-
WESTMINSTERC+982018
WESTMORLAND--0-
WHEATLAND----
WHITTIERC-252018
WILDOMAR--0-
WILLIAMS----
WILLITSA-12018
WILLOWS--0-
WINDSORA-92018
WINTERSC02018
WOODLAKE--0-
WOODLAND--1-
WOODSIDEB+272017
YOLO COUNTY--3-
YORBA LINDAC-172017
YOUNTVILLEB-42018
YREKA--0-
YUBA CITY--0-
YUBA COUNTY--9-
YUCAIPA--7-
YUCCA VALLEY--0-