ADU Regulations

San Diego

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10 min read

For a successful ADU project in San Diego, homeowners must be familiar with the local ADU rules.


Understanding local Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations in San Diego is crucial for homeowners looking to expand their living space or tap into the potential of rental income. This overview emphasizes the importance of aligning your ADU project with legal standards to optimize property use and contribute positively to the city’s housing supply.

Essential ADU Rules for San Diego

What you can build

  • Maximum Sizes

    ADUs are capped at 1,200 square feet, including specific cases under Senate Bill 9.
  • Setbacks

    Minimum of 4 feet setback from both the side and rear property lines.
  • Two-Story

    Allowed, but must adhere to local height regulations.
  • Building Separation

    Minimum 6-foot separation between detached ADUs and primary residence.

Permitting timeline

  • Permitting Timeframe

    4-6 months.
  • Coastal

    Required for ADUs in coastal zones.

San Diego ADU Regulations

San Diego’s ADU regulations aim to expand housing options while maintaining neighborhood integrity. These regulations encompass zoning laws permitting ADUs in most residential areas with density restrictions. Additionally, ADUs must adhere to established design criteria to blend seamlessly with existing architectural styles and neighborhood ambiance. Moreover, compliance with the California Building Code, along with local amendments ensuring structural integrity, energy efficiency, and safety, is mandatory. These measures collectively promote responsible and harmonious ADU development within the city.

San Diego ADU Permitting

The ADU permitting process in San Diego involves several steps:

  • Preliminary Review

Understanding zoning requirements and potential site constraints.

  • Design and Planning

Preparing detailed plans that meet both local and state regulations.

  • Document Submission

Submitting application packets, including plans, site surveys, and other required documentation.

  • Review and Approval

The city reviews the submission, may request revisions, and ultimately issues permits if all criteria are met.

  • Inspection and Completion

Following construction, inspections verify compliance with approved plans and building codes, leading to final approval and issuing a Certificate of Occupancy.

Our approach at Better Place Remodeling involves sticking to Rancho Santa Fe’s guidelines and keeping conversations clear with local officials, leading your ADU project to a smooth completion, and turning your dream into reality.

ADU Local Zoning in San Diego

Yes, San Diego permits the construction of two-story Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), adhering to specific height and setback regulations to ensure they integrate well with the surrounding neighborhood.

No, San Diego does not impose a minimum lot size requirement for the construction of ADUs. This policy facilitates the development of ADUs across a wide range of property sizes, promoting housing diversity.

ADUs in San Diego can be situated as attached to the primary residence, as detached units, or by converting existing space within the residence. The exact placement is governed by local zoning laws, which dictate setbacks, height, and other locational criteria.

No, regulations in San Diego stipulate that each ADU must function as an independent unit. Therefore, two ADUs cannot be structurally attached to each other.

Multifamily properties in San Diego are permitted to add up to two detached ADUs, along with the opportunity to convert non-livable spaces such as garages or storage areas into additional ADUs, subject to specific guidelines and conditions.

No, San Diego’s regulations prohibit stacking detached ADUs on top of one another to maintain structural independence and adhere to zoning guidelines.

Finalizing Your ADU in San Diego

The ADU development process in San Diego includes crucial steps regarding submission, parking design, utility connections, and usage parameters. Effective incorporation involves understanding logistics like parking arrangements—often exempt if close to transit—and connecting utilities, which may be shared with the primary residence. Ensuring compliance with local standards for addressing utility services and adhering to minimum rental periods enhances the ADU’s value and functionality for rental or personal use.

San Diego ADU Building Codes

The size of detached ADUs in San Diego is capped at 1,200 square feet. This limit is part of the city’s effort to balance the integration of ADUs within residential neighborhoods while providing ample living space.

The height requirements for ADUs in San Diego generally allow for a maximum of 30 feet for units with sloped roofs, particularly applicable to two-story ADUs. These limits ensure compatibility with existing neighborhood scales and residential character.

Yes, San Diego allows for the construction of roof decks on ADUs, subject to adherence to specific regulations that may include restrictions based on the ADU’s location and the surrounding zoning characteristics.

ADUs in San Diego must meet building codes that include landscape requirements and design compatibility with the primary residence. These standards are intended to ensure that ADUs contribute positively to the aesthetic and functional quality of residential areas.

San Diego mandates minimal setback requirements for ADUs up to 16 feet in height. For taller units, specific setbacks must be observed, reflecting the city’s zoning laws to maintain neighborhood integrity and privacy.

While a soils report is generally not mandatory for ADU construction in San Diego, certain conditions or local amendments to the building code might necessitate such an analysis to ensure ground stability and structural safety.

Calculate Your ADU Cost in San Diego

Using the tool below, you will be able to calculate your investment based on the type and size of the ADU you are interested in building on your property.

Attached ADU


Estimated Cost


*The costs we are calculating here are an average for time and materials. This calculator is meant to provide an estimate to educate you on the ADU building process, please note that this is not a final quote.

Detached ADU


Estimated Cost


*The costs we are calculating here are an average for time and materials. This calculator is meant to provide an estimate to educate you on the ADU building process, please note that this is not a final quote.

Garage ADU


Estimated Cost


*The costs we are calculating here are an average for time and materials. This calculator is meant to provide an estimate to educate you on the ADU building process, please note that this is not a final quote.
Plan your project


At Better Place Remodeling, we take the complexity out of ADU regulations in San Diego, so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff. With our expertise and one-stop-shop approach, we ensure that permits and inspections are entirely managed, leaving you stress-free. If you’re searching for the best ADU builders in San Diego, look no further. We’re here to guide you through every step, from navigating local zoning laws and building codes to handling the entire permitting process. We aim to make your ADU project compliant and a valuable addition to your property, enhancing living space and opening up new rental income avenues while contributing positively to the community’s housing solutions. Let us take care of the details so you can focus on your new ADU’s benefits.


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