Accessory Dwelling Ordinance

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What is an ADU? | Benefits of an ADUContact

2019 Amendments

The City is preparing a series of proposed zoning amendments to address concerns around height and privacy of second-story accessory dwelling units (ADU) above detached garages in rear yard, and to explore ways to incentivize one-story ADUs. These concerns stemmed from recent changes in the ADU regulations due to state law requirements. These draft amendments were reviewed by the Planning Commission on  May 21, 2019 and June 18, 2019 and recommended to the City Council. On July 22, 2019, the City Council provided support for the following amendments:

Second Story ADUs and Privacy:

  • Reduce maximum heights for second-story ADUs above garages from 28 ft. to 20 ft. (or to allow compatible roof slope with the primary residence, as determined by the Zoning Administrator).
  • Limit portions of the ADU above garages to 576 square feet.
  • Prohibit all balconies and second-story decks on detached ADUs.
  • Prohibit roof decks above accessory structures to reduce privacy impacts.
  • Restrict exterior stairs facing immediately adjacent neighbors to reduce privacy impacts.
  • Require opaque or clerestory windows when facing immediately adjacent side and rear neighbors to reduce privacy impacts.

One-Story ADU Incentives:

  • Reduce single-story rear setbacks from 10 ft. to 6 ft.
  • Exempt ADUs from a 50% rear lot coverage requirement to increase buildable footprint in the rear yard.
  • Allow replacement of detached garages into ADUs to ensure new structures comply with setbacks and to prevent two-story structures in the rear yard.
  • Increase ADA compliant ADU maximum size from 800 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft. in order to incentivize construction.
  • Exempt one-story ADUs from the Hillside Ordinance to reduce further barriers to ADU construction.

On August 26, 2019, the City Council will hold their second reading and potential adoption of these amendments. Should the Council adopt the revised ordinance, the new regulations would be effective September 26, 2019.

2017 Amendments

In response to a new State Law, the City Council amended the Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance and made consistency changes to other sections of the code (Public Hearing of March 27, 2017). The new state law restricts what cities may require of new ADUs with the intent of further reducing barriers, streamlining approval, and expanding capacity to accommodate the development of ADUs.

The Cities ordinance:

  • Removes requirement for one additional parking space with ADUs
  • Allows conversion of the garage into an ADU with replacement parking spaces on the driveway
  • Increases base maximum size from 640 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft. and eliminates the limitation on number of bedrooms
  • Permits conversion of accessory structures into an ADU with setbacks required for fire safety
  • Allows one of the two required parking spaces for a single-family home to be uncovered and on the driveway
  • Eliminates the two-water fixture limitation for accessory buildings.


What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a smaller living unit on a property that has a single-family residence. It is complete with its own kitchen and bathroom facilities.  Common names for an ADU include in-law unit, secondary unit, and backyard cottage. ADUs are not allowed to be used exclusively as a short-term rental unit.

Benefits of an ADU

  • Extra living space for family or guests
  • Housing for aging parents, caregivers or adult children
  • Efficient use of existing infrastructure
  • Rental income

City Council Phased Approach to Preserve Affordability and Architecture Character of Redwood City Neighborhoods


Apollo Rojas
Associate Planner
(650) 780-7365

PC Notice 10.06.15