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  • Writer's pictureAEC Moreno Corp


Updated: Apr 21, 2021

You have begun to investigate about accessory Dwelling units, also known as ADUs, to know about the benefits and take advantage about your property and the free space that you have on it, it is vitally important that before you start any paperwork or construction, you know the problems to a poorly investigated, planned and executed ADU can cause.

We have talked about accessory Dwelling units before, their benefits and their requirements in previous publications, today we will focus on the most frequent problems in an ADU, it is essential that you know these problems to can damage your property, as well the residential area where you live.

The common problems with the property are the following:


The setbacks are simply the required space between a structure and your property boundaries. These zoning rules are in effect for your safety (against fire) and to allow adequate access of light and air between you and your neighbors.

In the R1 (single family home) zone in Los Angeles, the setbacks that matter most to an accessory dwelling unit are the side and backyard setbacks.

It's pretty simple really. In Los Angeles, an ADU can typically be placed within five feet of the side and rear property lines. However, there are other issues that can change these setbacks.

Power Lines

In Los Angeles area, it is very common to see “aesthetics” power lines running through backyards proving to be a problem when fitting an ADU.

Those unsightly power lines running through many backyards can cause major problems with ADU placement. If you have power lines running through your yard, you are likely lucky enough to have a utility easement in your yard. Many of the county or local offices have strict requirements on how close your new structure can be to these easements and high voltage power lines.

Existing Structures

Two existing structures in particular: the existing house and the detached garage. It really is quite simple. Due to the fire code, the accessory dwelling unit must be attached to the existing house / garage or be separated by 10 feet.

The simplest thing to do in cases where possible is to place 10 feet on the ADU and the existing home or detached garage.

The second is to "attach" the new ADU to the house or garage with a small roof structure, storage room or small air gap with waterproofing on the top and sides, meeting the requirements of the city / county.


Another frequent problem is people who hold firm to the traditional values ​​of a single-family home and are concerned that ADUs are the end of everything.

It is for these reasons that you also have to take the following into account:

  • Overcrowding and the end of single-family neighborhoods: Many people hear "increased housing density" and immediately panic as they imagine loud and bustling traffic threatening their quiet suburban environment. We can almost guarantee that ADUs will not lead to this. Yes, ADUs will increase housing density, but it's actually a good thing. The increased density of housing means that those who are building their ADUs will have to pay a little more in taxes. Those taxes will go towards improving your neighborhood schools, which we all agree is a great thing.

  • Parking Problems: One big complaint we hear is that garage conversion means more cars on the streets. If you've lived in California for more than six months, you've probably noticed that no one uses your car garage. In reality, there is no evidence that ADUs generate an increase in parking problems. ADUs are small houses that are generally intended to house only one or two people, not a large family. Chances are, an extra car on your street won't make a big difference.

  • Decrease in property values: UDAs actually increase the value of your property. Think about it. When it comes time to sell your home, you will have many interested buyers who would love to use the ADU for family, passive rental income, or just a nice little getaway.

  • Construction is loud and messy: If you have a large seasoned general contractor, you need to know how to keep noise and clutter to a minimum, how to set a construction schedule when neighbors are likely to be absent from work, and rent a fence to avoid that the debris reaches the lawn. You may still have a few grumpy neighbors on your hands, but as long as you have all your permits and follow the regulations, there is nothing they can do to stop your project.

  • Expensive to Build: Building any home will be expensive, but when you look at the return on investment, the numbers don't seem so scary anymore. One of our clients has already done the math and the numbers look great. Josh from Los Angeles is building a cozy 600 square foot freestanding one bedroom ADU in his backyard. The total cost of the project will be about $ 160,000. There is no need to be alarmed, since you can take advantage of it by renting this addition to your property generating a self-sufficient income and thus you will recover your investment to the point where you will have profits!

Finding the right place in your backyard for an ADU while working on mishaps, power lines, and existing structures can be a complex task. But with the right help it can be beneficial in the long run both financially and in real estate.

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