Should a Long Beach ADU Be Designed by an Architect?

Let’s talk about accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. With the cost of rental units skyrocketing around the country—and especially in Southern California cities like Long Beach—it can make great financial sense to build an ADU on your property. In addition, the State of California recently made it a lot easier to do this kind of addition by reducing fees and eliminating certain regulations. Now, just about any homeowner in Long Beach can build an ADU on their property—even those with homes governed by an HOA.

What Qualifies as an ADU in Long Beach, California

Let’s start by outlining what is considered an ADU. According to the State of California, an ADU is “…an accessory dwelling unit with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons.” An ADU can be a free-standing unit on a residential property, or a unit that’s attached to the main residence. A junior accessory dwelling unit, or JADU, is a living space that is entirely contained within an existing single-family home.

An ADU needs to have the facilities that are necessary for independent living, such as a sleeping area, a bathroom, and a kitchen. In other words, you can’t build an office or a man cave in your backyard and call it an ADU.

Why Is the State of California Encouraging Homeowners to Build ADUs?

The State of California is well aware that there is an affordable housing crisis throughout the state. Rather than taking on more state-sponsored affordable housing projects, California decided to encourage individual homeowners to help increase the supply of housing units. California has all but eliminated any restrictions on building ADUs on residential properties and has prohibited local jurisdictions from implementing their own restrictions. In addition, they have set up a grant program that provides up to $40,000 to aid low- and moderate-income homeowners to help fund the pre-development costs associated with the building of an ADU.

Why You Should Use a Long Beach Architect to Design Your ADU

Any Long Beach homeowners looking to build an ADU on their property would be wise to think beyond the short term. Constructing an ADU will not just bring in monthly rental income—it will also increase the overall value of the property. A custom-designed ADU that complements the design of the main house will certainly bring more value to a property than a hastily constructed ADU kit that you purchase online. Yes, an ADU designed by a Long Beach architect will come with some additional upfront costs, but the end result will likely be worth it!

Mark Grisafe, owner of Grisafe Architecture in Long Beach, had this to say about ADUs: “In most jurisdictions, there are no rules stating that the ADU has to look like the main house. However, most of the clients we’ve worked with on these types of projects want the styles to match so the ADU looks like it was always a part of the property and not like an obvious add-on. As architects, when we design an ADU, we strive to pick out the details, finishes, and configurations in the existing home that are most appealing and use those to unify all of the buildings on the site.”

An architect can also help you make important design decisions based on who will likely be living in the unit. If it is being built to house elderly family members with mobility issues, an architect can help design the ADU with accessibility in mind. If the ADU will likely be rented out to strangers, there are other things to take into consideration, such as privacy for everyone on the property, as well as security.

If you qualify for an ADU grant, you can use that money to help pay for your architectural design fees, in addition to things like site prep, permits, and soil testing.

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