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Making way for granny flats
Manteca mum about optional junior accessory dwelling units
A granny flat built in Southern California. - photo by Photo Contributed

Your backyard could hold the key to you keeping your home, generating extra income, or allowing you to retire with more financial security while helping ease the growing housing shortage.

The Manteca City Council last month blessed proposed staff modifications to municipal rules to comply with state law changes passed last year that reduces the fee costs of building an accessory dwelling units (ADU) that many dub granny flats on their property.

But what staff didn’t bring up for the council’s consideration was another state law that also went into effect in January 2017 that allows local governments the flexibility of permitting junior accessory dwelling units (JADU). Under state law a JADU cannot exceed 500 square feet and must be contained completely within the space of an existing residential structure. For all practical purposes it involves garage conversions that meet code and have their own separate entrance.

In a way, they are not much different than floor plans some new subdivisions offer in Manteca such as Lafferty Homes at Oakwood Shoes and Atherton Homes where there is a first-floor area dubbed “casitas” or in-law quarters that has its own master suite and separate living area including mini kitchens that have a separate exterior entrance and even sometimes their own private courtyard. In most of the new homes, however, there is an interior door that allows access between the casita and main part of the house. Some buyers have used the casita as rentals for non-family members to help with the mortgage.

Should cities opt to allow junior ADUs the state law requires the following components:

uLimit to one junior ADU per residential lot zoned single family residence.

uThe single family home that has the junior ADU created in it must be owner occupied or the owner live in the junior ADU and rent out the main home.

uThe owner must record a deed restriction stating that the junior ADU cannot be sold separately from the single family home.

uThe junior ADU must be located entirely within an existing structure and have its own separate entrance.

uThe junior ADU must include an efficiency kitchen which includes a sink, cooking appliance, counter surface, and storage cabinets that meet minimum building code standards. No gas or 220 volt circuits are allowed.

uThe junior ADU may share a bath with the primary residence or have its own bath.

State law prohibits a local junior ADU ordinance from requiring additional parking as a condition for granting a permit for additional water, sewer, and power connection fees as those utilities have already been accounted for in the original permit for the home.

The rules for free-standing ADUs that Manteca and other California cities have no choice but to allow state:

uFire sprinklers shall not be required in the accessory unit if they are not required in the primary residence.

uThe unit can be rented but not sold.

uIt can be attached to an existing home, be contained within an existing home through a remodel or be built separately.

uThe floor space of the ADU cannot exceed 1,200 square feet.

uNo passageway can be required.

uNo setback can be required from an existing detached garage that is converted to an ADU.

Based on a 1,200 square foot ADU, the new city rules reduce permit fees by $26,933 or 62 percent. The fees for a primary single family home valued at $180,000 would be $43,643 while an ADU of the same square footage would be $16,710. Of that $16,710 in the example, there is $4,036 in pass through fees to San Joaquin County. The example amounts do not include the $3.36 per square foot feet that Manteca Unified collects for school facilities.

Manteca years ago allowed secondary dwelling units on lots in the central section of town that often were designed to be accessed directly from an alley. The advent of post-World War II subdivision rules were basically the death knell for new granny flats in most cities throughout the state.

Various newspapers in the Los Angeles area conducted interviews with those who have built ADUs in recent years. In many cases it has generated extra income to allow them to pay the mortgage on their house, some have moved into the smaller “dream house” they built allowing them to retire in place, while others have used the income flow from a  rental to enhancer their quality of life.

Example given were a 300-square-foot granny flat that was bringing in $925 a month in Agoura Hills and a 500-square-foot unit that was generating $1,600 in rent in Dana Point.

Garage conversions — as well as the smaller ADUs — often end up resembling the efficiency apartments showroom models that IKEA has in their stores for completely contained living spaces of 240, 380 and 590 square feet.

The new state rules were spurred by an ongoing shortage of housing on California.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development reported that the state needed 80,000 additional living units in 2016 but only 80,000 were built. The housing shortage compounds itself as years go by.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email