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Posted 28th Apr 2023

San Diego ADU Rules


It is prudent that you know some or all San Diego ADU rules if you are looking to build or remodel one. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are becoming increasingly popular in San Diego as a way to increase housing affordability and provide additional rental income for homeowners. However, building an ADU in San Diego requires compliance with certain rules and regulations.

San Diego ADU Design Regulations

The City of San Diego has specific regulations for ADUs that homeowners must comply with when building an ADU on their property. These regulations include:

  • Zoning requirements: ADUs must be located on a lot with a single-family residence and must comply with the zoning requirements for that area. Homeowners should first check with the San Diego Planning Department to determine if their property is eligible for an ADU.
  • Size and height restrictions: The maximum size of an ADU in San Diego is 1,200 square feet, and the maximum height is 16 feet. According to the San Diego Municipal Code, ADUs are seen as a secondary in size to the main residential home.
  • Parking requirements: Parking requirements for ADUs in San Diego vary depending on the property’s location and the ADU’s size. In general, ADUs must provide one parking space per ADU if the ADU has no bedrooms.
  • Setback requirements: Setback requirements dictate how far an ADU must be from the property line and other structures. ADUs must also have a setback of at least 5 feet from the side and rear property lines, and 10 feet from the front property line.
  • Design and aesthetic requirements: Sometimes, you will have to comply with design and architectural requirements in your existing neighborhood, especially if you live in historical districts.
Square Footage of single-family residence (SFD)Maximum Sq. Ft. for Detached ADUMaximum Sq. Ft. for Attached ADU (up to 50% of SFD)
1,800 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.900 sq. ft.
2,000 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.1,000 sq. ft.
3,000 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.
4,500 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.


San Diego ADU rules on permits

To build an ADU in San Diego, you will need to obtain a permit from the city. The permit process can be complex, and it is important to follow all of the rules and regulations to ensure that your ADU is legal and safe.

Overview of the Permitting Process

Obtaining the necessary approvals and permits from the city ensures that the project is legal, safe, and meets all applicable building codes and regulations. The process can be time-consuming but working with professionals who are familiar with San Diego ADU rules helps greatly. There are several steps involved in the permit process including:

  1. Pre-Application Meeting: You’ll need to schedule a pre-application meeting with the city’s Development Services Department (DSD). During this meeting, you’ll discuss your project with a planner and get feedback on the viability of the project and if it complies with San Diego ADU rules.
  2. Submit Your Application: You can submit your application to the DSD once you’ve had your pre-application meeting. The application will, however, need to include detailed plans and specifications for your ADU.
  3. Plan Review: The DSD will then review your plans to ensure that they comply with all relevant building codes and zoning regulations.
  4. Permit Issuance: Once your plans have been approved, you’ll be issued a building permit. This permit will allow you to begin construction on your ADU or JADU.

Required Documents

To apply for an ADU permit in San Diego, you’ll need to submit the following documents:

  1. Building Permit Application: This application will include information about your project, such as the size and location of your ADU.
  2. Site Plan: The site plan will show the location of your ADU on your property.
  3. Floor Plans: Floor plans reveal the layout of your ADU, including the number and size of rooms.
  4. Structural Plans: These plans will show the structural details of your ADU, such as the foundation and framing.
  5. Title 24 Energy Calculations: These calculations will show that your ADU meets California’s energy efficiency standards.
  6. Fees: The fees for an ADU permit in San Diego vary depending on the size and scope of your project. You can find a fee schedule on the DSD’s website.


Pre-Application Meeting1-2 weeks
Plan Review4-6 weeks
Permit Issuance1-2 weeks
Total Timeline6-10 weeks (approximately 2-3 months)



Can I build an ADU on any property in San Diego?

No, ADUs must be located on a lot with a single-family residence and must comply with the zoning requirements for that area.

Am I allowed to rent out my ADU on a short-term basis, like Airbnb?

No, the ADU can be rented out, but the rental period must be for a minimum of 30 days.

Do the San Diego ADU rules allow my ADU design to match the style of my primary residence?

Yes, you can design your ADU to match the style of your primary residence, but it must comply with all applicable design and aesthetic requirements.

How can I get the right plans to present to the city for inspection?

Working with ADU remodeling professionals is the only way to ensure that you get everything right and avoid mistakes when applying for permits.

Do I need a separate parking if my ADU is attached to the main house?

No, San Diego ADU rules allow you to use your old parking spot if you are constructing an attached ADU.

Am I allowed to build two ADUs in the same compound in San Diego?

You can only build two ADUs in your residential house if on of them is a junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU)