Accessory dwelling unit in Palo Alto
June 15, 2018

San Jose Considers Changes to Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance


On Tuesday, June 19th , the City Council will consider changes to the City’s municipal code to make building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) easier for San Jose residents.  Although ADUs are a naturally affordable housing option, add to the housing stock without the need for public subsidy, and are a better way to use limited land resources, many jurisdictions have adopted ordinances that add requirements and complications for homeowners.

Recent legislation authored by Senator Bob Wieckowski makes it mandatory for  jurisdictions to amend their ADU ordinances to enable their development.  SV@Home is grateful for Senator Wieckowski’s efforts, and we have already seen a 70% increase in ADU permits in Santa Clara County as a result.

We believe that jurisdictions can do even more, and have encouraged San Jose to reach high as it adopts changes to its ordinance.  By increasing the construction potential for ADUs, the City’s goal of 10,000 homes between now and 2023 is more within reach.

City staff is recommending a number of proactive changes, including:

  • Lowering minimum lot sizes to 3,000 square feet (the current requirement is 5,445 square feet)
  • Increased square footage for ADUs based on lot size
  • Creating additional flexibility around replacement parking
  • Allowing second story units over garages

SV@Home supports these changes, but sent a letter to the Council requesting that it:.

  • Incorporate more flexibility around design and materials that allows for the installation of modular dwellings and other innovative housing construction.
  • Allow up to two bedrooms for larger ADUs (given larger unit sizes allowed)
  • Increase the rear yard coverage requirements to  50% or 60% given the recommended increase in unit size and the reduction in lot size.
  • Adjust the second story set back for existing zero lot line structures to conform to current setbacks.
  • Develop a deliberate engagement plan for units that are currently illegal.
  • Eliminate fees for ADUs to reduce costs and increase feasibility.
  • Establish a robust communications program.
  • Create a one-stop shop for ADUs, or a single point of contact to make it easier for residents who want to build an ADU but are challenged in navigating the complex development process.

We extend our gratitude to all our partner organizations who signed on to the coalition letter and we encourage others to join as well in signing. Any interested parties can sign on via email by contacting Huascar Castro at