ADU News

All about ADUs, Part 2

Last month, we featured San-Diego-based architect Lily Robinson, who explained what accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are and the benefits they offer homeowners. In Part 2 of our interview, we’ll explore the design process and the ADU experience.

Q: Tell me about your property and the decision to build the ADU that you now live in?

A: The original house is a 1200-square-foot, single-story, Spanish-style home built in 1926. I bought the property in 2017 with the idea to convert the detached garage to a second living unit for my mom and dad to use as a vacation home. But during the design process, my father passed away, so I shifted the design to be for my husband and myself to live in.

We decided to keep the garage and build over it. We filed our ADU project permit in 2019 and did the work during the pandemic.

The design was very important to me, as an architect, and because my husband and I both were working from home. We needed separation between our living area and our work area, and an environment that optimized our physical and mental health.

We built a loft-style 900 square-foot residence above the existing garage. We also added a laundry room, art workshop and music studio on the ground floor adjacent to the garage, which we kept since I love the security of having my car off the street and protected.

Q: So, you are happy with how it turned out?

A: It’s perfect. Our living area is an open plan with a full kitchen along one wall, one bedroom, one bathroom and a large walk-in closet we call the dressing room. We have a seating area where the TV is, and there is enough space to accommodate my husband’s grandmother’s antique dining table which has seven leaves (to seat 12) when we need it.

We used all natural materials, with white oak wood flooring, limestone in the bathroom and granite counters in the kitchen. There are two windows on opposite walls in the bathroom for cross ventilation and views to a big tree. It’s very calming.

Q: Where is your front door? Is it behind the garage?

A: Yes. It’s very private. You reach it by going up the steps of an outdoor staircase that is sheltered by an overhang. In the back we’re also working on a garden and a pretty pathway to the staircase.

Q: You said your aim was to create an environment that optimized your physical and mental health. What does that mean?

A: We can start with the stairs. I included it into the design so that we can get our walks in, going down to the office to work and then up the stairs to our living area. There’s no bathroom on the ground floor, so we get our exercise every day.

Other optimal touches are the placement of windows for natural light, relaxing views and the prevailing sea breeze. Our ADU has cathedral ceilings, but rather than install a skylight — they always leak! — we have operable clerestory windows. They capture the afternoon breeze and help create a cross breeze without letting in the heat of the sun.

Did you know ceiling height can affect creativity and focus? I have an “idea corner” for creativity, which is a strategically placed desk in the main room with a 16-foot vaulted ceiling. When you need to focus, like in the office, a lower ceiling is better.

Q: From the outside, your ADU doesn’t look anything like the original house. Why?

A: My neighbors were surprised that the new ADU didn’t match the style of the existing house, but for me, architectural style is like fashion. I envisioned the new ADU as a younger sister to the main house — and you wouldn’t necessarily want the newest member of the family to dress like the oldest one, would you?

Q: I know you do residential remodels and room additions, but are ADUs your favorite thing to do?

A: ADUs are so much fun to design, especially when you plan to live in it. I tell people that an ADU can make your life so much better.

I have a client who built an ADU for herself on top of her parent’s one-story home. It’s only 650 square feet but it’s got everything she needs: a large bedroom, a balcony, a laundry area and a full kitchen. Not only that, but she also has great views. Her new kitchen looks out to a park in the front of the house and the bedroom … has a view of the ocean.

Q: What happened to your original house?

A: I have offered it to my mother — if she wants to move here from New York. It could also turn into a rental unit later. The rent from the house could easily cover our mortgage payment.

We might add a Junior ADU as a third rentable space in the future. Then, if we decide to retire somewhere else, we’d have income from three rental units.

Q: OK, we’ve decided we want an ADU and we call you. What then?

A: The first thing is to get your address, so I can look up the zoning and jurisdiction authority. Every single lot is different, with multiple overlays that may impact your property. It might be along a transit corridor or in a high hazard zone.

Next, I would ask you to contact the county assessor’s office and ask for the residential building record. It’s only available to the property owners and is required as part of a permit process if your existing house was built more than 40 years ago.

Then we would meet for an hour so I could ask tons of questions about your goals, your timeline and your budget. Investing in an ADU on your property can add so much to your life.

Catherine Gaugh is a freelance writer.

Last month, we featured San-Diego-based architect Lily Robinson, who explained what accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are and the benefits they offer homeowners. In Part 2 of our interview, we’ll explore the design process and the ADU experience.
Q: Tell me about your property and the decision to build the ADU that you now live in?
A: The original house is a 1200-square-foot, single-story, Spanish-style home built in 1926. I bought the property in 2017 with the idea to convert the detached garage to a second living unit for my mom and dad to use as a vacation home. But during the design process, my father passed away, so I shifted the design to be for my husband and myself to live in.
We decided to keep the garage and build over it. We filed our ADU project permit in 2019 and did the work during the pandemic.
The design was very important to me, as an architect, and because my husband and I both were working from home. We needed separation between our living area and our work area, and an environment that optimized our physical and mental health.
We built a loft-style 900 square-foot residence above the existing garage. We also added a laundry room, art workshop and music studio on the ground floor adjacent to the garage, which we kept since I love the security of having my car off the street and protected.

Q: So, you are happy with how it turned out?
A: It’s perfect. Our living area is an open plan with a full kitchen along one wall, one bedroom, one bathroom and a large walk-in closet we call the dressing room. We have a seating area where the TV is, and there is enough space to accommodate my husband’s grandmother’s antique dining table which has seven leaves (to seat 12) when we need it.
We used all natural materials, with white oak wood flooring, limestone in the bathroom and granite counters in the kitchen. There are two windows on opposite walls in the bathroom for cross ventilation and views to a big tree. It’s very calming.

Q: Where is your front door? Is it behind the garage?
A: Yes. It’s very private. You reach it by going up the steps of an outdoor staircase that is sheltered by an overhang. In the back we’re also working on a garden and a pretty pathway to the staircase.
Q: You said your aim was to create an environment that optimized your physical and mental health. What does that mean?

A: We can start with the stairs. I included it into the design so that we can get our walks in, going down to the office to work and then up the stairs to our living area. There’s no bathroom on the ground floor, so we get our exercise every day.
Other optimal touches are the placement of windows for natural light, relaxing views and the prevailing sea breeze. Our ADU has cathedral ceilings, but rather than install a skylight — they always leak! — we have operable clerestory windows. They capture the afternoon breeze and help create a cross breeze without letting in the heat of the sun.
Did you know ceiling height can affect creativity and focus? I have an “idea corner” for creativity, which is a strategically placed desk in the main room with a 16-foot vaulted ceiling. When you need to focus, like in the office, a lower ceiling is better.

Q: From the outside, your ADU doesn’t look anything like the original house. Why?
A: My neighbors were surprised that the new ADU didn’t match the style of the existing house, but for me, architectural style is like fashion. I envisioned the new ADU as a younger sister to the main house — and you wouldn’t necessarily want the newest member of the family to dress like the oldest one, would you?
Q: I know you do residential remodels and room additions, but are ADUs your favorite thing to do?

A: ADUs are so much fun to design, especially when you plan to live in it. I tell people that an ADU can make your life so much better.
I have a client who built an ADU for herself on top of her parent’s one-story home. It’s only 650 square feet but it’s got everything she needs: a large bedroom, a balcony, a laundry area and a full kitchen. Not only that, but she also has great views. Her new kitchen looks out to a park in the front of the house and the bedroom … has a view of the ocean.
Q: What happened to your original house?

A: I have offered it to my mother — if she wants to move here from New York. It could also turn into a rental unit later. The rent from the house could easily cover our mortgage payment.
We might add a Junior ADU as a third rentable space in the future. Then, if we decide to retire somewhere else, we’d have income from three rental units.
Q: OK, we’ve decided we want an ADU and we call you. What then?

A: The first thing is to get your address, so I can look up the zoning and jurisdiction authority. Every single lot is different, with multiple overlays that may impact your property. It might be along a transit corridor or in a high hazard zone.
Next, I would ask you to contact the county assessor’s office and ask for the residential building record. It’s only available to the property owners and is required as part of a permit process if your existing house was built more than 40 years ago.
Then we would meet for an hour so I could ask tons of questions about your goals, your timeline and your budget. Investing in an ADU on your property can add so much to your life.

Catherine Gaugh is a freelance writer.

All about ADUs, Part 2  The San Diego Union-Tribune

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City Will Offer Free Virtual Consultations for ADU Construction in …



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Shed with terrace and wooden garden furniture during spring

Pasadena residents interested in building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can now book virtual consultations with city staff starting on Thursday, March 2.

The city’s Planning and Community Development department announced Tuesday that it will offer online appointments every Thursday afternoon to provide general information on building and zoning code requirements for ADUs.

ADUs are small, independent residential units that can be attached or detached from a primary residence. They are seen as a way to increase housing supply and affordability in California.

Jennifer Paige, the acting director of Planning and Community Development, said the virtual consultations are part of the city’s efforts to accelerate ADU production and offer services based on community requests.

The appointments will last for 30 minutes and will include staff from both Building and Zoning. Interested individuals can visit cityofpasadena.net/planning/adu for more information or to book a consultation.

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Shed with terrace and wooden garden furniture during springPasadena residents interested in building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) can now book virtual consultations with city staff starting on Thursday, March 2.

The city’s Planning and Community Development department announced Tuesday that it will offer online appointments every Thursday afternoon to provide general information on building and zoning code requirements for ADUs.

ADUs are small, independent residential units that can be attached or detached from a primary residence. They are seen as a way to increase housing supply and affordability in California.

Jennifer Paige, the acting director of Planning and Community Development, said the virtual consultations are part of the city’s efforts to accelerate ADU production and offer services based on community requests.

The appointments will last for 30 minutes and will include staff from both Building and Zoning. Interested individuals can visit cityofpasadena.net/planning/adu for more information or to book a consultation.

Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.
Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m.

City Will Offer Free Virtual Consultations for ADU Construction in …  Pasadena Now

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A Century-Old Neighborhood Provides a Model for the Present Day

 


I try to be cognizant that I’m writing for an international audience here at Strong Towns. A lot of my idea fodder comes from walks around the city I’ve lived in for the last 11 years, but I fear I can only write so much about Sarasota, Florida, and have it be relevant and interesting to people who don’t live here.

I’ve always wanted to write about Laurel Park, a Sarasota neighborhood which I lived in from 2014 to 2016 and have admired for longer than that. Now that my family and I are moving away from Florida, it feels like the right time to pay a bit of tribute. (We are relocating to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I grew up and where my parents and some of my extended family still live. It’ll be good to be close to family and (more) friends, and to raise the kids amid that “village.”)

This isn’t an exercise in mere nostalgia. The built form of Laurel Park actually provides some excellent insight into what the next incremental stage of growth could look like for the over 75% of America’s residential landscape that is currently mostly (or wholly) occupied by single-family homes with yards. Good urbanism doesn’t have to mean large apartment buildings or some immaculate row of brownstones; the ad-hoc version on display in a neighborhood like Laurel Park is more relevant as a model of adaptation for, well, “the rest of us.”

Meet the Eclectic Neighborhood

Laurel Park is located just southeast of and adjacent to downtown Sarasota. The neighborhood is roughly 100 years old. Many homes and apartment buildings showcase the telltale Mediterranean Revival style of the city’s first big development boom in the 1920s, while others were built later. Today it’s a historic district and something of a relic: restrictive zoning and fierce (one could, not inaccurately, say NIMBY) advocacy by longtime residents has preserved Laurel Park’s lush greenery and its built form of mostly one- and two-story buildings in the shadow of downtown’s modern high-rises. What you see is a time capsule of the development pattern that evolved in the pre-suburban era. And the best word for that pattern is “eclectic.”

Things are cozy and close together here. You won’t have a grassy lawn to toss a football around. But what you sacrifice in elbow room, you gain in the benefits of compactness: a walkable, lively neighborhood with the population to support local businesses in close proximity.

You also gain a different kind of beauty. The buildings aren’t huge and monolithic. There are lots of little passages. The patios and modest yards and gardens of Laurel Park are high in delight per acre: lavish attention is paid to small landscaping and aesthetic details in a way that I’ve never experienced to be the case in a neighborhood where the lots are large.


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And there is green space: the eponymous neighborhood park is a delight. A collection of communal children’s toys—tricycles, scooters, little play houses—resides permanently on and around the playground. People are almost always in the park chatting in mid-afternoon on a nice day.


There are plenty of single-family homes:


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Many of these homes have accessory dwelling units (ADUs), guest houses, or carriage houses:


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There are duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes scattered throughout nearly every block:


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There are cottage courts (tight clusters of small homes around a shared space):



There are apartment buildings, mostly from the 1920s Mediterranean Revival:


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All of this coexists easily. Not one of these things is a nuisance, or out of character. There are simply no discernible negative effects caused by this mixing of built form. There are no traffic problems or parking problems here.

And there are beneficial effects. One obvious effect of a diverse mix of housing types is that the neighborhood is home to a diversity of residents: old and young, renter and homeowner, “snowbirds” and year-round locals, married with children, single with roommates. For many younger renters, it’s virtually the only opportunity to live a walkable, urban lifestyle in Sarasota on the kind of income you have early in your career. This was what drew my wife and me to the neighborhood nine years ago.

(Source: Laurel Park Neighborhood Association.)

When we moved to Laurel Park as newlyweds, it was into an accessory dwelling unit tucked behind a small dingbat apartment building and a duplex on a corner lot. Our apartment was on the fence line with a single-family home: we were friendly with the homeowner and got to know the stray cats he would feed daily. (One of those cats we ended up adopting.)

The ADU we used to live in.

We were also friendly with our landlord, a Canadian who came down a few times a year. The rent was a bargain for anywhere in town, let alone a five-minute walk from Main Street’s shops and restaurants. Nothing remotely comparable exists in the larger, newer buildings nearby.

Our region is in a dire housing affordability crisis: from 2021 to 2022, rent growth here was a mind-boggling 47% (compared to 18% nationally). The crunch is especially acute in and near the downtown core; in Florida, we’re good at building subdivisions in cattle pastures but not so much at handling a surge of unmet demand for walkable urban living. Affordable housing for a downtown workforce is a constant topic of conversation in city hall; new construction is too costly and too slow to be the answer in and of itself. In this context, I find it beyond obvious that the eclectic mix of ADUs and other modest housing options already available in a neighborhood like Laurel Park is a crucial source of relatively inexpensive housing.

Another beneficial effect of this neighborhood’s built form is financial productivity. This is a place that is paying its freight. Its public infrastructure is modest (streets, for example, are narrow) while the concentration of private investment is significant, a direct consequence of the variety and compact arrangement of housing in Laurel Park. To see this, we need only compare a block of Laurel Park with a much more conventional block of single-family homes in nearby Hudson Bayou, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.


The Laurel Park block accommodates roughly triple the number of homes in about the same land area. These are, on average, much smaller homes, and less expensive overall, even as the total assessed value per acre of the real estate is 39% higher in Laurel Park.

Creating More of a Good Thing

The actual market values of property here tend to be higher than the tax-assessed value by a significant margin. Real estate in Laurel Park has become tremendously expensive—in fact, prices here are just about the highest in the city when measured on a per-square-foot basis. (Keep in mind that the single-story 1920s bungalows of Laurel Park are quite small.)

This neighborhood is not expensive because it’s the kind of place that’s expensive to build—it isn’t! It’s wholly about the scarcity of this kind of place, and the desirability of the location.

And the answer to that problem is simple, in principle: more Laurel Parks. This place shouldn’t be the rarity it is. It’s a demonstrated huge success: there should be a dozen neighborhoods like it in Sarasota alone.

There aren’t. In fact, it’s illegal to make any other neighborhood here more like Laurel Park. Virtually every lot in Laurel Park violates some combination of the density, parking, and setback restrictions that apply to every other neighborhood in the city. (In fact, many of them violate the restrictions that apply to Laurel Park, itself—they just had the good fortune to have been developed before the modern zoning code was in place.)

We could make it so that just about any residential neighborhood could evolve to look more like Laurel Park. Not just here, but in almost any American city that shares the basic DNA of single-family detached homes on lots of modest size. It just requires some key policy changes to make the historic pattern already visible in Laurel Park legal to reproduce without a costly and uncertain variance process:

  • In neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes, allow buildings at the missing-middle level of intensity—certainly up to a fourplex or cottage court, but I would suggest up to the kind of small-scale apartment buildings that exist here.

  • Allow accessory dwelling units without onerous restrictions, like owner-occupancy on site or a separate sewer and water hookup.

  • Eliminate parking mandates.

  • Make setback requirements small to zero.

  • Eliminate minimum lot size requirements.

  • Allow lots to be split and subdivided with few restrictions, only those needed for basic access and safety.

There is some momentum in this direction. Parking mandates have begun to fall like dominoes across the North American continent. And advocates for the reform of rigid single-family zoning have caught on to the idea of lot splits, in California and elsewhere.

An Evolutionary Pattern

It’s important to recognize that a neighborhood like Laurel Park is itself the result of ad-hoc evolution and reinvention over time. It wasn’t planned to be the eclectic mix that exists today. Here is an aerial photo from 1948, showing ample lawns and still large vacant tracts:

(Source: Sarasota County.)

Here’s 1986:

(Source: Sarasota County.)

Redevelopment continues on a modest, scattered basis, as individual houses are torn down and replaced. Some of the recent redevelopment in Laurel Park itself has taken the form of large, single-family homes, but other new construction replicates the fine-grained historic pattern of the neighborhood. In the latter case, the key is splitting up lots to build on very small chunks of land. Here’s an aerial view of a cluster of new townhomes built around an alley interior to a Laurel Park block. These tiny lots were created by subdividing larger ones; the neighborhood wasn’t originally platted with them.



There’s not much but regulation and our entrenched building culture keeping the average American neighborhood from beginning to fill in with something similar to this.

It’s not a master planning process, or a coercive one. Nobody is coming for anybody’s home or yard. This is an evolutionary process that can unfold, if allowed to, as individual homeowners make a range of choices for individual reasons.

Some people will always want their privacy and their yard and their elbow room. But lots of people would take this trade-off. And some of those “lots of people” own the suburban-style lots that comprise 75% and up of urban residential land in most U.S. cities. Those people can start filling in backyards—not all of them, of course, but a fraction of them, as the owners desire—with ADUs. We can start allowing owners to split up lots, or small developers to build cottage courts where in a previous era you’d have had one or two “McMansions,” simply because that was the only thing allowed.

Laurel Park demonstrates the kind of place that would result from that evolution. Far from feeling chaotic or crowded, it can be lovable, beautiful, and a boon to your city.

 


  


   

I try to be cognizant that I’m writing for an international audience here at Strong Towns. A lot of my idea fodder comes from walks around the city I’ve lived in for the last 11 years, but I fear I can only write so much about Sarasota, Florida, and have it be relevant and interesting to people who don’t live here.
I’ve always wanted to write about Laurel Park, a Sarasota neighborhood which I lived in from 2014 to 2016 and have admired for longer than that. Now that my family and I are moving away from Florida, it feels like the right time to pay a bit of tribute. (We are relocating to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I grew up and where my parents and some of my extended family still live. It’ll be good to be close to family and (more) friends, and to raise the kids amid that “village.”)
This isn’t an exercise in mere nostalgia. The built form of Laurel Park actually provides some excellent insight into what the next incremental stage of growth could look like for the over 75% of America’s residential landscape that is currently mostly (or wholly) occupied by single-family homes with yards. Good urbanism doesn’t have to mean large apartment buildings or some immaculate row of brownstones; the ad-hoc version on display in a neighborhood like Laurel Park is more relevant as a model of adaptation for, well, “the rest of us.”
Meet the Eclectic NeighborhoodLaurel Park is located just southeast of and adjacent to downtown Sarasota. The neighborhood is roughly 100 years old. Many homes and apartment buildings showcase the telltale Mediterranean Revival style of the city’s first big development boom in the 1920s, while others were built later. Today it’s a historic district and something of a relic: restrictive zoning and fierce (one could, not inaccurately, say NIMBY) advocacy by longtime residents has preserved Laurel Park’s lush greenery and its built form of mostly one- and two-story buildings in the shadow of downtown’s modern high-rises. What you see is a time capsule of the development pattern that evolved in the pre-suburban era. And the best word for that pattern is “eclectic.”
Things are cozy and close together here. You won’t have a grassy lawn to toss a football around. But what you sacrifice in elbow room, you gain in the benefits of compactness: a walkable, lively neighborhood with the population to support local businesses in close proximity.
You also gain a different kind of beauty. The buildings aren’t huge and monolithic. There are lots of little passages. The patios and modest yards and gardens of Laurel Park are high in delight per acre: lavish attention is paid to small landscaping and aesthetic details in a way that I’ve never experienced to be the case in a neighborhood where the lots are large.

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

And there is green space: the eponymous neighborhood park is a delight. A collection of communal children’s toys—tricycles, scooters, little play houses—resides permanently on and around the playground. People are almost always in the park chatting in mid-afternoon on a nice day.

There are plenty of single-family homes:

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

Many of these homes have accessory dwelling units (ADUs), guest houses, or carriage houses:

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

There are duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes scattered throughout nearly every block:

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

There are cottage courts (tight clusters of small homes around a shared space):

There are apartment buildings, mostly from the 1920s Mediterranean Revival:

View fullsize

View fullsize

View fullsize

All of this coexists easily. Not one of these things is a nuisance, or out of character. There are simply no discernible negative effects caused by this mixing of built form. There are no traffic problems or parking problems here.
And there are beneficial effects. One obvious effect of a diverse mix of housing types is that the neighborhood is home to a diversity of residents: old and young, renter and homeowner, “snowbirds” and year-round locals, married with children, single with roommates. For many younger renters, it’s virtually the only opportunity to live a walkable, urban lifestyle in Sarasota on the kind of income you have early in your career. This was what drew my wife and me to the neighborhood nine years ago.

(Source: Laurel Park Neighborhood Association.)

When we moved to Laurel Park as newlyweds, it was into an accessory dwelling unit tucked behind a small dingbat apartment building and a duplex on a corner lot. Our apartment was on the fence line with a single-family home: we were friendly with the homeowner and got to know the stray cats he would feed daily. (One of those cats we ended up adopting.)

The ADU we used to live in.

We were also friendly with our landlord, a Canadian who came down a few times a year. The rent was a bargain for anywhere in town, let alone a five-minute walk from Main Street’s shops and restaurants. Nothing remotely comparable exists in the larger, newer buildings nearby.
Our region is in a dire housing affordability crisis: from 2021 to 2022, rent growth here was a mind-boggling 47% (compared to 18% nationally). The crunch is especially acute in and near the downtown core; in Florida, we’re good at building subdivisions in cattle pastures but not so much at handling a surge of unmet demand for walkable urban living. Affordable housing for a downtown workforce is a constant topic of conversation in city hall; new construction is too costly and too slow to be the answer in and of itself. In this context, I find it beyond obvious that the eclectic mix of ADUs and other modest housing options already available in a neighborhood like Laurel Park is a crucial source of relatively inexpensive housing.
Another beneficial effect of this neighborhood’s built form is financial productivity. This is a place that is paying its freight. Its public infrastructure is modest (streets, for example, are narrow) while the concentration of private investment is significant, a direct consequence of the variety and compact arrangement of housing in Laurel Park. To see this, we need only compare a block of Laurel Park with a much more conventional block of single-family homes in nearby Hudson Bayou, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.

The Laurel Park block accommodates roughly triple the number of homes in about the same land area. These are, on average, much smaller homes, and less expensive overall, even as the total assessed value per acre of the real estate is 39% higher in Laurel Park.
Creating More of a Good ThingThe actual market values of property here tend to be higher than the tax-assessed value by a significant margin. Real estate in Laurel Park has become tremendously expensive—in fact, prices here are just about the highest in the city when measured on a per-square-foot basis. (Keep in mind that the single-story 1920s bungalows of Laurel Park are quite small.)
This neighborhood is not expensive because it’s the kind of place that’s expensive to build—it isn’t! It’s wholly about the scarcity of this kind of place, and the desirability of the location.
And the answer to that problem is simple, in principle: more Laurel Parks. This place shouldn’t be the rarity it is. It’s a demonstrated huge success: there should be a dozen neighborhoods like it in Sarasota alone.
There aren’t. In fact, it’s illegal to make any other neighborhood here more like Laurel Park. Virtually every lot in Laurel Park violates some combination of the density, parking, and setback restrictions that apply to every other neighborhood in the city. (In fact, many of them violate the restrictions that apply to Laurel Park, itself—they just had the good fortune to have been developed before the modern zoning code was in place.)
We could make it so that just about any residential neighborhood could evolve to look more like Laurel Park. Not just here, but in almost any American city that shares the basic DNA of single-family detached homes on lots of modest size. It just requires some key policy changes to make the historic pattern already visible in Laurel Park legal to reproduce without a costly and uncertain variance process:
In neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes, allow buildings at the missing-middle level of intensity—certainly up to a fourplex or cottage court, but I would suggest up to the kind of small-scale apartment buildings that exist here.
Allow accessory dwelling units without onerous restrictions, like owner-occupancy on site or a separate sewer and water hookup.
Eliminate parking mandates.
Make setback requirements small to zero.
Eliminate minimum lot size requirements.
Allow lots to be split and subdivided with few restrictions, only those needed for basic access and safety.
There is some momentum in this direction. Parking mandates have begun to fall like dominoes across the North American continent. And advocates for the reform of rigid single-family zoning have caught on to the idea of lot splits, in California and elsewhere.
An Evolutionary PatternIt’s important to recognize that a neighborhood like Laurel Park is itself the result of ad-hoc evolution and reinvention over time. It wasn’t planned to be the eclectic mix that exists today. Here is an aerial photo from 1948, showing ample lawns and still large vacant tracts:

(Source: Sarasota County.)

Here’s 1986:

(Source: Sarasota County.)

Redevelopment continues on a modest, scattered basis, as individual houses are torn down and replaced. Some of the recent redevelopment in Laurel Park itself has taken the form of large, single-family homes, but other new construction replicates the fine-grained historic pattern of the neighborhood. In the latter case, the key is splitting up lots to build on very small chunks of land. Here’s an aerial view of a cluster of new townhomes built around an alley interior to a Laurel Park block. These tiny lots were created by subdividing larger ones; the neighborhood wasn’t originally platted with them.

There’s not much but regulation and our entrenched building culture keeping the average American neighborhood from beginning to fill in with something similar to this.
It’s not a master planning process, or a coercive one. Nobody is coming for anybody’s home or yard. This is an evolutionary process that can unfold, if allowed to, as individual homeowners make a range of choices for individual reasons.
Some people will always want their privacy and their yard and their elbow room. But lots of people would take this trade-off. And some of those “lots of people” own the suburban-style lots that comprise 75% and up of urban residential land in most U.S. cities. Those people can start filling in backyards—not all of them, of course, but a fraction of them, as the owners desire—with ADUs. We can start allowing owners to split up lots, or small developers to build cottage courts where in a previous era you’d have had one or two “McMansions,” simply because that was the only thing allowed.
Laurel Park demonstrates the kind of place that would result from that evolution. Far from feeling chaotic or crowded, it can be lovable, beautiful, and a boon to your city.

     Good urbanism doesn’t have to mean large apartment buildings or an immaculate row of brownstones; the ad-hoc version on display in this Florida neighborhood is more relevant as a model of adaptation for the rest of us.

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Garden City expands ADU size, but tiny home on wheels talks still …

If you’d like to build an ADU in Garden City, you’ve got some new ground rules to follow. 

Garden City City Council is in the final stages of approving a new set of rules governing accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law suites. The small, secondary homes have become more popular as the Treasure Valley grows and homeowners are looking for options to house family members close by or make extra rental income. These new rules expand the size of ADUs allowed in Garden City, allowing larger units than its big municipal brother Boise.

The new ordinance allows for a maximum size of 800 square feet for an ADU or half of the size of the main house, whichever is greater. This is larger than the 700 square foot maximum allowed in Boise, but smaller than the maximum allowed in Portland and California. 

Garden City ADUs must be located behind the main home, on a foundation and there can only be one on each property. All ADUs also have to include a minimum of 300 square feet to ensure there’s enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom and shower. This ordinance also does not trump any governing documents for homes located in an HOA banning ADUs. 

This change is part of several revamps to city code Garden City is undertaking, with its new parking code set to be decided in the coming weeks being the most contentious. The small city has seen rapid growth and is rapidly turning over from a community with large swaths covered in mobile home parks to a Mecca for upscale, infill housing along the Boise River.

The ADU code proposal does not lay out parking requirements because this issue will be covered in the new parking rules adopted by the city council later. Garden City has to revamp its parking code after a successful lawsuit from developer Jason Jones led to an opinion from a judge calling the city’s regulations parking inadequate.  

‘Not a comprehensive strategy’ 

ADUs might be a housing option for GC residents as the city continues to grow denser, but it probably won’t solve the area’s demand for affordable housing. 

Mayor John Evans said the goal for the ordinance was to open up more diversity of housing types in the city and give property owners with larger lots options to house family members or make rental income. But, he acknowledged that in a landlocked, highly developed community like Garden City there are not many lots with enough room for an ADU that aren’t in an HOA. 

“It’s not a comprehensive strategy,” he said. “There just isn’t enough locations they could be placed to make a significant dent in the affordable housing discussion.”

City Council President James Page agreed. He said the idea behind the ordinance was to provide options for people to increase flexibility for housing on their properties. But because of the small spaces in ADUs, the difficulties with storage and how the more affordable materials sometimes used to build them can lead to deterioration, Page doesn’t think they should be the city’s move on affordable housing. 

“To me, an ADU seems like a temporary part of the puzzle,” he said. “I think these solutions are well-meaning and they help people in crisis, but I don’t think they’re a long-term solution to affordability.”

What about tiny homes on wheels?

At the same time, Garden City has been studying a proposal to allow tiny homes on wheels in Garden City from 2021 mayoral candidate Hannah Ball and Jones, the developer who sued the city over parking rules, for over a year. Tiny homes on wheels function differently than ADUs and can be moved by their owner somewhat akin to a mobile home, but aren’t as large and are cheaper to transport. 

The proposal has come before the council for deliberation and drafting several times, but a deal to pass it hasn’t been reached. Evans said the discussions with Ball and Jones have been “interesting,” but the ordinance isn’t high on his list of priorities right now as the city prepares for a series of contentious hearings on a proposal for dense housing at the River Club. 

If you’d like to build an ADU in Garden City, you’ve got some new ground rules to follow. 

Garden City City Council is in the final stages of approving a new set of rules governing accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law suites. The small, secondary homes have become more popular as the Treasure Valley grows and homeowners are looking for options to house family members close by or make extra rental income. These new rules expand the size of ADUs allowed in Garden City, allowing larger units than its big municipal brother Boise.

The new ordinance allows for a maximum size of 800 square feet for an ADU or half of the size of the main house, whichever is greater. This is larger than the 700 square foot maximum allowed in Boise, but smaller than the maximum allowed in Portland and California. 

Garden City ADUs must be located behind the main home, on a foundation and there can only be one on each property. All ADUs also have to include a minimum of 300 square feet to ensure there’s enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom and shower. This ordinance also does not trump any governing documents for homes located in an HOA banning ADUs. 

This change is part of several revamps to city code Garden City is undertaking, with its new parking code set to be decided in the coming weeks being the most contentious. The small city has seen rapid growth and is rapidly turning over from a community with large swaths covered in mobile home parks to a Mecca for upscale, infill housing along the Boise River.

The ADU code proposal does not lay out parking requirements because this issue will be covered in the new parking rules adopted by the city council later. Garden City has to revamp its parking code after a successful lawsuit from developer Jason Jones led to an opinion from a judge calling the city’s regulations parking inadequate.  

‘Not a comprehensive strategy’ 
ADUs might be a housing option for GC residents as the city continues to grow denser, but it probably won’t solve the area’s demand for affordable housing. 

Mayor John Evans said the goal for the ordinance was to open up more diversity of housing types in the city and give property owners with larger lots options to house family members or make rental income. But, he acknowledged that in a landlocked, highly developed community like Garden City there are not many lots with enough room for an ADU that aren’t in an HOA. 

“It’s not a comprehensive strategy,” he said. “There just isn’t enough locations they could be placed to make a significant dent in the affordable housing discussion.”

City Council President James Page agreed. He said the idea behind the ordinance was to provide options for people to increase flexibility for housing on their properties. But because of the small spaces in ADUs, the difficulties with storage and how the more affordable materials sometimes used to build them can lead to deterioration, Page doesn’t think they should be the city’s move on affordable housing. 

“To me, an ADU seems like a temporary part of the puzzle,” he said. “I think these solutions are well-meaning and they help people in crisis, but I don’t think they’re a long-term solution to affordability.”

What about tiny homes on wheels?
At the same time, Garden City has been studying a proposal to allow tiny homes on wheels in Garden City from 2021 mayoral candidate Hannah Ball and Jones, the developer who sued the city over parking rules, for over a year. Tiny homes on wheels function differently than ADUs and can be moved by their owner somewhat akin to a mobile home, but aren’t as large and are cheaper to transport. 

The proposal has come before the council for deliberation and drafting several times, but a deal to pass it hasn’t been reached. Evans said the discussions with Ball and Jones have been “interesting,” but the ordinance isn’t high on his list of priorities right now as the city prepares for a series of contentious hearings on a proposal for dense housing at the River Club. 

Garden City expands ADU size, but tiny home on wheels talks still …  boisedev.com

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Anne Arundel County Council debates best policies for accessory …

The Anne Arundel County Council refined a new bill Tuesday to relax existing laws around creating accessory dwelling units.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Council members Lisa Rodvien, of Annapolis, Allison Pickard, of Glen Burnie, and Julie Hummer, of Laurel, would make it easier for homeowners to create spaces, commonly referred to as secondary suites, accessory apartments and “granny” flats, on the property of a single-family home where another person could live independently. The bill proposes changes including allowing detached dwellings on the property, altering square-footage requirements of the ADU and repealing limits on the size of properties on which an ADU can be built.

Rodvien, Hummer and Council Chair Pete Smith, a Democrat from Severn, defeated an amendment to the bill proposed by Pasadena Republican Nathan Volke that would require each accessory dwelling unit have a corresponding parking space on the lot. While Volke’s Republican colleagues, Shannon Leadbetter from Crofton and Amanda Fiedler from Arnold, voted in favor of the amendment, it failed to pass in a three-to-three vote. Pickard was absent from the meeting.

“We’re going to have a lot of parking problems. That’s the concern that I have with this,” Volke said. “I hear a lot about parking complaints under the existing code, let alone what would loosen for ADUs.”

Leadbetter, who added herself as an amendment co-sponsor, agreed that allowing for more density without new parking requirements could cause parking problems and invite safety issues. She noted the density of cars could potentially lead to obstacles for emergency vehicles getting to residents in need.

“In our district, we have numerous areas where street parking is already a problem that I hear,” Leadbetter said. “It’s a top concern for a lot of folks.”

The bill would eliminate limits on the size of properties — currently 14,000 square feet or more — that could house an ADU. It would implement a limit on the size of detached ADUs to the lesser of 800 square feet or 50% of the single-family home’s floor area.

It’s important to remember that many of the folks who would most likely rent out these lower-cost units — young professionals who depend on public transit, live-in caretakers and elderly people who wish to remain living with their families — can’t afford cars, Rodvien noted.

“The whole goal here is affordable housing and if we put obstacles in the path of affordable housing, we’re not going to get the affordable housing that we need,” Rodvien said. “I also am really, really struggling with the idea of prioritizing space for cars over space for people.”

She added that developing an accessory dwelling unit is a big undertaking and it’s unlikely there will be one on every block. It would be an achievement to have one per neighborhood, Rodvien said. Annapolis, a city of around 40,000 people, passed a law that legalized renting out accessory dwelling units in October 2021. The city ordinance did not include a parking requirement.

No rentable accessory dwelling units are currently approved in Annapolis, said city spokesperson Mitchelle Stephenson, though two homeowners have submitted applications. According to Annapolis Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier, a Ward 5 Democrat who co-sponsored the city bill, part of the reason for the low number is the cost of building them, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The council passed a second amendment to eliminate a requirement that the main single-family home or the accessory dwelling unit would need to be occupied by the owner. The amendment would also require the full property to be rented as a whole for short-term rentals.

Rodvien and Smith co-sponsored the amendment to remove another potential impediment to residents wishing to rent out these units or their primary homes on the lot.

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If the bill passes, Schandelmeier said the owner occupancy amendment will make it an improvement on the city’s accessory dwelling unit law. He hopes this will encourage the city to make improvements to its version of the law.

Ahead of the council’s final vote on the bill, which will take place at its next meeting March 6 at the earliest barring any more amendments, 19 people wrote online testimonials in defense of the bill. Additionally, a variety of speakers representing groups including the League of Women Voters, Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, AARP and the Institute for Justice spoke to the benefits of accessory dwelling units.

“I bought a house with an ADU attached unit in the city of Annapolis and it really enabled me, a modestly paid state employee, to live in the nice house,” said Trudy McFall, chair of the Anne Arundel County Affordable Housing Coalition. “I have rented that unit to teachers, people of relatively modest incomes who could never have rented a house where I live.”

Annapolis resident Greg Cantori thanked the county for creating more actionable legislation than the state. A bill going through the legislature would create an Accessory Dwelling Unit Promotion and Policy Task Force to study and review the concept. It’s been co-sponsored by Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County Del. Mary Lehman.

“What we found across the country is that when ADU ordinances are permitted, we don’t see a great uptick in the number of units,” Cantori said. “I want you to go from just permitting them to promoting them. Promoting them means that you actually are going to be asking the homeowners to take an active role in our housing issue and it means things like low-interest loans, grants for people with lower incomes — lower-income homeowners as well as lower-income renters.”

The bill will have another public hearing March 6 at the 7 p.m. council meeting.

The Anne Arundel County Council refined a new bill Tuesday to relax existing laws around creating accessory dwelling units.
The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Council members Lisa Rodvien, of Annapolis, Allison Pickard, of Glen Burnie, and Julie Hummer, of Laurel, would make it easier for homeowners to create spaces, commonly referred to as secondary suites, accessory apartments and “granny” flats, on the property of a single-family home where another person could live independently. The bill proposes changes including allowing detached dwellings on the property, altering square-footage requirements of the ADU and repealing limits on the size of properties on which an ADU can be built.
Rodvien, Hummer and Council Chair Pete Smith, a Democrat from Severn, defeated an amendment to the bill proposed by Pasadena Republican Nathan Volke that would require each accessory dwelling unit have a corresponding parking space on the lot. While Volke’s Republican colleagues, Shannon Leadbetter from Crofton and Amanda Fiedler from Arnold, voted in favor of the amendment, it failed to pass in a three-to-three vote. Pickard was absent from the meeting.
“We’re going to have a lot of parking problems. That’s the concern that I have with this,” Volke said. “I hear a lot about parking complaints under the existing code, let alone what would loosen for ADUs.”
Leadbetter, who added herself as an amendment co-sponsor, agreed that allowing for more density without new parking requirements could cause parking problems and invite safety issues. She noted the density of cars could potentially lead to obstacles for emergency vehicles getting to residents in need.
“In our district, we have numerous areas where street parking is already a problem that I hear,” Leadbetter said. “It’s a top concern for a lot of folks.”
The bill would eliminate limits on the size of properties — currently 14,000 square feet or more — that could house an ADU. It would implement a limit on the size of detached ADUs to the lesser of 800 square feet or 50% of the single-family home’s floor area.
It’s important to remember that many of the folks who would most likely rent out these lower-cost units — young professionals who depend on public transit, live-in caretakers and elderly people who wish to remain living with their families — can’t afford cars, Rodvien noted.

“The whole goal here is affordable housing and if we put obstacles in the path of affordable housing, we’re not going to get the affordable housing that we need,” Rodvien said. “I also am really, really struggling with the idea of prioritizing space for cars over space for people.”
She added that developing an accessory dwelling unit is a big undertaking and it’s unlikely there will be one on every block. It would be an achievement to have one per neighborhood, Rodvien said. Annapolis, a city of around 40,000 people, passed a law that legalized renting out accessory dwelling units in October 2021. The city ordinance did not include a parking requirement.
No rentable accessory dwelling units are currently approved in Annapolis, said city spokesperson Mitchelle Stephenson, though two homeowners have submitted applications. According to Annapolis Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier, a Ward 5 Democrat who co-sponsored the city bill, part of the reason for the low number is the cost of building them, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
The council passed a second amendment to eliminate a requirement that the main single-family home or the accessory dwelling unit would need to be occupied by the owner. The amendment would also require the full property to be rented as a whole for short-term rentals.
Rodvien and Smith co-sponsored the amendment to remove another potential impediment to residents wishing to rent out these units or their primary homes on the lot.

Breaking News AlertsAs it happens

When big news breaks in our area, be the first to know.
If the bill passes, Schandelmeier said the owner occupancy amendment will make it an improvement on the city’s accessory dwelling unit law. He hopes this will encourage the city to make improvements to its version of the law.
Ahead of the council’s final vote on the bill, which will take place at its next meeting March 6 at the earliest barring any more amendments, 19 people wrote online testimonials in defense of the bill. Additionally, a variety of speakers representing groups including the League of Women Voters, Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors, AARP and the Institute for Justice spoke to the benefits of accessory dwelling units.
“I bought a house with an ADU attached unit in the city of Annapolis and it really enabled me, a modestly paid state employee, to live in the nice house,” said Trudy McFall, chair of the Anne Arundel County Affordable Housing Coalition. “I have rented that unit to teachers, people of relatively modest incomes who could never have rented a house where I live.”
Annapolis resident Greg Cantori thanked the county for creating more actionable legislation than the state. A bill going through the legislature would create an Accessory Dwelling Unit Promotion and Policy Task Force to study and review the concept. It’s been co-sponsored by Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County Del. Mary Lehman.
“What we found across the country is that when ADU ordinances are permitted, we don’t see a great uptick in the number of units,” Cantori said. “I want you to go from just permitting them to promoting them. Promoting them means that you actually are going to be asking the homeowners to take an active role in our housing issue and it means things like low-interest loans, grants for people with lower incomes — lower-income homeowners as well as lower-income renters.”
The bill will have another public hearing March 6 at the 7 p.m. council meeting.

Anne Arundel County Council debates best policies for accessory …  Capital Gazette

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Add value in your backyard with an ADU

There’s no ignoring the current housing crisis in California. California needs approximately 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Many experts see accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, as a possible solution to this issue by providing additional housing for family members or renters on existing properties. One key step is finding the right partner to craft a sustainable, turnkey home.

The popular in-demand Huntington Farmhouse features three bedrooms, two bathrooms (1,173 square feet), which includes high-end appliances and finishes, all starting at $339,000. 
The popular in-demand Huntington Farmhouse features three bedrooms, two bathrooms (1,173 square feet), which includes high-end appliances and finishes, all starting at $339,000. 

“The goal of Perpetual Homes ADU is to build the highest quality at the most affordable price point,” explains Katherine Anderson, founder of Perpetual Homes ADU. “My experience, with 39 years in residential development, has come together to design and create ADUs that fit families’ needs. No where else can your family members live in such full-scale luxury at an affordable price point than in a Perpetual Homes ADU.”

“If your family member, for example, has been priced out of the area, adding an ADU in your backyard can help them stay in the area and live in a beautiful luxury setting,” she adds. Our goal is to help families stay together whether it’s the boomerang young adults or move-down parents. It’s extremely rewarding to help families stay together in the high-priced Bay Area.

Now is the time to act — both for Anderson and homeowners — to take advantage of visionary California legislation that enables ADUs to be built quicker and with fewer jurisdictional costs. New California ADU laws passed in 2022 include AB 2221, which includes new government-backed finance programs, no more front setbacks for statewide exemption ADUs, stricter 60-day limits on all permitting agencies, a height of 16 feet for a detached ADU on lot with existing or proposed single-family or multifamily unit (two detached ADUs per property), and over a dozen other rule changes that make California ADU law better than ever in 2023.

In addition, Senate Bill 9, also known as SB 9, went into effect at the beginning of 2022 and Perpetual Homes has already leveraged this bill to provide fee simple lot splits with single-family homes (up to 2,600 square feet) for some of their clients. SB 9 gives homeowners in many single-family zones the green light to build additional ADUs and single-family homes on their current property or subdivide their land into two separate parcels and sell one of the parcels. Whether you’ve thought about a multigenerational home, a guesthouse or a rental income stream, SB 9 offers the opportunity to build more on your existing homesite.

With decades of experience in real estate development and market analysis, Anderson acquires the highest-quality homes at the most affordable prices for her clients. Her vast network of prefabrication companies, engineers, architects and general contractors makes the process of building an ADU much smoother. ADU prices start in the mid-$200,000s for a one-bedroom ADU.

Whether you want to increase your property value, add a new source of income or provide housing for family members or renters, contact Perpetual Homes ADU for more information! Call (925) 309-0205 or visit www.perpetualhomesadu.com to learn more.

Content provided by Perpetual Homes

There’s no ignoring the current housing crisis in California. California needs approximately 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. Many experts see accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, as a possible solution to this issue by providing additional housing for family members or renters on existing properties. One key step is finding the right partner to craft a sustainable, turnkey home.

The popular in-demand Huntington Farmhouse features three bedrooms, two bathrooms (1,173 square feet), which includes high-end appliances and finishes, all starting at $339,000. “The goal of Perpetual Homes ADU is to build the highest quality at the most affordable price point,” explains Katherine Anderson, founder of Perpetual Homes ADU. “My experience, with 39 years in residential development, has come together to design and create ADUs that fit families’ needs. No where else can your family members live in such full-scale luxury at an affordable price point than in a Perpetual Homes ADU.”

“If your family member, for example, has been priced out of the area, adding an ADU in your backyard can help them stay in the area and live in a beautiful luxury setting,” she adds. Our goal is to help families stay together whether it’s the boomerang young adults or move-down parents. It’s extremely rewarding to help families stay together in the high-priced Bay Area.

Now is the time to act — both for Anderson and homeowners — to take advantage of visionary California legislation that enables ADUs to be built quicker and with fewer jurisdictional costs. New California ADU laws passed in 2022 include AB 2221, which includes new government-backed finance programs, no more front setbacks for statewide exemption ADUs, stricter 60-day limits on all permitting agencies, a height of 16 feet for a detached ADU on lot with existing or proposed single-family or multifamily unit (two detached ADUs per property), and over a dozen other rule changes that make California ADU law better than ever in 2023.

In addition, Senate Bill 9, also known as SB 9, went into effect at the beginning of 2022 and Perpetual Homes has already leveraged this bill to provide fee simple lot splits with single-family homes (up to 2,600 square feet) for some of their clients. SB 9 gives homeowners in many single-family zones the green light to build additional ADUs and single-family homes on their current property or subdivide their land into two separate parcels and sell one of the parcels. Whether you’ve thought about a multigenerational home, a guesthouse or a rental income stream, SB 9 offers the opportunity to build more on your existing homesite.

With decades of experience in real estate development and market analysis, Anderson acquires the highest-quality homes at the most affordable prices for her clients. Her vast network of prefabrication companies, engineers, architects and general contractors makes the process of building an ADU much smoother. ADU prices start in the mid-$200,000s for a one-bedroom ADU.

Whether you want to increase your property value, add a new source of income or provide housing for family members or renters, contact Perpetual Homes ADU for more information! Call (925) 309-0205 or visit www.perpetualhomesadu.com to learn more.

Content provided by Perpetual Homes

Add value in your backyard with an ADU  The Mercury News

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Napa 10 Questions: O’Connell knows How to ADU

Meet Ryan O’Connell, the founder of How To ADU, and an advocate for more housing in California.

O’Connell moved to Napa in 2012 to start nakedwines.com. The business funds winemakers around the country and around the world.

In traveling all over California’s wine regions, O’Connell recalled how he met many vineyard workers, winery teams, and hospitality staff that could not afford to live in the regions where they work.

“There just isn’t enough housing,” he said.

Falling back on his political science background (he earned a B.A. at Tulane University), O’Connell set out to explain Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to California homeowners.

His goal? “To create simple ways for homeowners to reduce California’s housing shortage, in a way that benefits them and their communities.”

Support local news coverage and the people who report it by subscribing to the Napa Valley Register. 

1. What was your childhood ambition?

I used to tell my parents that I wanted to be the President! But when I was 8, I saw Bill Clinton on TV and told my mom I didn’t want to be President anymore. She asked “why not?” and I said Clinton got a lot of gray hair in his first year.

2. What job would you like to try/not try?

Try: Generative AI (artificial intelligence) is so fascinating right now – I’d like to learn how to harness that power for good. I’ve heard that prompting AI will be an entire career one day, like learning how to use a printing press or code software.

Not try: I have so much respect for school teachers and, while I do a lot of educational content, I couldn’t imagine the responsibility of doing that in person and being responsible for a big group of young people.

3. How did you get into the housing industry?

I left my dream career in the wine world in the middle of a global pandemic to make a difference in the housing shortage.

When I launched How To ADU’s YouTube channel and Facebook group, I barely had three subscribers: me, my wife, and my mom!

Fast forward three years and we now have the largest online community of homeowners in California with over 20,000 members of our Facebook group, 54,000 followers on TikTok and 9,000 subscribers on YouTube.

It turns out that people really need information about these new laws and how they can use them to change their lives!

4. What is the biggest challenge your business/industry has faced?

Education and communication are the biggest challenges in the ADU space.

The state passes new zoning laws almost every year, and then each city and county have local staff and nonprofits all working individually on separate programs, ordinances, and more.

While we optimistically call this patchwork process something like the “laboratories of democracy” it ends up with a very fragmented system that varies from one zip code to another.

We are lucky that in Napa we have great programs at the county and city level, nonprofits like the Napa Sonoma ADU Center, and private sector innovation like Redwood Credit Union’s incredible ADU construction loan. So the challenge here is exporting those successful programs to other parts of the state.

5. What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?

We need to build more housing so that the people who work in Napa can afford to live in Napa.

We benefit from a strong economy and provide a lot of work opportunities in our community, but we do not provide enough housing at different sizes, and levels of affordability.

If you’re a resident of Napa, or work or play here, I hope that you’ll support more housing being built so we can keep our community vibrant and healthy.

6. If you could change one thing about the housing industry, what would it be?

I hope that we all learn to work together to build great communities. Too often, I see arguments between groups of people who should be natural allies.

For example, pro-housing developers, tenant protection organizations, environmentalists, and labor activists may all take different “sides” of a debate. But there are good, smart ways to build that make our communities stronger and serve all of us well.

7. What’s your favorite gift to give?

My go-to is old bottles of wine that I made back in the day. That has to be the least original answer, but it’s the truth. I love sharing wine with people, and sharing a story about the bottle.

8. What’s your favorite charity or nonprofit?

The Napa Sonoma ADU Center and the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Honestly, I am very lucky to be based in a place that takes housing so seriously and has devoted so much talent and so many resources to housing.

9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I tried to buy a Swedish porcelain factory on vacation once.

10. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

I want to help California reach its goal of building 180,000 units of housing a year.

When I first said that, my wife suggested “maybe start with one.”

Home movies that included this 1962 film taken at Disneyland were recently digitized by Napa’s Closs family. The family has owned and run Buttercream Bakery for many years. Disneyland opened in 1955. 


Closs family

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Meet Ryan O’Connell, the founder of How To ADU, and an advocate for more housing in California.
O’Connell moved to Napa in 2012 to start nakedwines.com. The business funds winemakers around the country and around the world.
In traveling all over California’s wine regions, O’Connell recalled how he met many vineyard workers, winery teams, and hospitality staff that could not afford to live in the regions where they work.
“There just isn’t enough housing,” he said.
Falling back on his political science background (he earned a B.A. at Tulane University), O’Connell set out to explain Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to California homeowners.
His goal? “To create simple ways for homeowners to reduce California’s housing shortage, in a way that benefits them and their communities.”

Support local news coverage and the people who report it by subscribing to the Napa Valley Register. 

1. What was your childhood ambition?
I used to tell my parents that I wanted to be the President! But when I was 8, I saw Bill Clinton on TV and told my mom I didn’t want to be President anymore. She asked “why not?” and I said Clinton got a lot of gray hair in his first year.
2. What job would you like to try/not try?
Try: Generative AI (artificial intelligence) is so fascinating right now – I’d like to learn how to harness that power for good. I’ve heard that prompting AI will be an entire career one day, like learning how to use a printing press or code software.
Not try: I have so much respect for school teachers and, while I do a lot of educational content, I couldn’t imagine the responsibility of doing that in person and being responsible for a big group of young people.
3. How did you get into the housing industry?
I left my dream career in the wine world in the middle of a global pandemic to make a difference in the housing shortage.
When I launched How To ADU’s YouTube channel and Facebook group, I barely had three subscribers: me, my wife, and my mom!
Fast forward three years and we now have the largest online community of homeowners in California with over 20,000 members of our Facebook group, 54,000 followers on TikTok and 9,000 subscribers on YouTube.
It turns out that people really need information about these new laws and how they can use them to change their lives!
4. What is the biggest challenge your business/industry has faced?
Education and communication are the biggest challenges in the ADU space.
The state passes new zoning laws almost every year, and then each city and county have local staff and nonprofits all working individually on separate programs, ordinances, and more.
While we optimistically call this patchwork process something like the “laboratories of democracy” it ends up with a very fragmented system that varies from one zip code to another.
We are lucky that in Napa we have great programs at the county and city level, nonprofits like the Napa Sonoma ADU Center, and private sector innovation like Redwood Credit Union’s incredible ADU construction loan. So the challenge here is exporting those successful programs to other parts of the state.
5. What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?
We need to build more housing so that the people who work in Napa can afford to live in Napa.
We benefit from a strong economy and provide a lot of work opportunities in our community, but we do not provide enough housing at different sizes, and levels of affordability.
If you’re a resident of Napa, or work or play here, I hope that you’ll support more housing being built so we can keep our community vibrant and healthy.
6. If you could change one thing about the housing industry, what would it be?
I hope that we all learn to work together to build great communities. Too often, I see arguments between groups of people who should be natural allies.
For example, pro-housing developers, tenant protection organizations, environmentalists, and labor activists may all take different “sides” of a debate. But there are good, smart ways to build that make our communities stronger and serve all of us well.
7. What’s your favorite gift to give?
My go-to is old bottles of wine that I made back in the day. That has to be the least original answer, but it’s the truth. I love sharing wine with people, and sharing a story about the bottle.
8. What’s your favorite charity or nonprofit?
The Napa Sonoma ADU Center and the Napa Valley Community Foundation. Honestly, I am very lucky to be based in a place that takes housing so seriously and has devoted so much talent and so many resources to housing.
9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I tried to buy a Swedish porcelain factory on vacation once.
10. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
I want to help California reach its goal of building 180,000 units of housing a year.
When I first said that, my wife suggested “maybe start with one.”

Home movies that included this 1962 film taken at Disneyland were recently digitized by Napa’s Closs family. The family has owned and run Buttercream Bakery for many years. Disneyland opened in 1955. 

Closs family

Photos: Check out Napa County’s LEAST expensive home sold in January

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

23 Lena Drive, American Canyon.

This American Canyon home was the least expensive home sold in Napa County in January. It sold for $515,000. The home is located at 23 Lena Drive.
Source: AJ Hearn, Realty One Group Fox

Dave Horn Unlimited Real Estate Photography

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Napa 10 Questions: O’Connell knows How to ADU  Napa Valley Register

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