Limitation on City Regulation of Accessory Dwelling Units

Designed to provide relief from California’s housing shortage, Senate Bill 1069 and Assembly Bill 2299 (collectively “SB 1069,” effective January 1, 2017) limit city authority to regulate accessory dwelling units. It also replaces city building, parking and use standards on this topic and imposes standards on cities that have not yet adopted their own regulations. There is language in SB 1069 that a city’s entire accessory dwelling ordinance (if the city has one) will be null and void if it conflicts with these new standards, so the City should immediately review its existing code to determine if revisions are necessary.


SB 1069, applicable to both general law and charter cities, generally limits local authority to regulate the construction and use of accessory dwelling units. It adds findings to the Government Code to provide that “accessory dwelling units” provide security to homeowners, offer lower cost housing to the public, and are an essential component of California’s housing supply.[1] While SB 1069 does give cities the right to require rental terms be longer than 30 days,[2] the majority of its provisions reduce city authority over accessory dwelling units. Specifically:

  1. SB 1069 provides that if a city adopts an ordinance providing for the creation of accessory dwelling units, the ordinance must: (a) designate areas where they may be located, (b) impose various building standards, and (c) provide that accessory dwelling units do not exceed the allowable density and that such a use is consistent with the general plan and zoning designation.[3]
  1. SB 1069 prohibits cities from requiring accessory dwelling units to have fire sprinklers if the main residence is not required to.[4]
  1. SB 1069 imposes significant restrictions on parking requirements related to accessory dwelling units. It provides that cities may not impose parking standards for accessory dwelling units in any of the following circumstances:
  • when the unit is located within a half mile of public transit;
  • when the unit is located in a historic district;
  • when the unit is part of the existing primary residence;
  • when on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the unit occupant(s);
  • when there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the unit.[5]
  1. SB 1069 requires that cities “ministerially” approve an application for a building permit to build, within a single-family residential zone, one accessory dwelling unit per single-family lot if the unit is contained within the existing space of a single-family residence or accessory structure, has independent exterior access, and sufficient setbacks for fire safety.[6]
  1. SB 1069 prohibits cities from considering accessory dwelling units “new residential uses” for purposes of calculating utility, water, and sewer connection fees.[7]
  1. Accessory dwelling units located within an existing residence cannot be required to install a new or separate utility connection or a related fee or capacity charge.[8]
  1. SB 1069 provides that existing city ordinances governing accessory dwelling units and those enacted after January 1, 2017 must include a ministerial approval process without any discretionary requirements except as allowed in Government Code Section 65852.2(a).[9] If cities don’t comply, SB 1069 provides that the city’s entire ordinance “shall be null and void” as of January 1, 2017.[10]
  1. SB 1069 provides that an accessory dwelling unit that complies with Section 65852.2(a) shall not be considered to exceed the allowable density and shall be deemed consistent with the existing general plan and applicable zoning designations.[11]
  1. Cities without an ordinance in place and that receive their first application for an accessory dwelling unit must ministerially approve or disapprove the application within 120 days after receiving it.[12]


             Because SB 1069 limits city authority to regulate accessory dwelling units in a number of ways, cities should immediately review their current regulations to determine if they conflict with SB 1069. If a city does not have an existing ordinance governing accessory dwelling units, it must comply with the provisions of Gov. Code  § 65852.2(a) going forward.

The above information is for general use and is not legal advice. This J&M Legal Alert is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney – client relationship. Should you have any questions or require further clarification of the above, please contact Keith F. Collins at (714) 446-1400 or  

[1] Cal. Govt. Code § 65852.150.

[2] § 65852.2(a)(6).

[3] Cal. Govt. Code § 65852.2(a)(1)(A).

[4] § 65852.2(c) & (e).

[5] § 65852.2(d).

[6] § 65852.2(e).

[7] § 65852.2(f)(2).

[8] § 65852.2(f)(2)(A). Where the accessory dwelling unit is not located entirely within an existing residence, cities may require new utility connections and related fees. § 65852.2(f)(2)(A)

[9] § 65852.2(a)(4).

[10] § 65852.2(a)(4).

[11] § 65852.2(a)(8).

[12] § 65852.2(b).