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Why we build ADUs

Inspiration from our founder, Stan Acton

I moved to Palo Alto from Boulder, Colorado when I was three years old. As a kid, I spent every waking hour building forts, chairs, boxes, tables, and all sorts of wooden contraptions with whatever I could get my hands on. I was fortunate. High schools still had wood shop and I was even more fortunate to have an inspiring shop teacher named Bud Jamison. Bud never bothered with curriculum. Instead, he encouraged us with a blank canvas and a heaping load of leeway to chase our creative endeavors. Bud’s the one that really turned me into a designer and a builder.

The experience instilled in me an appreciation for detail and beauty, specifically the beauty of a well-designed form. Take that discovery and couple it with the opportunity to express myself freely? I was inspired. But the greatest artists (not that I’d count myself among them), have parameters too. Whether it’s literally a blank canvas with defined dimensions, or the volume of a slab of marble ready to be chipped into a statue, the opportunity to express myself and create beautiful, functional things within a restrictive set of limits soon became even more inspiring for me. And a good thing too, because California, for all its beauty and wonders, does seem to have a lot of limiting regulations and red tape, orbiting the field of  building.

I worked my way through college as a remodeling carpenter. I never could shake my love of woodworking, so I happily framed homes, crafted cabinets and finished carpentry on crown molding to help pay for my degree in computer science. Once I graduated, I was swept up by Texas Instruments and worked as a salesman for four years before my entrepreneurial itch needed to be scratched. So, in the spring of 1990, the pull of building was stronger than the allure of Silicon Valley tech riches, and I became a carpenter again. And, so begins the 30-year story of Acton Construction and Acton ADU.

I remember it vividly. Standing idly in the small, highly personalized walk-in closet of my historic home in Naglee Park in early 2017. You know those moments when you’re suddenly struck by an idea? An epiphany? Well, that’s what happened. It was a bolt of lighting that flashed through me and lit up every neuron in my brain. In that spectacularly ordinary moment, literally under the light of a swinging light bulb, I had a vision. ADUs will make an impact.

ADUs. Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU). They go by many names. Backyard homes, granny flats, or cottages. But, in the United States regulatory environment, these homes are called ADUs. And for the first time, the State made an effort to make them easier for homeowners to build.

The population in California has been growing exponentially since I was a kid in Palo Alto building forts. And, all around me the hum of innovation has made Silicon Valley explode with opportunity. Heck, even I was in tech for four years! Housing has been a growing issue for years. The costs keep escalating, builders can’t keep up, regulations are tight, and ultimately the families that have been here for decades are feeling the pinch. As these families age and their kids grow up they need to plan for their future in a place that is growing more expensive and unwieldy by the day. But now? Now I can do something about it. Acton Construction will specialize in ADUs.

Sure, Acton Construction had been a successful residential, design-build remodeling company for 30 years. My team is great, we have decades of experience working with local ordinances and have developed processes and best practices that have made us predictably successful. So why ADUs? Two reasons. The first? Acton Construction has all the tools to specialize in ADU design, navigation, and the building of ADUs. We already have. And, we have paid close attention to the real world importance of home customization in the vast, ever-changing landscape of homeowner regulations. The second? I’ve always loved to design and build forts. Well, that and my deep appreciation for the importance of design when you’re building smaller homes. Bud Jamison taught me that in wood shop class.

As Acton Construction moves forward into the future, we’ve adopted our true name: Acton ADU. We thrive in our purpose and vision, and love our role as partners for California homeowners to not just design and build ADUs, but to help guide plans with the people we work with to explore the rewards, security, and family integrity that generational living brings. Every family has different needs, every property has different opportunities and limitations. Therefore, every ADU is unique.

Nothing inspires me more. Nothing inspires our team more. We are making a difference.