Global Announcement Text

Santa Cruz, California: ADU Regulations

Date Updated:


Are ADUs allowed in Santa Cruz:


Number of ADUs allowed:

Limited to one ADU per parcel.

Types of ADUs allowed:

Both attached and detached ADUs are permitted, however, a parcel may have EITHER a habitable accessory structure with a bathroom OR an ADU, but not both.

Lot size:

Must follow new construction guidelines.

ADU size:

The ADU may not exceed 640 sq. ft or 10% of the lot size within the Urban Services Line. Outside of the Urban Services Line, on lots smaller than 10,000 sq. ft., ADUs may be up to 640 sq. ft. while lots between 10,000 sq. ft. and 1 acre may have ADUs up to 800 sq. ft. Parcels 1 acre or larger outside of the Urban Services Line can feature ADUs up to 1,200 sq. ft.


In addition to the primary residence's required parking, one parking space per bedroom in the ADU is required, unless exception qualifications are met.

Fire Safety:

Fire Sprinklers in ADUs are only mandatory if also present in or required for the primary structure.

Note: Fire Department regulations should be assessed on a project by project basis.

Shape, materials, and style:

The ADU should share architectural compatible with the primary residence. Additionally, ADU doors, windows, and balconies should be situated to preserve privacy.


Inside the Urban Services Line, ADUs cannot exceed 17 feet in height unless constructed above a garage, in which case they can be up to 22 feet.

Design review:

All development guidelines (setbacks, lot coverage, etc.) for the underlying zone district must be met. State ministerial review processes apply.

Note: Historic Neighborhoods or Districts should be assessed on a project by project basis.

Environmental Requirements:

Fire, Sanitation and Water Districts' approval requirements must be satisfied during the Building Permit process.

Note: Drainage and sewer connections should be assessed on a project by project basis.


Either the ADU or primary structure must be owner-occupied as evidenced by a homeowner's property tax exemption, or other documentation.

Permit Fees:

Allowed Zones:

The lot must be zoned Residential or otherwise have a General Plan designation of Residential. An exception is made for lots outside of the Coastal Zone which may be zoned for Agriculture.

ADU Manual/Guide:

Potential Rental Income:

According to, an accessory dwelling unit in Santa Cruz can generate $24,000+ per year in possible rental income.

Important Note: Rules and regulations are updated and changed frequently. It’s one of our jobs to be up to speed and navigate those regulations. Let us know if our website isn’t up to date or if you have any information that could help. Cheers!