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San Rafael, California: ADU Regulations

Are ADUs allowed in San Rafael:


Date Updated:


Number of ADUs allowed:

Limited to one secondary unit per primary dwelling.

Types of ADUs allowed:

Detached, attached, and junior ADUs are all permitted.

Lot size:

Lot size must meet a minimum of 5,000 sq. ft. and feature an existing single-family dwelling.

ADU size:

The maximum size of an ADU is 1,000 sq. ft. provided that any unit over 800 sq. ft. requires Planning Commission Use Permit approval.


Attached ADUs are subject to the same setback requirements of the principal dwelling. Detached ADUs are subject to the setback requirements applicable to any accessory structures.


ADUs require at least one parking space for a single bedroom, and one additional space for units with two or more bedroom. ADU parking may be uncovered and tandem if minimum restrictions are met.

Fire Safety:

Must follow state requirements.

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

Shape, materials, and style:

Architectural compatibility must be approved by a City planner, who will review the design plans (and visit the project site in the case of legalizing a second unit) to ensure that the ADU features the same or similar paint colors, trim detailing, and window style as primary dwelling.


ADUs attached to the single-family dwelling are height limited to 30 feet above grade. Detached ADUs are limited to a height of 15 feet.

Design review:

ADUs are subject to ministerial review by the Planning Division before a building permit can be issued. Additional zoning entitlements may be required, as specified in San Rafael Municipal Code Section 14.16.285.

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

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


The property owner must reside in either the primary dwelling or the ADU. Additionally, a deed restriction must be recorded with the County Recorder.

Permit Fees:


Exceptions apply and can be found under Section 14.16.060 (Conservation of Dwelling Units).


The ADU must have a separate entrance from the primary dwelling and cannot be located on the same side. The entry to the principal dwelling should be parallel to the front property line.

Manual / Guide:

Potential Rental Income:

According to, an accessory dwelling unit in San Rafael 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!