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Accessory Dwelling Units - Granny units
Old 11-27-2017, 10:08 PM   #1
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Accessory Dwelling Units - Granny units

Anyone have hands on experience building a " Granny unit " in Palo Alto, CA.
State Law changed, so local cities relaxed their building ordinances in 2017.
Rents are very high in Bay area. Seems building a "ADU" may be better than
investing in CDs or stock market.
Just curious. Est. cost to build. per sq. ft. How do you handle sewer hookups.
How do you find a contractor with real reliable experience.
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Old 11-27-2017, 11:08 PM   #2
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Not in Palo Alto - but in San Diego.

Our experience in bullet points:
- We built prior to the relaxation of rules.... Very hard to get approval... despite meeting every requirement of the restrictive regulations. It would be much easier to get building permit now. San Diego specific, they have relaxed parking restrictions specifically.
- At the time we had to sign a deed restriction limiting us to have one of the two units (primary and granny flat) be owner occupied.
- contractor # one ripped us off then abandoned the job when confronted. (license eventually revoked after cslb and state attorney negotiated settlement which he didn't pay)
- contractor # two tried to rip us off some more- slapping a mechanics lien when we refused to pay for work not delivered.
- construction NOT a good experience. We'll never do this again.

After the fact....
- provided great place for in-laws to live for several years and us VERY local to provide help and support. Our granny flat was built ADA compliant and very wheelchair friendly for (now deceased FIL.)
- now provides great income... we're 3 years into great tenants... rent is definitely part of my being able to retire.

Advice:
- Check your contractor out on cslb.ca.gov site to see if any complaints filed. Run if there are - it takes a lot of evidence to get to where it's posted on the website...
- Check to see if your contractor is properly paying workmans comp. (also on cslb.ca.gov).
- Check local court to see if contractor is being sued.
- Check grant deed search for your county to see if contractor has a lot of mechanics leins issued, or court judgements against.

No regrets now... but at the time we were dealing with horrendous issues with the contractors I had many many many regrets.
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Old 11-27-2017, 11:18 PM   #3
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Rodi. Thanks for the great response. Exactly what I was requesting. Someone who
as real life experience. I will try and follow your advice.
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Old 11-28-2017, 07:41 AM   #4
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Check with the City to see where they are in complying with the new state law. Some cities are very slow to bring their codes and the permit process up to date. San Jose was not up to speed when I first looked into this. In Palo Alto you are likely dealing with older houses, but there may be deed restrictions against second dwelling units. Expect a lot of resistance from your neighbors. They will likely file protests, show up at planning meetings, and fight you all the way. If there are deed restrictions, they may sue.

Cost? No current information on stand alone units. I have heard but have not verified estimates of over $300 per sf for basic bedroom additions, not including City fees.
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Old 11-28-2017, 08:20 AM   #5
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Btw the granny house is a sort of back to the future issue. My sister lived for a while in the 1970s in a house that was originally in the rear part of a lot in central Pasadena, about 700 square feet. Looking at google earth you see a number of them in that neighborhood, particularly on the corner lots. So another back to the future moment.
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Old 11-28-2017, 09:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
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Btw the granny house is a sort of back to the future issue. My sister lived for a while in the 1970s in a house that was originally in the rear part of a lot in central Pasadena, about 700 square feet. Looking at google earth you see a number of them in that neighborhood, particularly on the corner lots. So another back to the future moment.
My aunt and grandmother may have lived in that house or one just like it in the 1950's and early 60's... There were a lot of them in the area east of Lake and south of Colorado.
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Old 11-28-2017, 10:42 AM   #7
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We added a room just over a year ago and cost then was $350/sq ft for Santa Clara County.
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Old 11-28-2017, 12:00 PM   #8
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San Diego just updated their rules to comply with the state mandates on granny flats being allowed. One thing they still have to discourage it is the high permitting fees.

At the time we built the permit was almost impossible to get. When DH went to apply they said "no" before even reviewing it - citing the common reasons to deny: too small a lot (ours was big enough), no offstreet parking (we had room for a driveway spot), had to be in back third of lot (our site was on the back third). It took multiple trips before they would even start reviewing the plans, and many months before they approved them. Because we were required to be on the back third of the lot we had to deal with grading and retaining walls, pumps for sewer and storm water, etc. They even required us to get a cal-osha certified grader for the retaining wall footings which turns out to be hard to find. But we jumped through all their hoops. The new process is much easier and less restrictive.

As for neighbors protesting or planning group protests.... Here in San Diego if you meet all of the requirements (setbacks, sf, etc) the neighbors don't have a say.

What we did, as part of being a good neighbor, was go to all of our neighbors to let them know about the project. This included our neighbors on either side and across the street, but also our neighbors who live on the street below us. We showed them renderings (DH was an architect and did the design) to show it was a *nice* looking building and not a junky/ugly thing that would drive down home prices. We told them we'd work with any concerns they had about the construction impact. I'm now (after the fact) friends with the neighbor directly below our house... she has said she really appreciated us making contact with them before the construction started, allaying their concerns about rain runoff (we have a pump system - so roof runoff gets pumped up to our street vs flooding their backyard). It helped that we were building it as a literal granny flat - my in-laws lived in it - so everything was designed handicap accessible (FIL was in a wheelchair).... Who could object to the emotional tug of building a granny flat to help care for aging parents.

The costs are high compared to normal price per square foot because it's a smaller space with a bathroom ($$) and kitchen ($$). Adding a bedroom (without plumbing) is a much cheaper $/sf than adding an addition or detached building with a kitchen and bathroom.

If you have the space - we were limited to a max of 700sf... which isn't a lot. But we're fortunate to have a very nice canyon view - so we took advantage of that view with a covered front porch - which doesn't count as part of the 700sf. But here in San Diego acts as an outdoor living room.

FWIW - ours is detached and has some cost design elements that added to the cost. Including site development (grading, retaining walls, ada compliant ramped pathway to the site.) If we had not had the contractor issues - the original accepted bid put it at $350ish/sf... but as mentioned, that included a lot of grading and overbuilt retaining walls because of the hillside nature of the site. We actually paid out more - but that includes lawyer fees and expenses related to the contractor issues.... we got *some* of that money back in bonds and judgements.

One more note that is california specific... Any ADA compliant features will reduce the property tax increase. In our case reductions were given for the ada compliant ramp down to the site (extra grading costs) and for the wheel chair friendly roll in shower. In CA you pay current costs for new additions/construction - (vs the prop 13 rate you might be paying on your primary). So reducing that tax hit was nice.
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Old 11-28-2017, 10:46 PM   #9
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Thanks to all for the great responses. Rodi, the ADA compliant features, and property tax,
reduction. Very valuable info. Never heard of that. Will have to bring that feature up.
Thanks again.
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Old 11-28-2017, 11:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
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My aunt and grandmother may have lived in that house or one just like it in the 1950's and early 60's... There were a lot of them in the area east of Lake and south of Colorado.
Actually it was east of Lake and north of Orange Grove. The house only had 110 v electrical. 1 bedroom , a living and a dining room kitchen and bathroom.
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