L.A. is making the process of building backyard homes faster with new, pre-approved designs

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The city of Los Angeles now has a variety of pre-approved designs that people can choose from to speed up securing permits to build backyard homes, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday.

The new initiative gives homeowners access to 20 pre-approved designs available online from 10 different companies. Those who choose a pre-approved layout will be able to reduce the review process from up to six weeks to as little as one day, according to the mayor’s office. 

Accessory dwelling units — also known as granny flats or backyard homes —have become critical to L.A.’s ability to build more homes amid the housing crisis, and they make up 22% of newly-permitted units, city officials said.

“This program is about making ADUs more accessible, more affordable, and more beautiful — and making them part of the blueprint of our efforts to tackle our housing crunch and create more affordable communities citywide,” Garcetti said in a news release.

An accessory dwelling unit is a secondary residential unit on a property with a proposed or existing home. The designs approved by the city and administered by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety include small studios as well as larger, two-story layouts.

  • This rendering shows an exterior view of “The Breadbox,” an ADU Standard Plan design by WELCOMEPROJECTS.(Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)
  • This rendering shows an interior view of "Pebblehouse,” an ADU Standard Plan design by SO - IL. (Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)
  • This rendering shows one of two pre-approved modular designs by Connect Homes in the Standard Plan Program. (Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)
  • This rendering shows an exterior view of an ADU design by LA Más.(Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)
  • This rendering shows an interior view of a design by Design, Bitches.(Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)
  • This rendering shows a two-story ADU design by Taalman Architecture/IT HOUSE INC.(Courtesy Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety)

“The designs will help simplify, expedite, and reduce the cost of the overall permitting process by offering consumer protection from contractor abuses; direct access to architecture firms who have secured approved plans; and flexible designs that will work for most residentially zoned properties,” city officials said in a news release.

Accessory dwelling units and tiny homes have become increasingly popular in the region.

A 2017 study by a UCLA think tank found that ADUs are feasible for 5% to 10% of the 500,000 single-family lots in Los Angeles.

One of the companies whose designs was approved for the project is LA-Más, which also leads the Backyard Homes Project — a program meant to incentivize homeowners to become affordable housing providers by helping them build and rent out backyard homes to Section 8 voucher holders.

That program is open to homeowners with non-hillside residential properties in Atwater Village, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, Elysian Valley, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Hermon, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills and Mount Washington.

Also, in 2019, the city started a program that lets homeowners rent backyard homes to older adults facing housing insecurity in exchange for certain benefits.

And continuing a trend of small-scale housing, the city is also building “tiny home” villages to house homeless people, including in North Hollywood.

“Driving down the cost of building new units helps all communities increase affordable housing stock. This ADU Standard Plan Program reflects the kind of forward-thinking that LA needs to expand housing affordability throughout the city,” Councilman Kevin de León said in a statement.

De León last month called on city agencies to develop standard plans for modular multi-family homeless and affordable housing, bungalow courts and accessory dwelling units.

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