Adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit to a Multifamily Property

Have you been keeping up with the changes to the California ADU law?  Are you wondering how much you can increase the value of an apartment building by adding an ADU?  This year, on January 1st, they passed Senate Bill 13 (SB-13), revising the ADU law which now provides property owners with options to legally add units to an apartment building. 

Senate Bill 13 (SB-13)

Revisions to the California ADU law, effective since January 1, 2020
#1 Adding 2 units to an existing single family property
#2 Adding 3 units to an existing multifamily property  

  • 1 of the 3 units must be converted from existing space, the other 2 units can be newly built

​#3 Converting existing space of multifamily property to an ADU ​

  • ​Existing space includes: ​​Garage,  Storage space, Laundry room, Utility room, Community room, Basement, Attic 
  • For an unpermitted attached garage conversion, up to 5 years to get the proper permits, if needed.

​​​​Conversion vs. New Construction​

Q : When converting a shed or detached storage space, does the structure need to be completely rebuilt? (i.e. new walls, new foundation, etc.)

A : Any ADU must comply with all building code requirements for a livable unit.  The City will require a full set of plans demonstrating compliance. 

Q : Is it easier to convert a space or build new construction when adding an ADU to an apartment building?

A : It is easier to convert space, as setback and height limitations do not apply.  Being that new construction on an apartment building is required to be detached, this requires additional space on the lot, as well as setback and height limitations.

Q : When building an ADU above a garage, is this considered new construction or the conversion of an existing structure?

A : On a single family residence, this would be allowed.  For multifamily properties, this would be more difficult, as it would be considered new construction.  This means that it would need to be detached and meet the setback and height requirements which are 4 feet on side and rear setbacks with 16 feet of maximum height.

Q : When adding a unit above a garage, does this mean the existing garage needs to be torn down and to build a new foundation prior to building?

A : In most cases, yes; you would need to tear down the existing garage to pour a new foundation that meets City building codes.  In certain circumstances, there may be some options to address the structural and foundation issues without tearing down the garage.

Q : Is the conversion of a basement into an ADU allowed?

A : Yes, while basements in Long Beach are not common, there is nothing prohibiting this.

Q : Would an owner be allowed to install a new meter for electric and gas to a converted space?

A : Yes, this is allowed.  If this unit is intended to be rented, this ensures that the landlord does not incur utility costs.

Q : Would the City of Long Beach Historic Designation prevent a garage conversion?

A : No, the City cannot prevent a garage conversion due to historic designation.  However, they are allowed to apply historic standards when reviewing any conversion.  A Certificate of Appropriateness could be required. This includes approved architectural styles, paint colors, and building materials. 

​ADU Size Requirements

Q : What is the minimum size for a shed or rumpus room conversion?
A : General Rule: 50% of primary building square footage OR 1,200 Square Feet maximum.
If local governments have added limits to state law:

  •   Smallest allowable size: 150 Sq. Ft. (220  Sq. Ft. in Long Beach)
  •    Largest allowable size for studios and 1-bedroom: 850 Sq. Ft.
  •    Largest allowable size for more than 1-bedroom: 1,000 Sq. Ft.

Largest allowable size with no additional local limits:

  •    1,200 Sq. Ft.

 ​​ADU Setback and Height Requirements​

Q : What are the setback requirements and height limitations for new construction?

A : Setback requirements:

  • 4 feet on the sides
  • 4 feet in the rear
  • Height limitations:
  • 16 feet maximum

​Q : When building an ADU above a garage, is this likely to meet City and State setback requirements?

A : This depends on the location of the garage.  Being that many garages are built on either side or rear property lines, this would not meet setback requirements.  An ADU above a garage must have a setback of 5 feet on the side and rear yards.

Parking Requirements

Q : In what instance am I not required to replace or provide parking?

A : Replacing or providing parking is not required if the subject property is within 0.5 miles of public transit or ridesharing services.

Q : Is it safe to assume that every property in Long Beach meets the public transit distance requirement, thereby not needing to replace parking?

A : Yes, it is relatively safe to assume this, the public transit distances are generous and most of Long Beach has Long Beach Transit or other bus services nearby.

Plans And Permits

Q : Is the City asking for a full set of plans when it comes to converting a rumpus room? (i.e. elevation, mechanical, electrical, structural plans)

A : Yes, full plans are required. All units must be compliant with the building code. This has proven to be the difficult aspect for ADU conversions – ADA access, egress, and Title 24 compliance. 

Q : How long does an owner have to get the proper permits if their property already has an unpermitted ADU?

A : While permits are ultimately required, owners with unpermitted units can request a “delay of enforcement,” giving them up to 5 years to get the proper permits with the City.

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