ADU’s can provide great benefits to many different people and living situations and the Nevada County Planning Department would like to get the information out on the benefits of ADU’s and the process to construct this type of housing option.
What is an ADU? Accessory Dwelling Units, also called second units or "granny units", can be an extremely beneficial and affordable option to provide additional housing units on a residential property. An ADU is an accessory dwelling unit with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons and can include the following:
• Detached: The unit is a separated structure from the primary residence.
• Attached: The unit is attached and/or contained within the primary residence.
• Converted Existing Space: Space (e.g., master bedroom, attached garage, storage area) on the property of the primary residence that is converted into an independent living unit.
• Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU): A specific type of conversion of existing space that is contained entirely within an existing single-family residence.
Are ADU’s affordable? ADU’s tend to be significantly less expensive to build and offer benefits that address common development barriers such as land acquisition and construction costs and environmental studies. Because ADU’s are built on lots with existing or proposed housing, they do not require the purchase of new land, additional parking or other costly infrastructure required to build a new single-family home. Junior ADU’s and attached ADU’s are contained inside existing single-family homes and require relatively modest renovations and are much more affordable to complete. ADU’s are often built with cost-effective one or two-story wood frames, which are also cheaper than other new homes and can be attached to garages, storage buildings and other accessory structures on a site. Additionally, prefabricated ADU’s can be directly purchased and save much of the time and money that comes with new construction.
What are the benefits of an ADU? ADU’s can provide as much living space as apartments and condominiums and work well for couples, small families, friends, young people, and seniors. ADU’s also give homeowners the flexibility to share independent living areas with family members and others, allowing seniors to age in place as they require more care, thus helping extended families stay together while maintaining privacy. The space can be used for a variety of reasons, including adult children who can pay off debt and save up for living on their own. Homeowners can construct an ADU on their lot or convert an under utilized part of their home into a Junior ADU or attached ADU. This flexibility benefits both renters and homeowners who can receive extra monthly rent income.
How do I get started? The process to construct an Accessory Dwelling Unit can seem daunting and the information on how to get started can be hard to find. The Building Department and Planning Department have created two new informational pamphlets that provide information regarding Accessory Dwelling Units. One of the informational handouts is the "Fast Facts" informational sheet to provide a quick starter guide for exploring the basics of ADU rules, regulations, costs and fees. The second handout is called "Frequently Asked Questions" and is intended to provide more detailed information and answers for people who decide to pursue constructing an Accessory Dwelling Unit.
Areas that are zoned to allow single-family residential homes, also allow an Accessory Dwelling Unit, without subdividing your property. An accessory dwelling unit is ministerial permitted, regardless of minimum parcel size and zoning densities on all parcels within RA, R1, R2, AE, AG, FR, and TPZ zoning districts, subject to zoning compliance and building permit issuance. Additional standards, including maximum allowable sizes, can be found in Sec. L-II 3.19.1.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) Frequently asked Questions (PDF)
Accessory Dwelling Unit Fast Facts (PDF)
The Planning Department and Building Department staff are available to further consult with perspective applicants and answer project specific questions regarding this attractive housing option.
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The Planning Department Fee Schedule (PDF) is available for download.
To request advance notification of a project, please fill out the Request for Project Notification (PDF) form and submit it to:Planning Department950 Maidu AvenueSuite 170Nevada City, CA 95959
You may also email the form. For specific project notification please contact the project planner to request special notification of public hearings and other opportunities to participate in the planning process.
The Nevada County Zoning Ordinance establishes 21 Base Zoning Districts and several Combining Districts. Base districts establish allowable uses and the site development standards for your property. Combining districts provide any additional or unique requirements that may apply to your property. All properties have a base zoning. Only some properties have combining districts.
Every parcel has a specific zoning designation, such as Commercial, Residential or General Agricultural. Do not assume your zoning is the same as your neighbor's zoning. Zoning designations are shown on official Zoning District Maps, usually combined with a numerical symbol that shows the minimum parcel size and/or the maximum allowable density. For example, if your property is zoned "AG-10-ME," your base zoning is General Agricultural, the minimum parcel size for subdividing is 10-acres, and there is a "Mineral Extraction" combining district attached.
While it is not typical, zoning can change without notice so it is in your best interest to check your zoning before you plan to sell, or develop you property. You will need to know the address or Assessor's Parcel Number of the property for which you are seeking information.
You may obtain your zoning in any of these ways:
All zoning must be consistent with the County's adopted General Plan. In many instances, changes to the zoning map will also require a change to the General Plan map. In order to amend the General Plan, you must be able to demonstrate that the change is in the public interest ("What public benefit will result from the change?"), and that the change is consistent with General Plan Goals and Policies. You should also evaluate whether there have been significant changes to infrastructure in the project area, e.g., "What new services are available to your property that were not available when the current General Plan took effect?" For specific questions and discussion about amending either the zoning or General Plan, you should make an appointment with a County Planner by calling 530-265-1222.
The Community Development Agency does not maintain official maps or recorded deeds of individual properties. If a site plan was prepared for a previous permit, that plan may be available. Many County offices use the Office of the County Assessor's Parcel Maps for reference in determining the proximity and shape of all parcels within the County, including the cities.
Assessor's maps provide a great deal of useful information, including the boundaries of cities and special districts, delineated by Tax Area Codes; they may reflect recorded easements, and they may specify a recorded map number. Assessor's parcel numbers are assigned for tax purposes and do not necessarily reflect legally created parcels. One legally created parcel may contain one or more Assessor's Map numbers, especially if the property is divided by a road, a creek or a special district. Do not assume that this map reflects a legal parcel, multiple parcels or legal boundaries. You may obtain a map from the online My Neighborhood Interactive Map.
The Office of the Nevada County Recorder, reached at 530-265-1221, maintains all officially recorded Parcel Maps and Final Maps (subdivisions) and Records of Survey. If your property has never been surveyed, there may not be an official map available.
The ability to subdivide property depends on a number of things. The first criteria is always the minimum parcel size or density established by the General Plan and zoning map. If you are zoned for 5-acre parcels, that means you must have acreage equal to 5 acres per dwelling unit. If the "density" can be satisfied, the answer is then "maybe." The proposed land division must be able to satisfy requirements for sewage disposal and water supply, and adequate access. The subdivision must also be designed to avoid environmentally sensitive resources as defined by County Zoning Ordinance.
The County Tentative Map Guidelines (PDF) provide detailed information on the procedures that are required before land can be subdivided. To discuss specific issues or concerns about your property you should make an appointment with a County Planner 530-265-1222.
Nevada County has adopted Resource Standards which outline what types of natural resources are considered to be environmentally sensitive and protection standards for those resources. This website offers a few tools to determine the presence of these resources on your property and others are provided by state or federal agencies. The My Neighborhood Interactive Map is a good place to start when trying to do a cursory review of a property in Nevada County. Available layers include flood hazard zones, important farmlands, and fire severity zones. Additionally, you are able to overlay a mosaic of USGS maps that show watercourses (ponds, rivers, creeks etc.) and elevation contours (to assist in determining areas of steep slopes) and aerial photos to assist in determining the presence of landmark oak groves and trees. While a field visit is always warranted, the tools available on this mapping interface should assist you with making a preliminary assessment.
If this is important to you, you are also encouraged to visit, call 530-265-1222, or email the Planning Department to get any additional information on the property which can be obtained through the Community Development Agency’s Record Request process. If there was a previous land use permit or land division involving a given property, the Planning Department may have a site specific biological or cultural inventory on file for the property. While specific findings of cultural resource inventories are typically confidential to the general public, we can discuss those resources in general terms with the land owner. Should you wish to investigate further into whether or not your property hosts any known cultural or historical resources you are encouraged to do a records search with the discuss those resources in general terms. Should you wish to investigate further into whether or not your property hosts any known cultural or historical resources you are encouraged to do a records search with the Northern Central Information Center at California State University Sacramento who, for a small fee, can do a records search of your property.
You may also procure the services of archeologist/cultural resource professional to prepare a cultural report or a biologist to prepare a biological inventory for your property. Another good resource for determining the presence of sensitive plant and wildlife species in the vicinity of your property is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Diversity Database. Finally, if you are concerned over the potential for hazardous materials to occur on your property, the State Water Resources Board maintains a Geotracker database for regulated facilities in California and the State Department of Toxic Substances Control maintains an Envirostor database of clean-up sites and hazardous waste facilities. Should you determine that your property does have hazardous material on it, you are encouraged to seek out the services of the local geotechnical firm to perform a preliminary endangerment assessment.
A setback is the distance between a structure and a property line, a natural feature, a road right-of-way, and other improvements. In all residential and rural zoning districts, setbacks are required from all property lines and roadways.
Setbacks vary with zoning but can also be affected by further restrictions recorded on subdivision maps. Front yard road setbacks for residential uses are 20 feet from the edge of the road right-of-way (not the edge of pavement), or 45 feet from the centerline of the road right-of-way, whichever is greater. All residential and rural properties must maintain a 30 foot setback from the side and rear property lines; however, if your parcel is less than three acres in size and your property is served by public water, the setback from the side property line can be reduced to 10 feet, and the rear setback reduced to 20', subject to certain fire protection measures.
The front property line is the side containing the road right-of-way or easement. The rear property line is the line opposite the front line. For determining setbacks on corner properties, the front line is the shorter line abutting the road (not the driveway access). Section L-II 4.2.5.E. of Zoning Ordinance can assist in determining which is the front property line for unusual property configurations.
Only pre-qualified biological consultants that have been approved by the County are authorized to prepare these inventories.
Land use complaints can be filed at the CDA Customer Service Center at the Nevada County Administrative Center. All formal complaints must be filed on the official form, and must be signed. The name of the complainant is confidential. If you have questions concerning the filing of a complaint, contact the Code Compliance Division of the Community Development Agency at 530-265-1222 Option 4, or visit the Code Compliance Division webpage.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Maps for most of Nevada County were updated by FEMA on February 3, 2010. These maps indicate the approximate location of the floodplains for the major drainage courses within the County. Floodplains may be mapped for entire properties or portions of properties. The maps are available for viewing at the Planning Department Front Counter.
Constructing or placing fill within a floodplain requires a use permit. Additionally, zoning regulations establish a 100 foot non-disturbance buffer from the boundaries of a floodplain. If you propose construction in or near a floodplain you are advised to obtain a copy of the County Floodplain Ordinance and/or the Zoning Ordinance for reducing buffer areas. Copies are available at the Planning Department Front Counter.
Section 3.4 of the Zoning Ordinance establishes an animal density standard for the keeping of animals where no commercial activity is involved, as long as they are cared for in a manner that does not create a public nuisance or health problem.
In Rural zoning districts (e.g. the AG, AE, and FR), there is no limit on the number of animals, including cats and dogs.
In Residential districts, there are maximums for parcels that are less than 0.5 acre in size, i.e., three dogs or cats (over six months of age). For specific detail and additional restrictions, you should always check the Zoning Ordinance.
Generally, the following timelines are established for permits requiring Planning Department review; however, applications that are incomplete or that trigger the need for additional information may result in delays.