Santa Barbara Expands ADU Program to Boost Housing

The city hopes that permitting larger ADUs and making adaptive reuse easier will help it meet its state-mandated goal of building over 8,000 new housing units by 2031.

1 minute read

February 7, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Spanish-style State Street commercial buildings in downtown Santa Barbara, California

Under the new rules, buildings on Santa Barbara's commercial State Street will be allowed to add housing units on their second floors. | Gabriele Maltinti / Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara will now allow larger and taller accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in residential areas, as well as secondary ADUs on the second floor of commercial properties on the city’s popular State Street, reports Joshua Molina for Noozhawk.

“Many of the changes were technical and small in nature, but the more significant revisions include allowing the height of attached ADUs to rise from 18 feet to 25 feet and detached ADUs to increase from 17 feet to 18 feet,” Molina explains.

Santa Barbara officials believe expanding their ADU program will help bring more housing to the city while maintaining its character. According to the city, “Santa Barbara has received 928 applications for accessory dwelling units since 2017. Of those, 416 have been built and another 216 are in the pipeline.”

The new rules are partly a response to California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), which requires municipalities to take actions to boost housing production based on state-assigned targets. Statewide, California cities are tasked with building over 2.5 million housing units by 2031, with Santa Barbara accounting for 8,001 required units.

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