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ADU Permit & Plan Review Process
Obtaining a building permit involves understanding:
  • What the Zoning Code allows on your lot;
  • Whether your lot has conditions that require a special permit, clearance,or variance; and
  • Preparing building plans that meet Building code requirements.

City staff are here to help you through the steps:  

Step 1: Does your project comply with the Zoning Code? Meet with a City Planner for a free review!

Before you create your building plans, we highly recommend you meet with a City Planner to make sure the project location and concept complies with the Zoning Code. Please bring these items:

  • A completed ADU Screening Form 
  • A preliminary site plan (may be hand-drawn) that shows:
    • Lot boundaries and dimensions
    • Location of the primary dwelling unit and proposed ADU.

If your project is in a designated Historical zone or in a Planned Development Zone that restricts ADUs, the Planner will guide you on your next steps.

If you need to remove an ordinance-size tree to build the ADU, also ask the Planner about tree removal

For projects that comply with the Zoning Code, the
 Planner will initial the ADU Screening Form and return it to you. This form, signed by the property owner, is also required with your building permit application
         
To meet with a Planner, come to the Permit Center, 1st floor, City Hall. No appointment is required. Validated parking is available in the Tower garage. Upon arrival:
 
  • Go to the Permit Center kiosk to obtain a ticket to meet with a Planner.
  • Tap "Planning Services" button
  • Tap "ADU Questions" button. 
  • Take the ticket and when your number is called, go to the round Assistance Desk.

Step 2: Is your project subject to a geohazard clearance or flood zone design requirements?

Is your lot in a geohazard, landslide, or flood zone? Find out by visiting www.sjpermits.org:
  • Tap the purple "Permits & Property Information" button.
  • Enter your address or assessor's parcel number, and click on your property when it appears.
  • Select property information.
  • A list of conditions associated with your lot will appear.

Lots in a geologic hazard or landslide zone - You will need a Geologic Hazard Clearance. Please read the instructions and complete the Geologic Hazard Clearance application. To save time, applicants may submit a building permit application concurrent with the geohazard clearance application, but note that a building permit will not be issued until the clearance has been secured.

Lots in flood zones A, AE, AH, or AO - Your project does not need a clearance, but you will have additional requirements for your ADU design. Please see Bulletin #211 - ADU Building Plans Submittal Checklist. Properties designated D or X are not subject to these requirements.

For questions, speak with a Public Works representative by calling 408-535-3555. 


Step 3: Will your project require a Variance from the Fire Department? 

In the event of an emergency, it's important that emergency responders can quickly find and access the ADU. The Bureau of Fire Prevention staff will evaluate your ADU project for compliance with the California Fire Code (CFC), including these items:

  1. Is the address of the ADU visible and legible from the street? 
  2. Is the distance from the front property line of the lot to all portions of the proposed ADU no greater than 150 feet as measured along a minimum 3-foot clear path to all sides of the ADU? 
  3. Are all exterior walls of the ADU within 400 feet of a fire hydrant?
  4. At the closest hydrant, is the flow at least 1,000 gpm at 20 psi, as stated in a letter from your Water Company? Please see the ADU Fire Requirements page for instructions on contacting your water company.

    Answering "no" to any of the above questions means you will need to speak with staff in the Fire Prevention Bureau about the possible need to apply for a Variance

  5. Is the primary residence protected by fire sprinklers? If yes, the ADU must have a fire sprinkler system.
  6. Is the project an attached ADU greater than 500 square feet and does the overall gross floor area exceed 3,600 square feet? If yes, the entire house including the ADU must have a fire sprinkler system.  

For questions, speak with staff in the Fire Prevention Bureau by calling 408-535-7750. 

Step 4: Prepare your ADU plan submittal package        

Preparing building plans involves technical codes and regulations, and homeowners are advised to hire a professional to draw their plans. City staff will not process an inaccurate or incomplete plan submittal; they will inform you of the needed information and ask you to resubmit the plans.  

For details on what the plans should include, see 
Bulletin #211 - ADU Building Plans Submittal Checklist.

For information on who can apply for a building permit and submit the plans, see our bulletin, How to Get a Building Permit.

Your ADU Plan Submittal Package requires these items:    


For questions, please call 408-535-3555, or visit us in the Permit Center.