Navigating Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) permitting standards for ADUs.

There’s great news for the City of Los Angeles. Residents can now legalize or permit Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) if they fall inside a Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) easement.

ADUs in LA are also known as:

  • Garage Conversions
  • Granny Flats
  • In-law Quarters
  • Backhouses
  • Backyard Homes

A Brief History of ADUs in Los Angeles

In the fall of 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed two landmark bills:

AB 2299 (Land use: housing: 2nd units)

SB 1069 (Land use: zoning)

These bills allowed for the creation of legal Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADUs) on properties that contained a single-family dwelling, overriding all local prohibitions and zoning regulations. Once the bills passed, homeowners who previously built unpermitted units were able to legalize them. This was a game-changer since, in Los Angeles alone, there were over 50,000 unpermitted structures. Relieved homeowners could legally permit their units!

When these bills went into effect on January 1st, 2017, everything was going smoothly until about six months into the program.

Mid 2017: The LADWP Changes The Rules

The LADWP and their lawyers decided that converting garages from non-habitable structures into habitable structures created “unsafe or hazardous conditions.”

At that point, the LADWP began rejecting anyone whose structure fell inside of their easement, claiming they were required to do that under state law. That was unusual since, no other known utility company in the state was rejecting applicants for this reason.

Assembly member Richard Bloom, the sponsor of AB 2299, attempted a legislative fix with a bill that would have relieved the LADWP from any liability. But, that bill couldn’t pass due to “legal issues.”

In the meantime, the applications of over 800 homeowners in the City of Los Angeles were rejected. Some homeowners even chose to chop off the back of their garage to satisfy the LADWP requirements, but many residents found that solution too cost-prohibitive.

2019 – The LADWP Changes Their Stance

Almost two years later, after intense pressure from the public and the Mayors office, the LADWP changed its stance.

One of the “safety issues” the LADWP cited in the past was the location of powerlines.

Now, ADUs that are located under the Department’s power lines are no longer considered unsafe or hazardous, provided they comply with the California Public Utility Commission General Order 95 clearance standards. These standards describe how far wires can be from the structure. In most instances, 12 feet from power lines is the minimum. Most single-story garages more than meet that requirement.

If you are converting an existing two-story structure, you might run into some height issues, although even that has a fix. You are able to pay to have taller poles installed, but they will cost you from $15,000 to $30,000 per pole. New 2-story structures will be set back far enough in the design process to avoid any issues. 

Currently, there’s a 4 to 6-month backlog to get through the approval process, which involves submitting your plans to LADWP.

Here’s the link to get you started.

Permitting Your ADU

YimblyLA! is the industry expert for permitting ADUs in LA. We can guide you through the entire permit process including; visiting your property, measuring, analyzing, photographing, and providing you with a detailed written plan. Plus, we’ll explain exactly what you need to do to get your permit on your own.  Or if you’d prefer, you can work with us to permit your ADU. We have a team of expert architects and engineers, and we can handle the entire permitting process for you. We also have trusted builders who specialize in Accessory Dwelling Units. Contact us today for more information and to book your free phone consultation.

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