Backyard Home Pro Blog

10 years ago I stumbled across a type of housing that would change my life forever. As a partner in a small development company we built our first Granny Unit and it opened my eyes to a product so desperately needed by families throughout the state. Today, Backyard Homes are the main product I design and build and this blog is about bringing that information to you, both good and bad.

Accessory structure cuts through red tape

By backyardhomepro

Every day I get calls and emails from people who are looking to add a second unit on their property.  While the idea of a completely independent smaller home is appealing it does come with some issues here in California.  The two areas affected most by this choice are placement (setback restrictions) and cost (Impact fees).

Typically, second units have similar setback requirements to the main home.  Since most primary homes occupy the space allocated by these setback rules, it leaves very little area to work with for the new unit.  Sure there may be plenty of room on the side or rear yard, but these areas often have restrictions limiting their use beyond landscaping.  Even when we do manage to squeeze a structure into these areas our reward for creativity is often met with a hefty set of fees that are tacked on because we are building a full living unit.

When we met Pat in Los Altos to discuss these issues a decision was made to consider building an Accessory Structure rather than a full Second unit.  So “What’s the difference”, you ask?  Simple – we remove the kitchen from the plan.  That’s it.  Once the kitchen is gone the structure is no longer a home.  This small technicality change’s the way a city typically looks at what’s being submitted.  You’ll think this is crazy but now the structure is not unlike a shed in the city’s mind, even though we could be building a 490sqft unit with a Living Room, Bedroom & Bathroom. 

In Pat’s case, this thinking dramatically changed the setbacks and wiped out any impact fees.  Now we’re looking at as little as 5ft setbacks from fence lines and sometimes 10% of the total fee structure for a Second Unit.  In Pat’s case it allowed her to have the 496.5sqft structure you see here approved in less than 30 days!  We are almost completed with this project so look for a a full photo spread and virtual tour soon.  In the meantime, you can stop by our facebook page and see more of the photos.


  1. Jim Barnes says:

    Please keep me posted. Very interesting! Something like this might work for me.

  2. backyardhomepro says:

    We were waiting for the landscaper to finish the new patio and some other items to shoot the professional photos. I think we’re looking at getting them done this month. They should be posted soon!

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