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News Release —
Reduced Fees Offered for Accessory Dwelling Units

Qualified applicants can save thousands for expanding local housing options.
An exterior view of an accessory dwelling unit at a home in San Rafael.

Body of News Release

San Rafael, CA – The creation of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on a homeowner’s property is one way to alleviate the local housing crisis in Marin County and increasing the stock of available housing options. It just became easier and cheaper to build them in unincorporated areas of the county.

On February 27, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution that allows County staff to waive and reduce several types of fees for certain ADUs through the end of 2024. The results could save applicants thousands of dollars for building permits and roadway impact fees, especially for units that qualify as affordable housing. 

Details of the Board’s resolution can be found in the staff report.

The State of California approved Marin County’s updated Housing Element of its Countywide Plan that identifies a goal of producing 280 ADUs between 2023-2031. The County was on the right track as ADU/JADU permit applications climbed from 35 in 2019 to 81 in 2023. However, they are down from the high of 154 in 2021, which is what prompted discussion of more incentives.

The high cost of housing in Marin, considered a crisis by the Board, is regularly displacing people who have been priced out and preventing people who have jobs in Marin from living close to their workplaces. The U.S. Census Longitudinal Employer-Households Dynamics (LEHD) provides data on where workers live and where residents work. According to the most recent LEHD data, with 64% of its workers commuting in, Marin County has the second highest rate of out-of-county commutes in the Bay Area, only surpassed by San Mateo County. The COVID-19 pandemic only increased those challenges. 

Homeowners thinking about second units are often going through a life transition – seniors transitioning to a fixed income, first time homeowners looking for a way to afford a home, adults becoming empty nesters, looking for a solution to an overcrowded household, or seeking to create affordable housing for friends and family. An ADU  can generate new rental income, help someone age in place, help a financially strapped college student or recently discharged military veteran, or just provide a community benefit of a new home for anyone in need.

The offer to keep fees low is not new. Since the inception of the County’s fee waiver program in 2017, the County has seen a significant increase in interest to develop ADUs  and several state laws have eased the development process. As of December 2023, Marin County Development Code is consistent with state ADU laws.

The best resources about ADUs in Marin can be found on the ADUMarin webpage, which includes an ADU development guidebook, example floor plans, and an ADU cost calculator. In December 2023, the Board received a helpful update about a new resource called the ADU Center. The Center will be a “one-stop shop” and include one-on-one customer service and facilitation support between participating Marin jurisdictions and contractors. The ADUMarin website will be updated with additional resources in March 2024.

Also, anyone may subscribe to receive e-mailed notifications from CDA about housing-related issues. For more information on the applicable standards and permit process for ADUs, contact Marin County CDA’s Building and Safety office at (415) 473-6550 or check the Building and Safety Code Division webpage.

Page updated February 27, 2024