County of Marin - News Releases - Accessory Dwelling Units

For Immediate Release
January 29, 2020

County Code Updated for Accessory Dwelling Units

Local rules to align with new state laws that went into effect January 1

San Rafael, CA – To help alleviate its housing crisis, the County of Marin is further relaxing local rules pertaining to accessory dwelling units (ADUs), sometimes called second units.

The kitchen area of a junior dwelling unitThe Marin County Board of Supervisors would like to see accessory dwelling units help alleviate the local affordable housing crisis.

By a unanimous vote January 28, the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted an urgency ordinance that modifies the County’s ADU standards and application review procedures to align with state law.

ADUs will now be permitted in multifamily and mixed-use zoning districts either through conversion of non-livable spaces or through construction of detached ADUs. In addition, the urgency ordinance creates a by-right, a ministerial, permitting process for ADUs that are less than 800 square feet and those created through conversion.

Marin’s Board has been working to address a severe housing shortage for lower-income residents in one of the country’s most expensive regions in which to live. The 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. ADUs and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs) are considered one option to alleviate the crisis and provide more homes for people without greatly expanding existing building footprints.

On January 14, the Board approved extended and expanded financial breaks on building and permit fees for new separate rental units inside and adjacent to existing homes. As an incentive, those renting out ADUs will have permit fees waived up to $10,000 if they rent to tenants with household incomes below 80% of the local median. There’s a $5,000 break on permits for ADUs that are rented between 80-120% of the median income.

The main difference between an ADU and a JADU is that ADUs have a more complete independent living setup with a full kitchen and bathroom. JADUs are converted from an existing bedroom and have smaller food preparation area, sometimes share bathrooms. Both types of units have entrances/exits separate from the property’s main entrance/exits, and both are seen as a way to increase options for renters and support homeownership for low and moderate income homeowners.

The second-unit program is overseen by the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA). Marin CDA staff has worked with Marin’s Aging Action Initiative and Marin County Commission on Aging on public education about the additional units the past several years.

The best source about ADUs and JADUs in Marin is the Make Room for Marin webpage. 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 JADUs and ADUs, contact the Marin County Building and Safety office at 415-473-6550 or check the Building and Safety Code Division webpage.


Immanuel Bereket
Senior Planner
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2755
Email: Immanuel Bereket
Community Development website