ADU Pre-approval Plans: Guide for Homeowners

Navigating the process of adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to your property can be daunting. However, ADU pre-approval plans have emerged as a game-changer, streamlining the permitting process and saving homeowners both time and money. 

This guide dives into what you need to know about ADU pre-approval plans, helping you make informed decisions for your project.

What are Accessory Dwelling Unit Pre-Approved Plans?

Let’s consider the example of Sarah, a homeowner in Los Angeles. She has been toying with the idea of adding an ADU to her backyard for months. 

Sarah pictures a cozy, modern space where her aging mother could live close by or perhaps serve as a rental unit for extra income. However, the daunting tales of bureaucratic red tape, endless design consultations, and spiraling costs had always held her back.

One sunny afternoon, while sipping her coffee and scrolling through her newsfeed, Sarah stumbles upon an article about the City of Los Angeles’ ADU pre-approval program. Intrigued, she learns that the city offers a variety of pre-approved ADU designs that bypass the usual lengthy permit process.

adu pre-approval plans

As a result of these plans, Sarah can enjoy significantly reduced wait time and expense for her ADU project!

ADU pre-approval plans are sets of building plans that have already been reviewed and approved by a city or local jurisdiction. As a result, they meet specific standards and codes, eliminating the need for individual plan reviews and speeding up the approval process for homeowners.

City-Owned Versus Designer-Owned ADU Pre-Approval Programs

Pre-approval programs can either be city-owned or designer-owned.

adu pre-approval plans

In city-owned plans, the municipality provides a catalog of pre-approved designs. Meanwhile, in designer-owned plans, private companies or architects have their designs pre-approved by the city.

Therefore, each has its benefits, with city-owned often being free to use and designer-owned offering more variety and customization.

ADU Pre-approved Plans Cost Savings

Using pre-approved plans can lead to significant cost savings. By bypassing the need for custom architectural designs and the lengthy permit review process, homeowners can save on both design fees and time. This results in a quicker and more cost-effective ADU project.

Speaking of costs, you can go through our guide on various financing options for ADU development.

Cities with ADU Pre-approved Programs

Several cities across California have embraced ADU pre-approved programs, including:

  • San Jose
  • Los Angeles
  • Fremont
  • Cupertino
  • Napa-Sonoma

These programs are especially designed to encourage the development of ADUs, providing homeowners with an array of designs that suit different needs and property sizes.


ADU pre-approval plans offer an efficient path for homeowners looking to expand their living space. 

By choosing a pre-approved design, you can enjoy a particularly smoother, faster, and even cheaper ADU project. Therefore, consider exploring the options available in your city and take advantage of these innovative programs to bring your ADU to life.

Need help with exploring your ADU options? Contact GoldenADU today at 213-693-2405 to get your free ADU consultation!


What exactly are ADU pre-approved plans?

They are building plans pre-reviewed and approved by local jurisdictions for ADUs, streamlining the permitting process.

How do I find out if my city offers ADU pre-approved plans?

Visit your city’s official website or contact the local building department to inquire about available pre-approval programs.

Can I modify a pre-approved ADU plan?

Modifications are possible but may require additional review, potentially diminishing the time and cost savings.

Which cities offer ADU pre-approved programs?

Cities like San Jose, Los Angeles, Fremont, Cupertino, and Napa-Sonoma offer these programs, while more are joining the initiative.

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