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ADU Zoning in Pasadena

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

In the city of Pasadena, local zoning codes are covered in the Municipal Code. Zoning in Pasadena addresses both the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) and Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). The Accessory Dwelling Units idea is not a new concept. Once lovingly referred to as mother-in-law quarters or a guest house, state law is now referring to these units as ADUs and JADUs.

Accessory Dwelling Units are secondary homes that share the lot of the main house. They will have their own kitchen, bathroom, living and sleeping spaces, and a private entrance. It can be a stand-alone building, attached to the primary residence, or a conversion of the primary residence such as an apartment built over the garage. Garage conversions are quite probably the most economical and simple solution for someone wanting such a unit. They cannot be sold separately from the primary dwelling.

A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) is a small living space, no greater than 500 square feet. Most commonly, it is a refashioned bedroom in the primary residence. It is allowed to be made within the walls of a residence. A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit is allowed in every zoning district that allows a single-family dwelling. These units, in the city of Pasadena, are not addressed in the Municipal Code; therefore they fall under the mandates of the state law.

There are two manners of creating these units in the city of Pasadena. They are new construction or conversion. Local zoning codes and state law address each of these projects.

Pursuant to Pasadena ADU Zoning requirements, only one unit is allowed on a parcel of land which already has a primary residence or upon which a primary residence is planned. If the later, the unit can be built simultaneously with the main construction. The unit cannot be used as a short term rental. This means the rental period must be for longer than 30 days. The owner of the parcel must reside in one of the two dwellings.

ADU zoning dictates the minimum lot area necessary and varies with the zone where the unit will be constructed. If you are converting an existing building, such as doing garage conversions, there is no minimum lot size. If you are constructing a new building, and are in an RS zoning district, your land parcel must be 7,200 square feet or greater in size. If you are zoned RM, there is no minimum lot size requirement. A newly constructed detached unit is limited to the height of one story unless the existing primary residence is two stories. With new construction, the unit must be a minimum of 150 square feet. The maximum size varies with the size of your parcel and needs to be looked at on an individual basis. A good rule of thumb is not greater than 50 percent of the size of the primary dwelling. With minimal exceptions, one additional parking space shall be provided on-site for the accessory dwelling unit.

Pasadena ADU zoning requirements dictate where and how these units can be built. If you are in the Hillside Overlay District, you are not permitted to construct such a unit. If you are in the Historic District an ADU may not be allowed unless it is not visible from the public right-of-way. Alternatively, if it is a conversion project, it can be allowed.

If your property is an Individually Designated Historic Property, newly constructed units are absolutely not allowed. With the preceding in mind, a converted project is allowed. When working with all historical properties, all windows and doors which are original must be retained with minimal exceptions.

The construction or remodeling for units needs to obey all development standards that are in place at the primary residence. With this in mind, a converted space, which will have already met these requirements when originally built, will be an easier task. The most encumbering portion of a renovation may be the separate access. The access door cannot be on the same frontage as the primary house’s entryway. As with all rules, there are exceptions.

Looking forward, a day will come when your property will be sold. Therefore, you must record a covenant with the County Assessor’s Office to notify subsequent owners of the requirements of these units. This covenant must be recorded before a building permit will be issued to you.

In conclusion, keeping Mother Nature in mind, zoning in Pasadena states any mature tree in a protected zone needs to be replaced at a one-for-one ratio if removed for the construction of the unit pursuant to ADU zoning.



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