Navigating the planning and building permit offices in your city or county when trying to build an accessory dwelling or structure can be a frustrating experience. You walk in with some simple ideas and often walk out feeling more confused with little or no options.
After dealing with many permitting offices throughout the many second unit projects we’ve been involved with, we’ve learned that the more you can speak the language of the people with the rules, the better off you’ll be. Saying that you want to build a house in your backyard will quickly get a “you can’t do that.” Saying that you want to build an accessory structure, which might be the same thing to you, will get much better results.
We’ve also learned that you need to ask the same questions multiple times with multiple people. One person might interpret your question differently than another and you want to feel confident when building your accessory dwelling that you’re doing things right. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you’re taking a risk.
Another great idea is working with a good architect. They’re professionals who have navigated this path many times before and do things much more quickly than you can as the homeowner.
Many people call us saying that they’ve talked with the city and building a backyard cottage isn’t possible on their lot, only to have us look into it for them and learn that what they want to build might be called something else and it is in fact possible. It’s an interesting learning experience to go to the city on your own, but most people quickly find out that it’s worth it to have someone like us do it for them.