A "Companion Unit" is the legal term, in the City of San Diego, for a secondary dwelling unit on a residential property. The City passed legislation legalizing these units in 2011, after much resistance from local anti-density advocates.
Very little has been written about the requirements for permitting these structures; Municipal Code Section §141.0302 addresses them. Here is a summary of the basic requirements if you are considering adding a dwelling unit to your property:
- You will need to enter into an agreement with the City and it will be recorded with your title. The agreement states that the record owner may never split the lot into two properties, and that the record owner must always reside in the primary dwelling unit; this agreement remains with the title to your property for perpetuity. So, if your intent is to rent out both the primary and secondary units, or live in the secondary unit and rent out the primary, a companion unit will not work for you.
- You must provide at least one additional off-street parking space for the unit, and it cannot be in the front yard setback. This is a big sticking point for many property owners; if you don't have a large lot, or do not have alley access, this could be a deal breaker.
- Maximum square footage of the unit is 700 square feet. It may not be taller than 15' in height, unless it is over a garage.
As in any construction project, there are many other factors to consider. This brief list does not address other regulations that may apply to your property. Feel free to contact us anytime; we would be happy to visit with you to discuss your options.