Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to the Napa Sonoma ADU Standard Plans Program
The Napa Sonoma ADU Standard Plans Program is a multi-jurisdictional effort administered by the nonprofit Napa Sonoma ADU Center in collaboration with local cities and unincorporated counties across Napa and Sonoma.
What is the goal of the program? Our goal is to make the process of building an ADU easier, faster, and more affordable for homeowners so that we can build more housing for our community. This program is a pilot that we hope will scale beyond our region in order to bring more ADU design options to more homeowners.
ARE YOU A DESIGNER, ARCHITECT, OR PREFAB COMPANY?
Head here instead:
Napa Sonoma ADU is a nonprofit that works with homeowners and local governments in Napa and Sonoma counties to support ADU development.
- Resource-rich website
- Regular webinars
- Feasibility consultations for homeowners
- Support via ADU Office Hours
Much of our work has been funded by Napa Valley Community Foundation (also our fiscal sponsor) with support from Community Foundation Sonoma County as well as state grant funds received through several of our jurisdiction partners.
This new program makes it easier to find ADU designs and go through the development review process, saving time and money and connecting ADU designers, architects, and prefab companies with potential customers. It also helps jurisdictions respond to community housing needs.
The program includes an online gallery featuring:
- ADU plans that have been “pre-reviewed” for compliance with applicable building codes, and
- Other “off the shelf” ADU designs available to homeowners at reduced cost (these plans still require code compliance review).
All 16 jurisdictions in Napa and Sonoma have helped shape this program and are a part of this work. However, that does not mean that every plan can be used on every site and in every jurisdiction. Do your homework to know what is possible on your property! Also, decisions about which plans will be accepted as “pre-reviewed” is up to each jurisdiction.
When using the program gallery, you will see whether each plan is “pre-reviewed” for your jurisdiction, with a link to more information about your jurisdiction’s complete ADU plan submittal requirements.
Absolutely! We are here to provide you with clear information and education about ADUs, the ADU process, and what makes the most sense for you given your goals and budget. Start at the very beginning on the ADU Center website, and we’ll guide you through the steps you should take BEFORE you select an ADU plan and license it from a designer.
Yes, you can always reach out directly via this webpage to the designer, architect, or prefab company you are interested in purchasing a plan from. However, the Napa Sonoma ADU Center cannot provide you with assistance if you wish to build an ADU outside of our two-county service area and the plan will not be considered “pre-reviewed” outside of these jurisdictions.
The Pre-Work includes everything you need to do to set yourself up for success, assessing items including:
- Whether your property is eligible to build an ADU (most will be);
- Your goals for building an ADU;
The best type of ADU for you;
- Whether you can reasonably finance your desired ADU.
The Napa Sonoma ADU Center can provide an in-depth ADU Feasibility Consult to get you started on the right path. Our webpage also has tools and resources to help you think through many of these questions.
Be sure you do this Pre-Work before you invest time and money in your ADU project.
“Pre-reviewed plans” include both site-built and prefabricated plans that have been reviewed for compliance with applicable building code requirements. In some cases, local code variations may require further review or preclude you from using a plan for your specific site (e.g., due to a Historic District, flood plain, slope, etc.). It is crucial that you begin by first contacting your local jurisdiction to understand what is and is not possible on your site before you proceed with selecting a plan. You should also ask your jurisdiction about their policy for use of pre-reviewed plans, as each individual city and county is unique.
NOTE: In all circumstances, a pre-reviewed plan will still require additional information and tailoring before it can be submitted to your jurisdiction for ADU permit approval.
Yes! There are multiple types of prefabricated (“prefab”) ADU options available. All prefab plan options are under the category of “pre-reviewed” because they have been built in compliance with either federal or state building codes. This means that your local jurisdiction does not need to review prefab plan sets for compliance with building codes, but there are site-specific elements of your ADU project that will still need to be reviewed, such as foundation and utility connection plans. Speak with the prefab company whose plan you select to understand the level of support they will provide you through the full ADU permitting and building process.
To learn more about different types of prefab ADUs, watch our on-demand webinar.
Not at this time. Converting a garage or other existing space to living space is a great way to create an ADU, but it is challenging to create standard plans for conversions, which are by necessity very site and structure-specific for each individual project.
Site-built plans are for ADUs constructed on your property. In this gallery you will find site-built plans that have been “pre-reviewed” for compliance with applicable building codes as well as site-built plans that will need to be reviewed through a standard process. Your jurisdiction will determine the level of additional code review required, including the fees for the review. Even if using a pre-reviewed plan, you will need to work with your designer/architect to submit the plan along with additional details about your site (such as a site plan, utility connection plan, etc.) to get a building permit. Speak with the designer or architect whose plan you select to understand the level of support they will provide you through the full ADU permitting process.
Prefabricated plans are ADUs that are largely built off-site in a factory and then transported and installed on your property on a permanent foundation. All prefabricated ADUs are pre-reviewed for building code compliance at the state or federal level. Just like site-built plans, additional site-specific information (such as a site plan, utility connection plan, a foundation plan, etc.) will need to be submitted to your building department to get full permit approval. Speak with the prefab company whose plan you select to understand the level of support they will provide you through the full ADU permitting and building process. Watch our on-demand webinar on prefab ADUs for more information about the different types of prefab ADUs and what to consider when making the decision to go with a prefab ADU.
There were many plans that we thought were great, but which did not make it into the initial short-list of plans for pre-review. We refer to these plans in the gallery as “off the shelf,” since they’re shortcutting what would otherwise be a fully custom design process. Even though they still need to go through the full code review process to get a building permit, they should save considerable time and money. By including these plans in our gallery, we hope to make it easier to find a design that works for you and connect with the designer or architect who can help you get there.
We hope so, yes!
State law requires that jurisdictions issue decisions on complete ADU permit applications within 60 days, and many of our jurisdiction partners have internal policies to do it in an even shorter time period — but in reality, some jurisdictions have struggled to complete ADU permit processing within 60 days because of issues like staff shortages, not receiving complete applications, and more.We are working with jurisdictions to streamline the process for “pre-reviewed” plans, but sometimes there will be site-specific issues that popup or delays on behalf of other involved agencies (e.g., utilities and fire departments). Go to your jurisdiction’s ADU webpage (see list below) to learn more about how they are supporting implementation of ADUs, including their policies and practices around pre-reviewed ADU plans.
Staff from jurisdictions across Napa and Sonoma counties helped our nonprofit review the 55+ plans that were submitted in response to our first-ever statewide Call for Submittals. They helped score each plan based on criteria that included cost, privacy, context/compatibility, adaptability, accessibility and sustainability. We reviewed plans based on these scores, making sure we provided choices across all size categories and that the selections reflected both local and broader statewide architects and designers. Key themes that came up during deliberations included livability (did the unit include storage? space for a washer/dryer? privacy?); accessibility/adaptability (was the unit wheelchair accessible, or could it easily be made to be?); and price point. In the future, we will re-open the Call for Submittals so that the gallery of plans can grow.
If you are a designer, architect or prefab company interested in more details or submitting your plans, see the Designer FAQs. If you would like to receive an invitation to submit in the future please complete this form.