Cristal's Blog


March 27, 2023

Back to Articles

An Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), aka a granny flat, backyard cottage, secondary unit, or in-law quarter, is a smaller, independent dwelling added to residential properties. No matter what you call them, the interest in ADUs has grown exponentially over the last few years. Besides adding value to your home by enhancing the square footage, ADUs are an excellent way to care for family members while maintaining privacy. In Santa Barbara, an ADU may be attached or detached from the primary residence or created by converting a garage or another existing area of a primary residence. ADUs have their own kitchen rather than minimal cooking implements.  Continue reading to learn about the new laws.

A modern-style grey and wood-toned accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with 3 large vertical and 3 horizontal windows

What is an ADU?

An ADU is a residential dwelling built on the same parcel as a primary home designed to provide independent living facilities for one or more persons, providing separate and permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation. Due to new ordinances, ADUs are permitted in any Santa Barbara residential zone. And that’s a good thing since these tiny homes have risen in popularity in recent years. ADUs give homeowners many options. Here are 7 reasons why:

1) Sharing Economy
As sites like Airbnb and VRBO become more popular for travelers or short-term renters, there is a need for smaller living spaces that are versatile. For existing homeowners, ADUs can be great income generators.

2) Aging Population
As Baby Boomers become the largest aging population, many seniors opt to live near their families but not entirely with them. ADUs make that possible.

3) Affordable Housing:
Many municipalities are experiencing higher housing costs. Adding more ADUs within existing neighborhoods allows for a simple solution for employees to live near where they work.

4) Tiny Living
Most ADUs are smaller than the main dwelling and are often less than 900 square feet. The recent popularity of tiny homes and minimalism has made this smaller living style more popular.

5) Increased Property Values
An ADU increases the value of a property significantly. The investment is a no-brainer for Santa Barbara homeowners.

6) Passive Income
ADUs are an excellent source of passive income for homeowners since long-term renters are looking for an alternative to apartment living. Today’s renters want a home that offers a sense of their own space — a space that is not communal. ADUs offer the perfect solution for both homeowners and renters.

7) Work From Home
With so many employees working from home these days, many Americans have turned their ADU into a home office space.

ADU Categories

Accessory dwelling units graphic in blue and green
Creative Commons

When it comes to building an ADU, there are 3 main types:

Attached (AADUs)
AADUs may be attached to, or located within, the proposed or existing primary dwelling. In addition, they can be built as additions or converted from existing, unoccupied spaces like a garage or a storage room.

Detached (DADUs)
DADU can either be newly constructed on the same lot as the primary dwelling or converted from an existing accessory structure, such as a detached garage or storage shed.

Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU)
This category refers to a housing unit built within a single-family dwelling on an owner-occupied property. JADUs are limited to 500 square feet in size, require a separate exterior entry and efficiency kitchen, and may share a bathroom with the primary residence or include their own bathroom.

The Laws Surrounding ADUs Have Changed

In 2022, California passed legislation to make ADUs easier to build. The new state laws, effective January 1, 2023, increase the maximum building height and make a few technical changes. In addition, the City of Santa Barbara adopted amendments to the new ADU Ordinances last February. As a result, Chapter 28.86 of Title 28 of the Santa Barbara Municipal Code has been amended to:

A. Expand opportunities in the City to create additional housing to suit the spectrum of individual lifestyles and space needs, allow more efficient use of existing housing stock and public infrastructure, and provide a range of housing opportunities.

B. Allow accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units as an accessory use to a primary residential unit, consistent with California Government Code Section 65852.2 or 65852.22 and the California Coastal Act, as applicable.

C. Promote accessory dwelling units or junior accessory dwelling units with high-quality designs that are compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, historic resources, and historic districts; preserve the City’s coastal resources; promote long-term sustainability; and contribute to a desirable living environment.

If you are ready to move forward, here’s a list of Santa Barbara ADU Contractors recommended by Houzz, all capable of creating the perfect ADU for you.

Accessory dwelling units are welcome in cities like Santa Barbara. I have many luxury property listings in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, some already have ADUs, and others are perfect for ADU additions. All you need to do is call (805) 886-9378 or email me at, and I'll arrange the rest.

Other Resources:

What Makes a “Luxury Home”?
Maximizing Profit When Selling a Home
What Every Seller Needs to Know About Home Inspections

Back to Articles

Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch