HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Building an accessory dwelling unit, also known as an ADU or granny flat, is a dream for many homeowners.

Once new state policies passed in 2017, making it simpler to construct ADUs, Hollywood resident Nishith Dhanda decided it was time to use his detached garage for more than just storage.

What You Need To Know

  • The City’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance (Ord. 186,481) was adopted on December 11, 2019 and became effective on December 19, 2019

  • An ADU is an attached or detached residential dwelling unit that provides complete independent living facilities and is located on a lot with a proposed or existing primary residence

  • The L.A. ADU Accelerator Program pairs older adults with homeowners willing to provide a stable home by offering their ADUs as affordable rentals

  • ADUs, junior ADUs, and mobile tiny homes are allowed in any zone that allows for residential use by right

“I really wanted a place for my friends and family to come visit me, and this ADU gives me that opportunity,” said Dhanda. “And when it’s not being occupied by family or friends, it gives me a chance to make a little extra income on the side.”

But the dream quickly turned into a nightmare. Nishith, a landscape architect for the city of Los Angeles, is well aware of the plan check, permitting, and inspection process but never expected to be hit with so many fees.

“This was one of the documents and invoices that I had to pay to establish that there wasn’t an earthquake fault underneath my property,” said Dhanda. “This one was for $3,900. This was just the beginning.”

As a result, Nishith had to spend an additional $20,000 to dig a trench that was 6-8 feet deep across the entire length of his backyard, which took so long for inspectors to schedule a visit that he had to appeal to his Neighborhood Council to intervene.

"It didn’t really add any value to my project, but was necessary to get the permit," said Dhanda. "I wish the city would’ve told me in advance."

By then, Nishith was in so deep that he had no choice but to finish. A process he started back in February 2018, it took Nishith eight months to finally be issued a building permit at a cost of over $40,000 — and that’s before he even started construction.

"If I had known there was an earthquake fault within 500 feet of this property, I would never have started this," he said.

Nishith had to conduct a property line survey, provide Geotech fault reports, and get his designs approved. Plus, because his home belongs in an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, the ADU also had to get historical approval as well. Two years and eight months later, Nishith is nearly done.

“I don’t think it’s a very easy process, and if the city could work more in coordination with its agencies such as building and safety, DWP to make it a little bit more transparent and easier for people to actually execute it, it would be great,” said Dhanda.

Do your research before you dig.