Homeowners looking to add an ADU to their property can now cut down significantly on the time and cost as the city officially launched its pre-approved ADU program last week, which allows residents to select designs already accepted by the city to add onto to their property. 

The Long Beach City Council asked for the program to be developed in early 2022 as the city anticipates ADU production to be a sizable portion of its housing production over the next decade. City officials have estimated that extra units in people’s backyards could peak at about 500 new units per year in the next 10 years. 

Having pre-approved designs is a way the city hopes to both speed up production and also entice homeowners who may be hesitant about starting the process.

David Khorram, superintendent of building and safety for Development Services, said that the pre-approved models could shave off weeks if not months from the time a plan is submitted to when construction permits are issued. People looking to build will have to file the project plans themselves, but the approval process should be much faster, Khorram said. 

“It’s at least two months faster than if you were to submit your own plan,” Khorram said, adding that other plans often require a back-and-forth in which corrections are made by the architect, which can add even more time. 

Khorram said the approval process in Los Angeles, which also has a pre-approved ADU program, is about six to eight months. He estimated the city’s turnaround time with these already approved plans would be about four weeks. 

The program could also save homeowners money. The designs are expected to be sold at a discounted rate from the individual architects, and city officials estimated last year that thousands of dollars in plan check and engineering fees could be saved by using a pre-approved design.

The city has posted four designs from two Long Beach-based architects on its website and expects to post three more designs by mid-May. 

Here’s a look at the designs currently available to residents looking to build. 

Olfati Design Group Inc. 

The Olfati Design Group submitted plans for a 415-square-foot one-bedroom unit named “The Casita” and a larger 800-square-foot two-bedroom unit called “The Sevila.” 

The one-bedroom unit is fronted by a covered porch that is bookended by two planter boxes. The inside includes an 81-square-foot kitchen that backs up to a 108-square-foot living room area. The unit includes a full bathroom and a 97-square-foot bedroom. 

The two-bedroom “Sevila” includes two full bathrooms and a 234-square-foot primary bedroom that includes a walk-in closet. The kitchen and dining area (128 square feet) is similarly located next to the living room (152 square feet). The unit includes a built-in laundry area and includes an option for a covered porch. 

The 415-square-foot “Casita” from Olfati Design Group is one of seven designs pre-approved for ADU construction in Long Beach. Rendering courtesy of city of Long Beach

While Khorram said that the city would allow minor alterations to the plans, like adding an additional window, Ali Olfati, who owns his namesake firm, said he’s going to suggest that the plans be purchased as is because any alterations risks the loss of one of the primary goals of the program: to speed up approval time from the city. 

“There’s no guarantee that the staff would approve their plans at the counter,” Olfati said. 

He has a fixed price for the designs, with the one-bedroom unit going for $1,100 and the two-bedroom unit selling for $1,600, Olfati said. 

The savings go beyond what a person would pay to hire their own architect, which Olfati said could come with a bill of around $4,000 to $6,000 for the plans and potentially additional wait time for the city to process and approve those one-off designs. 

Long Beach Designers

Similar to Olfati, Long Beach Designers also had two plans approved by the city, with a one-bedroom, one-bath unit and a two-bedroom, two-bath unit available to residents. 

The 563-square-foot one-bedroom unit is flush with windows, which could provide a lot of natural light. The 876-square-foot two-bedroom unit comes with a 132-square-foot covered patio with a sliding door entrance. 

All plans submitted to the city are designed to be all-electric and require a separate permit for any solar panel installation done after construction. 

Leoh Sandoval, owner of Long Beach Designers, said he estimates that his plans will cost about $10,000, which is about half of what he’d typically charge for these types of units. 

A 564-square-foot one-bedroom ADU unit from Long Beach Designers that has been pre-approved by the city. Rendering courtesy of city of Long Beach

“It’s definitely a lot cheaper,” Sandoval said. “We do provide a really nice set of plans. My mentality is that I want to help the owner get a more extensive set of plans that allows the contractor to bid accordingly.” 

Sandoval said he designed the two sets of plans to fit in most homes, adding that the one-bedroom unit would likely fit in most lots in the city and the two-bedroom unit would fit in about 80% of lots in the city. 

“With this, I have seen a little bit more calls from people I’ve never met and hadn’t been referred through word of mouth,” he said.

He recommends anyone interested in his plans to contact him or visit Long Beach Designers’ office to walk through floor plans and take a virtual tour of the layouts.

How much is an ADU? 

Both Sandoval and Olfati said that the cost of construction will depend on the crew that’s hired, how big it is, and what kind of finishing materials are used inside the unit. 

Hardwood floors will cost more than laminate or carpet, and imported tiles will cost more than generic tiles that typically sell for a fraction of the cost of designer brands. 

But both estimated that building a unit like this could range from about $250 per square foot on the low end, meaning that Sandoval’s two-bedroom design could be in built for somewhere around $219,000, and Olfati’s 415-square-foot Casita could run somewhere around $103,000. 

Khorram said that state laws have relaxed a lot of the rules surrounding ADUs, including nearly eliminating the back and side-yard setbacks, meaning that ADUs can basically be constructed up to the property line. 

Zoning rules for single-family homes typically require several feet between their walls and the property line, meaning that ADUs could fit into smaller yards that might not have been able to host them in the past. 

The units will add value to the property, and the addition to the city’s housing stock is something that has made the city a big proponent of this program as it provides an avenue to create inexpensive housing, Khorram said. 

“It’s something we really want people to know and benefit from,” Khorram said. 

Long Beach to look at reduced fees, pre-approved designs to speed up ADU production

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.