How California law defines “Efficiency Kitchen” in ADUs and Junior units
2022 Code goes into effect as of January 1,2023. Projects that apply for permits on or after January 1, 2023 will fall under the 2022 Code.
Building codes and standards are volumes of requirements and often open to interpretation. Thankfully, when it comes to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HCD) made the law clear, unambiguous, and easily accessible.
Government Code section 65852.22, subdivisions (a)(6)(A) and (B) states:
The [ADU] ordinance [of a municipality] may require a permit to be obtained for the creation of a junior accessory dwelling unit, and shall do all of the following:
(6) Require the permitted junior accessory dwelling unit to include an efficiency kitchen, which shall include all of the following:
(A) A cooking facility with appliances.
(B) A food preparation counter and storage cabinets that are of reasonable size in relation to the size of the junior accessory dwelling unit.
That’s it, the entirety of the state law regarding efficiency kitchens. Seems wide open to interpretation, right? Leaving it open to the designer, the contractor and ultimately the homeowner was the intent of the law. However, municipalities make different interpretations and may place additional restrictions on the law depending on the location. Municipalities across the state submit their ordinances to HCD for review and anyone can submit questions to HCD for a technical determination. Responses to questions are published on their website.
So, what is an “efficiency kitchen”? Requirement (A) could mean a full kitchen with range, microwave, fridge, even a dishwasher. There is no limit on “appliances”. Now, junior units are converted from existing space and have a maximum size of 500 square feet. The key to interpreting requirement (A) is given in requirement (B), but let’s pin that for a moment. For attached or detached new construction ADUs, the energy code applies. The implied “new construction” is the key.
On new construction, municipalities can place tighter restrictions on energy consumption. Buildings and construction use significant energy and municipalities are required to address and curb GHG emissions. Therefore, municipalities set mandates to require all electric new construction. What’s great about all electric homes is the utility resilience they afford. Ok, back to requirement (B) on junior units.
There are a couple of key words in requirement (B) that indicate a limit. “Of reasonable size in relation to the size of the ADU”. But what’s reasonable within 500 square feet? That is entirely left open to the designer and homeowner. Is the same size limit applied to attached or detached ADUs? The answer is no. New construction ADUs are limited to a maximum size, and often incentivized with less impact fees if limited to 800 square feet.
Common sense and good design will maximize kitchen function and sizing relative to the size and other space uses of the home. In other words, an efficiency kitchen is sized appropriately to the size of the ADU and may include whatever appliances fit the space, are compliant and wanted by the homeowner.
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