Adding a backyard home in Los Angeles is now nearly as easy as buying a barbecue.
Homeowners who for years have wanted to build a granny flat in their backyard, but dreaded the red tape, can now choose from 20 pre-designed homes that the city has already approved for use.
The shift, made official last week, will speed up a weeks-long process and bring more badly needed units to an overpriced market. It also has the potential to elevate the 14 startups and firms building the next generation of homes.
The designs for the stand-alone residences range from a 200-square-foot studio to a 1,200-square foot, two-story, two-bedroom unit. And many of the homes are filled with design flourishes, reflecting the diverse architecture of the city, from a house in the silhouette of a flower to one with a spiral outdoor staircase leading to the roof.
It's no surprise. The program was spearheaded by Christopher Hawthorne, a former architecture critic at the Los Angeles Times and now the city's chief design officer.
The firms are primarily local and startup architecture and design firms, while others are well-known with a history of building granny flats, also know as accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.
The standard plans avoid the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety's typical four-to six-week review process and can allow approvals to be completed in as quickly as one day.
Some aspects of the plans can be modified to fit a homeowner's preferences. Eight other designs are pending approval.
Mayor Eric Garcetti believes by adding more such units, the city can diversify its housing supply and tackle the housing crisis. Recent state legislation made it easier to build the small homes on the lot of single-family residences. Since then, ADUs have made up nearly a quarter of Los Angeles' newly permitted housing units.
Because construction costs are relatively low for the granny flats – the pre-approved homes start at $144,000 and can go beyond $300,000 – the housing is generally more affordable. The median home price in L.A. County in January was $690,000.
Here's a quick look at the designs approved so far:
Abodu, based in Redwood City in the Bay Area, exclusively designs backyard homes. In 2019, it worked with the city of San Jose on a program similar to the one Los Angeles is undertaking.
In October, it closed a seed funding round of $3.5 million led by Initialized Capital.
It has been approved for a one-story 340-square-foot studio, a one-story one-bedroom at 500 square feet, and a one-story, 610-square-foot two-bedroom.
The pricing for the studio is $189,900, while the one-bedroom costs $199,900 and the two-bedroom is $259,900.
Amunátegui Valdés Architects
Escher GuneWardena Architecture
Fung + Blatt Architects
Fung + Blatt Architects is a Los Angeles-based firm founded in 1990.
The city has approved its 795-square-foot, one-story, one-bedroom unit with a roof deck. It estimates the construction cost to be $240,000 to $300,000, excluding landscape, site work and the solar array. Homeowners can also expect other additional costs.
Taalman Architecture/ IT House Inc.
Massachusetts-based Jennifer Bonner/MALL designed a "Lean-to ADU" project, reinterpreting the stucco box and exaggerated false front, both Los Angeles architectural mainstays.
The design has been approved for a 525-square-foot one-story, one-bedroom unit with a 125-square-foot roof deck.
sekou cooke STUDIO
New York-based sekou cooke STUDIO is the sole Black-owned architectural firm on the project.
"The twisted forms of this ADU recalls the spin and scratch of a DJ's records" from the early 90s, the firm said.
Its design, still pending approval, is for a 1,200-square-foot, two bedroom and two bathroom can be adapted to a smaller one-bedroom unit or to include an additional half bath.
New York-based SO-IL was founded in 2008. It has completed projects in Leon, Seoul, Lisbon and Brooklyn.
Its one-story, one-bedroom 693-square-foot unit is pending approval. It is estimated the construction cost will be between $200,000 and $250,000.
Los Angeles-based Welcome Projects has worked on projects ranging from buildings, houses and interiors to handbags, games and toys.
Its ADU is nicknamed The Breadbox "for its curved topped walls and slight resemblance to that vintage counter accessory."
It has been approved for a one-story, one-bedroom 560-square-foot unit.