Many single- and multi-family homes in San Francisco can now add units. You can use the space for family members or to rent for extra income.
This process may take more than 18 months from when you decide to build.
It typically costs more than $125,000 in materials and labor to add a unit. Professional services for architects and engineers are typically 10% of construction costs. City fees range from 6 to 9% of construction costs. Your total cost can range widely depending on the specifics of your lot and project.
Your property and project plans affect what processes you must follow to get a building permit. Projects may be longer if they include multiple ADUs, seismic work, variances or a Certificate of Appropriateness.
If your project is only for an ADU, follow this process to start your application online.
Do not use this page for unit legalization or new construction of more than an ADU. If your project includes demolition, you will also need to follow the in-house review process with the Department of Building Inspection.
For other non-ADU construction, see instructions from the Department of Building Inspection.
Check if you can add new units to your residential property
Decide if an ADU is right for you. Check to see if you can add an ADU at your address. Find out what you can build in your lot.
Design your ADU
ADU plans must follow City codes for neighborhood development and building safety.
Homeowners usually hire an architect or designer to create the plans.
Check our street tree rules
Your property must have 1 street tree per every 20 feet of frontage that borders the public right of way, or pay a tree in-lieu fee of $2,193.
Check rules for adding an ADU to a building with tenants
If you are using the Local ADU program and you have tenants, follow these rules.
Create your plans
Create your plans
Follow these rules to create your plans. Create your plans
Add ADU details
You must add details like street tree location to your plan sets for ADUs. See the complete list. Add ADU details to your plan set
Format your PDFs
Format PDFs of your plans for Bluebeam, our electronic plan review software. Format PDFs of your plans
Add our Back Check page
You must add our Back Check Page PDF to submit plans in Bluebeam. Add our Back Check Page to your plans
Fill out paper forms
You must upload these forms with your application.
Agent authorization form
Download and fill out the Agent authorization form. Do not fill out the Building permit number.
You must sign this form and upload it with your application.
Fixture Count form
Download and fill out the Fixture Count Form.
Decide you will be applying for additional water meters and note it on your form.
Green energy form
If your project adds less than 1,000 square feet, you can sign the form yourself. If it is more than that, it must be signed by a licensed design professional.
School Facility Fee form
Start your ADU application
If your project is only for an ADU and work related to ADU construction, start your application online.
You must upload your plans with your application.
After you apply, we will send you a confirmation email with your application information.
Apply for your street tree permit
If you have not applied for your street tree permit yet, apply now.
Upload this checklist with your tree planting application. You must fill this out even if you will not plant new trees.
Register to track your construction waste
You must track your construction waste if your project is for:
- New construction
- Additions greater than 1,000 square feet
- Remodels or alterations that cost $200,000 or more
Staff ADU application intake
We will review your application and email you within 2 weeks.
We will tell you what your initial fee is.
You must pay your fees online. We will send you instructions.
Respond to plan checker comments
We will invite you to a Bluebeam session to review our comments. Bluebeam is our plan review software.
You may need to make changes to your plans and resubmit them.
Complete legal notices
Complete your Notice of Special Restrictions (NSR)
All ADUs must complete a Notice of Special Restrictions (NSR).
Your planner will work with you to write and complete your NSR.
For State ADUs, you will record the NSR at the City Assessor’s office.
The NSR must be recorded before we can issue your permit and your construction starts.
Complete your Costa Hawkins agreement
ADUs approved under the Local program must complete a Costa Hawkins agreement.
We will record the NSR and the Costa-Hawkins on your behalf. Both must be recorded before we can issue your permit and your construction starts.
Permit approval and final fee payment
All City departments have to approve your permit before we can issue your construction document.
We will tell you what your final fee is. You may pay your fees online. We will send you instructions.
We will email you the final documents.
You do not need to pick anything up in person.
(If you submitted a site permit, we will email you instructions to submit your addendum online. You can start construction once your addendum is issued.)
You must have your construction document before you can start construction.
Post your construction document at the construction site.
Once you have your construction document, apply for your street space permit to use street space during construction.
Once you have your construction document, you must apply for trade permits, like plumbing and electrical.
You will need to apply for separate permits to:
New water line installation
Once you have your construction document, we will tell you if you need to apply for a new water line or increased capacity.
Last updated July 19, 2021