ADU Knowledge
July 1, 2024

Building an ADU in Santana Row, San Jose: A Step-by-Step Guide

Argi Avetisyan
Argi Avetisyan
Gather ADU expert
Building an ADU in Santana Row, San Jose: A Step-by-Step Guide
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Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are becoming increasingly popular in San Jose, especially in the vibrant neighborhood of Santana Row. This growing trend provides a practical solution to the housing shortage and allows homeowners to make the most out of their property. If you're a San Jose resident considering adding an ADU to your home, this guide will walk you through the process step-by-step, highlighting the benefits and providing practical tips to get started.

The Growing Popularity of ADUs in San Jose

San Jose has seen a significant rise in the construction of ADUs, also known as granny flats or in-law units. These secondary housing units are typically built on the same lot as a primary residence. The surge in ADUs is driven by the city's housing crisis, which has left many residents searching for affordable living options. By adding an ADU to your property, you're not only helping to alleviate this crisis but also increasing the value of your home.

ADUs offer a versatile solution for various housing needs. They can serve as rental units, providing a steady income stream, or as additional living space for family members. With the growing popularity of remote work, ADUs can also be transformed into home offices, offering a quiet and dedicated workspace separate from the main house.

Benefits of Building an ADU in Santana Row San Jose

Building an ADU in Santana Row comes with numerous benefits that go beyond just adding extra living space. Here are some key advantages:

Financial Benefits

ADUs can significantly enhance the value of your property. Renting out the unit can provide a reliable source of income, helping to offset the costs of construction and maintenance. Additionally, properties with ADUs tend to have a higher resale value, making it a sound investment for the future.

Environmental Benefits

ADUs promote sustainable living by utilizing existing land and infrastructure. They require fewer resources to build compared to new, standalone homes. Furthermore, many homeowners opt for energy-efficient designs and materials, reducing the carbon footprint of their property.

Community Enhancement

ADUs contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of neighborhoods like Santana Row. They provide affordable housing options for various demographics, including young professionals, elderly residents, and small families. This mix of residents fosters a sense of community and enriches the social fabric of the area.

Planning and Designing Your ADU

Before you start building your ADU, it's essential to plan and design it carefully. Here are the steps to consider:

Understanding Regulations and Guidelines

San Jose has specific regulations and guidelines for building ADUs, particularly in areas like Santana Row. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with these rules to ensure your project complies with local laws. The City of San Jose offers an ADU Universal Checklist, which outlines the requirements based on the location and type of property.

Choosing a Design

The design of your ADU should complement the existing architecture of your property while meeting your functional needs. Consider factors such as size, layout, and accessibility. Working with an experienced architect or designer can help you create a space that's both aesthetically pleasing and practical.

Reviewing the ADU Universal Checklist

The ADU Universal Checklist is an invaluable resource for homeowners, designers, and construction professionals. It provides detailed information on project requirements, including zoning regulations, parking standards, and height limitations. Reviewing this checklist early in the planning process can save you time and prevent costly mistakes.

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Navigating the Construction Process

ADU in Santana Row San Jose

Once you have a solid plan in place, it's time to move forward with the construction of your ADU. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

Obtaining Necessary Permits

Getting the necessary permits is a critical step in any construction project. Start by submitting your application online through You'll need to provide detailed plans and documents, including a site sketch, conceptual floor plans, and any required declarations. The city will review your application and issue an invoice for permit fees.

Selecting Contractors and Materials

Choosing the right contractors and materials is essential for a successful ADU project. Look for experienced professionals who have a track record of completing ADU projects in San Jose. Quality materials are also crucial, as they ensure the durability and longevity of your unit.

Managing the Construction Timeline

Effective project management is key to keeping your construction on schedule. Regularly communicate with your contractors and monitor the progress of the project. Be prepared for potential delays and have contingency plans in place to address any issues that may arise.

ADU Plan Review and Permit Process

The ADU plan review and permit process in San Jose involves several phases:

Prescreen Review

After submitting your application, a City Permit Specialist will conduct a prescreen review to ensure all required documents are included. Once confirmed, you'll receive an invoice for the estimated permit fees.

Plan Review

During the plan review phase, a Plan Reviewer will evaluate your submission and provide feedback. You may need to make revisions and resubmit your plans for further review. This iterative process ensures your plans meet all necessary requirements.

Issuance Review

Once your plans are approved, the final issuance review will take place. You'll receive a final invoice for any remaining fees, and upon payment, your building permit will be issued. Your permit card and approved plans will be available through SJePlans.

Financing Your ADU Project

Financing your ADU project is a critical consideration. There are several options available to San Jose residents:

Local Incentives and Grants

San Jose offers various incentives and grants to encourage the construction of ADUs. These programs can help offset some of the costs associated with building your unit. Be sure to explore these opportunities and determine if you're eligible for any financial assistance.

Home Equity Loans

Home equity loans are a popular financing option for ADU projects. These loans allow you to borrow against the equity in your home, providing a lump sum that can be used for construction expenses. Since ADUs can increase property value, this can be a viable long-term investment.

Personal Loans

If you don't have sufficient home equity, personal loans are another option. These loans typically have higher interest rates but can provide the funds needed to complete your project. Shop around for the best rates and terms to find a loan that fits your budget.

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Real-Life Case Studies of ADUs in Santana Row

ADUs in Santana Row

To give you a better idea of what's possible, here are some real-life examples of successful ADU projects in Santana Row:

The Modern Studio

One homeowner transformed their backyard into a modern studio apartment. This sleek, minimalist design features an open floor plan, large windows, and high-end finishes. The unit is rented out to a young professional, providing a steady income stream for the homeowner.

The Cozy Cottage

Another homeowner opted for a cozy cottage design, complete with a small kitchen, living area, and loft bedroom. This charming ADU serves as a guest house for visiting family members and friends. The homeowner appreciates the flexibility it offers, as it can also be rented out short-term.

The Home Office

With the rise of remote work, one resident decided to build an ADU specifically for use as a home office. This functional space includes a private entrance, bathroom, and kitchenette. It provides a quiet, dedicated workspace that's separate from the main house.


Building an ADU in Santana Row, San Jose, is a rewarding endeavor that offers numerous benefits, from financial gains to enhanced community living. By following this step-by-step guide, you can successfully plan, design, and construct an ADU that meets your needs and complies with local regulations.

If you're ready to explore the potential of building an ADU, consider reaching out to professionals who can help you through the process. Whether you're looking for design inspiration, construction expertise, or financial advice, there are resources available to support you every step of the way.

Start your ADU project today and Reach out our Gatheradu experts.

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Not sure where to start with your ADU project?


Not sure where to start with your ADU project?

Book a free call