Dec 1, 2022 by Edward Booth in the Napa Valley Register
Napans curious about Accessory Dwelling Units recently had four chances to check out three different prefabricated models and learn more about ADUs from people involved in the different stages of the ADU construction process.
Across the four events — which were scattered throughout November and located at the CrossWalk Community Church in Napa — about 486 people attended, according to Renée Schomp, director of the Napa Sonoma ADU Center. Most attendees were from Napa, some were from Sonoma, and a few had come from other counties.
Schomp noted that the ADUs at the event were purposefully arranged to give attendees a sense of different sizes and build types. The general point of the in-person events, Schomp said — including a series held in Santa Rosa in July — has been to educate community members about all the options that exist, with Napa County and city of Napa representatives available to give insight on that side of the process.
Along with representatives from the prefab ADU companies, there were representatives from architecture firms — Mayberry Workshop Architecture and Napa Design Partners — who could speak to the process of building an ADU through traditional construction, and representatives from Redwood Credit Union, to speak about their construction loan program that’s specifically for building ADUs.
“What people told me is it was really nice to be able to talk to people in person and see some samples,” Schomp said.
ADUs, also known as “granny flats,” are small, self-contend living units, which can be either detached or attached to a main house. Applications and approvals for ADUs have picked up in recent years since the California state government has established laws that require local municipalities to relax regulations on ADU approvals.
State legislators have framed ADUs as part of a solution to California’s housing crisis, though the need for housing remains considerably higher than what the slowly-increasing stock of ADUs can provide for. But efforts to increase the uptake of ADUs among California residents are ongoing, through education and providing tools that cut down on the complicated process of deciding to build such a unit.
Indeed, the Napa Sonoma ADU Center is essentially tasked with helping to grease the gears of that process, give people the tools to know whether they’d be interested in building one, and figure out whether that’s feasible for them.
“What we see time and again is we need to reduce risk and create as much clarity and certainty about the process and the price as possible,” Schomp said.
The November events also served as a kickoff to the ADU Center’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Plans Program, launched early last month. The program provides an inventory of over 50 ADU sets from a variety of companies, and about half are pre-reviewed by local government building departments for building code compliance.
The structures available at the November ADU events included a 150-square-foot micro ADU from prefabADU, a 460-square-foot ADU from Connect Homes and a 740-square-foot model from Hybrid Prefab Homes.
The 150-square-foot model, Schomp noted, uses a panelized kit, which represents the most flexible build type in terms of building on sloped sites or areas that are harder to access. Construction costs for the unit can range from about $37,500 to $88,200, according to ADU Center website, among other potential fees.
The mid-size Connect Homes model is built to the California Department of Housing and Community Development certification, Schomp said. The ADU Center website estimates the total construction cost of the unit is about $250,000, though delivery and install costs are noted to be slightly higher in Northern California than listed.
And the largest model is built to federal building code standards, and certified by the state, Schomp said. That unit isn’t listed on the ADU Center website and its cost was not immediately available.
Julia DeNatale, vice president of community impact for the Napa Valley Community Foundation — responsible for launching the ADU Center — said in an email that they think the events were very successful. She said the general sentiment from attendees was that it was incredibly helpful to be able to talk with people face to face.
“100 percent of the attendees who responded to a post-event survey and said that they are planning to build an ADU said that the events helped them to better understand the information and/or to develop strategies to accomplish the development,” DeNatale wrote. “The vendors, including local architects and prefab companies, each said that they were following up with multiple local homeowners to begin projects as a result of the events.”