What you can build

Encinitas ADU Regulations & Zoning


Size and Separation

Maximum size 1200 square feet

Side/rear setbacks 4 feet

Two story Yes

Building separation 6 feet

Additional Requirements

Soils Report Yes

Building Verification Survey No

Coastal permit (in some areas) Yes

Stormwater Mitigation Yes

Number of ADUs Allowed

How many ADUs can you build in Encinitas?

On Encinitas single-family residential lots, you may build one ADU (either attached or detached) and one Junior ADU (JADUs have an owner occupancy requirement and must be converted from existing space within the primary residence).

How many ADUs does Encinitas allow for multifamily properties?

Encinitas allows up to 2 detached ADUs for multifamily lots with an existing multi-family building. (Meaning: In order to build 2 ADUs, the property must already have at least a duplex on it, not just a single family dwelling)

Non‐livable space within existing multi‐family structures may be converted into an ADU. Examples of areas that can be converted include storage rooms and garage spaces. The maximum number of ADU allowed in a multi‐family structure is equal to 25% of the number of existing multi‐family units in the structure. Fractional units are rounded down. A minimum of one conversion ADU is allowed.

ADU Size & Building Constraints

What size detached ADU can you build in Encinitas?

Encinitas allows for a detached ADU up to 1200 sqft, so long it is no larger than the primary residence. However, state law allows at least a 1000 sqft ADU with two or more bedrooms (or an 850 sqft ADU with one bedroom), meaning you could still build up to a 1000 sqft ADU even if your main home is under 1000 sqft. Also, ADUs up to 800 square feet are exempt from lot coverage requirements. (Meaning: You can build an ADU of this size even if you’re maxed out on lot coverages).

What is the height requirement for an ADU in Encinitas? Can you build a 2-story ADU in Encinitas?

Any accessory dwelling unit in compliance with the required setbacks of the underlying zone shall be permitted to build to the height limit for that zone pursuant to Chapter 30.16.010.B.6 (Residential Zones) of the Encinitas Municipal Code. (Meaning: You can build a two story ADU, but you will need to stick with regular setbacks, not the reduced 4′ setbacks). You can also build a two story ADU above a garage.

Also, per recent state law change, detached ADUs within half a mile of major transit stops or high-quality transit corridors can enjoy 4′ side and rear setbacks so long as they are not more than 18 feet tall. An additional 2 feet can be added if the ADU’s roof pitch matches the primary dwelling.

Read more about two story ADUs and height limits.

Does Encinitas allow roof decks on ADUs?

Roof decks shall be permitted provided the design of the roof or deck railings do not extend beyond the maximum 16-foot height limit.

How big can an attached ADU be in Encinitas?

The square footage of any attached ADU may not to exceed 50% of the primary dwelling square footage, or 1,200 sqft, whichever is less, but not less than 800 square feet.

What are the requirements of the exterior of the ADU?

The exterior roofing, trim, walls, windows and the color palette of the ADU shall incorporate the same features as the primary dwelling unit.


What is the setback requirement for an ADU in Encinitas?

ADUs must have 4′ minimum setbacks from rear and side-yard property lines, with front yard setback per zoning standards. An ADU taking advantage of the 4′ setbacks cannot exceed a height of 16 feet. An ADU exceeding 16′ must comply with the setbacks of the underlying zoning.

Also note that in Encinitas, street side setbacks above 4′ are not applicable. So if you are on a corner lot, you will still be able to build at a 4′ side setback.

What is the minimum distance the ADU must be from existing structures?

The minimum required distance between a primary residence and an ADU is six feet wall to wall, and a minimum of four feet from eave to eave (if applicable) between each structure. This information was confirmed by the Encinitas Development Services Department Planning Staff via email in November 2023. This regulation can be found in the definitions section under Accessory Structure, Detached (EMC 30.04.010).

Note that fire codes may require special materials when closer than 10′.

Additional Requirements

Does Encinitas require in-person submission of plans for an ADU?

No, Encinitas allows digital submission of applications for an ADU.

Does Encinitas require a soils report for an ADU?

Yes, as of June 2022, Encinitas has stated that a soils report is required for all new structures, including new detached ADUs.

Does Encinitas require coastal development permits for ADUs?

Accessory dwelling units developed within the coastal zone are subject to requirements of the Local Coastal Program (LCP).

All ADUs and JADUs which are under the coastal overlay zone will required a Coastal Development Permit No Fee (CDPNF). There are no additional fees related to the CDPNF other than the noticing fee (~$200), building permit plan check fee, school fees, water etc. The CDPNF is concurrent with the building permit. Once all other departments have passed their review, the CDPNF process can begin.

During this process:

  1. The legal notice will be sent out to all surrounding properties within a 500 square foot radius. Once the letter is sent out there will be a 10-day period in which the public will have the opportunity to contact me and ask me questions about the project.
  2. After the 10 days, the city drafts a Notice of Decision (NOD), which the Planning Manager will review and sign. Once the NOD is signed, the city planner will receive a decision number needed to draft the Hold Harmless agreement.
  3. The applicant will need to return a notarized covenant along with a check made out to the San Diego County Recorder’s office and a signed/notarized Hold Harmless agreement.


The City’s Municipal Code, Section 30.34.020 “Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone,” states that accessory structures are not permitted within 40’ of the top of the bluff, with some exceptions.

Read more about coastal ADUs.

Does Encinitas require storm water mitigation?

Yes, Encinitas requires site drainage and storm water mitigation for ADUs >500 sqft. Finish grading work to create a bio-swale, drainage basin or other contouring work to handle on-site storm water will cost around $5K in most cases. Read more about stormwater mitigation for ADUs.

Does Encinitas require erosion control?

Yes, Encinitas requires that any disturbed soil must be covered. This includes the 5′ graded area surrounding the ADU, the pathway to the ADU, and any additional areas impacted by work.


How many ADUs does Encinitas allow for multifamily properties?

Up to 2 detached ADUs on a multifamily lot that has an existing multifamily dwelling.

Can you stack detached ADUs on top of each other?

Yes, so long as it does not exceed the height limit for the zone.

Can you attach two ADUs to each other in Encinitas?

Yes, you can attach two ADUs to each other in Encinitas.

Can you convert existing space to an ADU?

Yes, existing non-livable space may be converted to ADUs (e.g. storage areas and garages). The minimum number of ADU conversions allowed is one, up to a maximum equal to 25% of the number of existing multifamily units. This is in addition to the allowed number of detached ADUs.


What is the parking requirement for an ADU in Encinitas?

A parking space is not required for an ADU in any of the following instances:

  • Within a one-half mile walking distance from public transit, which includes bus stops.
  • Within an established historic district.
  • Converted from the existing space of a primary residence or accessory structure, or are attached to an existing or proposed primary residence.
Where can a parking space be located?

If a parking space is required, it may be located within the setbacks and in an existing driveway as tandem parking. Parking spaces don’t need to be replaced when a garage, carport, or covered parking structure is demolished in conjunction with the construction of an ADU or converted to an ADU.

Additional Encinitas ADU Regulation Resources

Encinitas ADU Combined Ordinances No. 2020-10, 2022-03, and 2022-11