What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are known by many names; granny flats, in-law units, backyard cottages, secondary units, and more.  No matter what you call them, ADUs are an innovative, affordable, effective option of adding much-needed housing in California.

All of the above terms fit the following definition:  A separate living area that can also be classified as a tiny home, depending on the size.  However, the similarities end there. There is a great deal of variation among accessory dwelling units. For example, some of these structures are above the garage, or attached to the primary, single-family residence, in some other way.  This would be considered a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit, or JADU. 


Why Build an ADU Now?

The City of Encinitas passed a new ordinance that waives all City development fees and has provided permit ready building plans.  This will provide a much less expensive option with permit ready building plans, City Development Fees waived with reduced pre-construction costs, and expedited building permits, saving time on planning and design.  

Ben Leland Construction can review each design with you and provide you with free assistance from our in-house design team, in order to expedite your ADU process.

The PRADU Program encourages the construction of ADUs by offering property owners a selection of permit ready ADU building plans that can be downloaded from the above link. The permit-ready plans include customizable options to allow for variations in exterior materials and door and window fenestrations to express individual owners’ tastes and respect community character. The program assists property owners in creating ADUs by providing customizable plans, expediting the process, and reducing preconstruction fees. The program also helps the city meet strategic plan goals by providing diverse housing options throughout the city.

Owner-Builder vs. General Contractor

Hiring a California Licensed Contractor means you do not personally perform any of the construction work, the permit is not taken out in your name, you are not personally responsible for the construction, and you are not an Owner Builder.  Instead, you become a “Customer” and California Law provides you the benefit of protection from poor workmanship, failure to finish the job, and financial risk due to worker injury.


(See Owner-Builder Notice provided by the City of Encinitas, January 1, 2019).

STEP 1:  Call Ben Leland Construction now to set up an onsite visit and begin the process!

Necessary questions prior to the permit stage.  Ben Leland Construction, Inc. will assist in answering the below questions to help you begin your ADU plan and make it a reality during the initial onsite visit.

1. Is your lot buildable (according to local, city, and state guidelines)?

2. Dimension and topography of your site?  Are there special site features to incorporate into the design?  Do any distinctive geological, meteorological, or biological conditions exist?

4. How will utility infrastructure be developed to and on site?  How will you tie into existing infrastructure?

6. What architectural style do you prefer and why?  Will it tie into your existing home?

STEP 2:  Beginning with the onsite visit Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages is able to provide the total dollar amount for the plan/size of the ADU you choose, depending on the design style.  You will be able to consider if the project is feasible once the plan is chosen and the amount is presented, and determine if financing is necessary.  The first step of obtaining an estimate is 100% free.

STEP 3:  Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages will bring in the professionals who will create the plot plan for your new ADU, following the requirements provided by the governing agencies, and the Owner, orienting the house and the ADU site to Owner’s vision prior to construction.

STEP 4:  Meet with the in-house design team at Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages to finalize your interior finishes.

STEP 5:  Pull building permit at the City of Encinitas.  There are no building permit fees through the City of Encinitas if utilizing the permit ready plans for Studio, One Bedroom, Two Bedroom, and Three Bedroom.  Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages will prepare documents for code and zoning compliance and building permit application for all components.

STEP 6:  Begin construction!  It is that easy and painless when utilizing the permit ready plans provided by the City and Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages.  We do all of the “heavy lifting.” 

STEP 7:  Field Inspections by the City of Encinitas to review the design/build criteria both prior to and during the construction process to maintain compliance with applicable codes and ordinances in the Encinitas area.

STEP 8:  Punch List items to be completed by Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages.

STEP 9:  Final Inspection by the City of Encinitas.

STEP 10:  Begin moving in your furniture, or leasing the unit.   Simple!


Utilizing Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages will give you the benefit of knowing that we have secured proposals from trade contractors and suppliers for total scope of work to be performed, check all materials and methods at critical points during construction, and supervise completion of work until your Backyard Cottage is completed.  

Each Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages construction professional will dedicate his/her activities to serving the Owner’s best interest. With the assistance of a General Contractor, the Owner saves time, costs, maintains standards for quality, and Ben Leland Construction will provide personal attention to all phases of the building process.


Ben Leland Construction Backyard Cottages will provide you with timely updates and walk you through each step.  We put our clients first and are well known for our high level, high quality customer service.

All content, figures, and line drawings are licensed to Ben Leland Construction, Inc., for limited use for seminar, website, and informational purposes.  This material is distributed through Ben Leland Construction, Inc. for use only by their employees, subcontractors, and clients.

Project Process/Guide/Definitions

  • Site Development – Site condition and any relevant code and zoning standards.  Combines geographical location, topography, climate orientation, water geology, trees and vegetation, views, and noise considerations.
  • Contract Documents – Approve specifications through Ben Leland Construction with prepared documents for all components from permit to final walk through.  
  • Permit – Legal documentation pulled through the City of Encinitas.
  • Foundation – Transfers building loads directly to soil by use of footings, walls, slabs, piers; anchors building to site to avoid racking, or uplifting.
  • Framing and Roofing – Provides structural elements of floor, wall, and roof systems; acts as a barrier to heat loss, moisture, and air infiltration; creates aesthetic form.
  • Exterior Finish – Includes windows, doors, siding/stucco, gutters, and downspouts; allows physical, visual, and light penetration; crates stylistic detail.
  • Plumbing – Supplies potable and utility water, sanitary drainage, and sewer disposal; trim package contributes to interior décor.
  • Electrical – Distributes energy for light, heat, and operation of appliances and equipment; trim package adds to interior design; services installed for television, telephone, security, and any potential office equipment needs.
  • HVAC – Generates heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; trim package and vent caps lend to décor.
  • Insulation – Controls heat loss or gain in floors, walls, and ceilings; weatherizes doors, windows, and sills; offers sound deadening for interior spaces.
  • Drywall – Covers interior walls and ceilings for finishes and fireproofing; texture and corner trim contribute to décor package.
  • Interior Finish – Establishes color, texture, pattern, and scale of interior design motif; includes paints, doors, hardware, trim, closet kits, cabinets, and floor coverings.
  • Landscaping – Arranges vegetation, walks, drives, lighting to marry house architecture to ADU; allows drainage of storm water; places gazebos, decks, patios, summer kitchens, gardens for climate orientation and lifestyle.

No part of this outline, planner, and guide may be reproduced without written permission from Ben Leland Construction, Inc.  Nor, may any part of this material be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, without written permission from Ben Leland Construction, Inc.

The information is true and complete to the best of our knowledge.  All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ben Leland Construction, Inc.  the author disclaims any liability, expressed or implied, in connection with the use of this information, and assume no responsibility for errors, or omissions.

Ben Leland Construction, Inc. has applied due diligence and judgment in providing the material contained herein, however, Ben Leland Construction, Inc. assumes that every building site is unique and every situation is different requiring possible alterations as deemed necessary.  

Contact us now and tell us about your project!

Our expert contractors will give you the answers to the questions you may have.