City ADU Pilot


Accessory Dwelling Unit Pilot Project

How can Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) address our housing crisis by promoting both housing affordability and contextual design?

Accessory Dwelling Units (also know as ADUs, backyard homes, in-law units, granny flats, etc.) are prevalent through Los Angeles. However, less than 700 ADUs have been permitted (as of November 2016), while academic analysis suggests that there are nearly 50,000 unpermitted units in a City with nearly half a million single family lots. With a housing crisis heightened by the supply shortage, LA-Más teamed up with Council District 1 and the Mayor's Innovation Team on a Pilot Program that tests how an ADU can be both affordable and contextual.

After a long outreach process, homeowners Trent Wolbe and Grace Lee were selected to participate in the Pilot Program. With a construction loan provided by Genesis LA, LA-Más worked with these Highland Park residents to design a new 1,000 sq. ft, two story, two bedroom home with a garage within a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. This project is made possible with the support of Nous Engineering as our structural engineer, Breen Engineering as our civil engineer, and Habitat for Humanity as our general contractor. This project is intended to serve as a model for affordable construction, contextual design, financial loan innovation, and future ADU policy.

The abstracted Craftsman-inspired exterior is a playful take on contextual design that meets the requirements of the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone while being situated within the larger architectural character of the community. The design approach is a reinterpretation of the Craftsman values of natural materials, simplicity of form, making handcraft visible — all while accommodating the homeowner’s desire to blur the lines between “natural” and “manmade.” To create ambiguity between the interior and the exterior, the interior is painted with a wash of ‘blue-tral’ colors that blend the walls and ceiling into the background of the sky through framed picture windows. Natural materials like OSB and plywood are mixed with faux-natural composites like Linoleum and Formica. In reference to the home’s architectural context, the ADU includes cartoonized Craftsman iconic elements like chair rails, picture frame windows, and an elemental balustrade. The home also includes a variety of delightful features including a pink concrete floor, picturesque flower box, fake craftsman columns, and a neon terrazzo kitchen island. 

A groundbreaking was held in June 2017 and construction was completed in summer 2019. The project received the LABC Architectural Award in the Design Concept category.