With idyllic weather and family-friendly coastal activities like the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary nearby and situated only about 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles, living in Long Beach is a dream come true. But many Long Beach homeowners are finding their homes are running out of space. Whether caring for aging parents, needing space for children that aren’t quite ready to launch, creating a home office for remote work, or building an ideal room to pursue hobbies and dreams, room additions are becoming increasingly popular. While the plethora of Do It Yourself renovation shows make it look easy, the reality of a project as complex as a room addition is quite different. Room additions must be structurally sound, conform to building codes, and require permits. Navigating this without professional assistance can lead to project delays and costly mistakes.
What To Know
In 2020, the State of California passed a law creating new opportunities for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs) in single-family homes. The passage of this new legislature is excellent news for those labeled the sandwich generation because they are taking care of their parents while their children are still home. But, this doesn’t mean homeowners can bypass submitting plans to the City’s Planning and Building & Safety Bureau. At a minimum, plans must comply with the California Residential Code, Building Code, Electrical Code, Mechanical Code, Plumbing Code, Energy Efficiency Standards, Green Building Standards, and Long Beach Municipal Code. They don’t show that on TV! If this seems like too much for non-professionals, that’s because it probably is. Long Beach Architect Mark Grisafe said, “At our Long Beach architecture firm, we’ve had several clients come to us after months of trying to get approvals from their city planning departments on their own! These are smart and otherwise accomplished individuals who thought they would be able to draw up some simple plans, submit them to the city for approval, and start the construction process within a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, that’s not how the process works (at least not in California). Some of the local code requirements are very complex.” Gisafe goes on to say that “we have a dedicated building code specialist in our office to make sure all our designs are in compliance before they are submitted to the city for approval. After the plans have been submitted, we do all the necessary follow-up work until all of the approvals have been received.”
Is an Architect Worth the Cost?
Many homeowners in the Long Beach area choose a room addition over moving because they love their home and the location and see an ADU as a cost-effective way to add much-needed space and increase the value of their homes. Of course, hiring a professional architect costs money, but is it worth it? According to Grisafe, the answer is a resounding yes. Even though hiring an architect costs about 10%-15% of the project, a good architect with experience dealing with local codes can often save clients money in the long run. Architects are accustomed to working with City planners and navigating complex approvals systems, not to mention they know the right contractors and materials to work with, ensuring the job is done right – the first time.
Living in Long Beach makes it an easy decision for homeowners to add an ADU instead of moving. But don’t allow the process of adding to your dream home turn into a nightmare. Avoid costly mistakes and endless trips to the planning department while attempting to navigate the approval process. Hire a professional architect and use their experience to draw up the perfect addition to your house and allow them to be your advocate with the city and contractors to ensure your ADU adds value and space to your home.