How Los Angeles is bringing high design to the granny flat — while saving time and money
“Before there is architecture, there is red tape.
That’s certainly the case in Los Angeles, where the simple act of securing permits to build an average granny flat in an average backyard can turn into an epic back and forth with the city’s Department of Building and Safety over tweaks to drainage and electrical systems.
A new initiative organized by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office in collaboration with Building and Safety aims to change that — while inserting a bit of high design into a housing stock whose aesthetics generally lie somewhere on the continuum between box and shed. Imagine, instead, a playful studio in the form of a flower, or a contemporary two-story apartment that offers minimalist chic at a backyard scale — all available as designs that have been preapproved by the city for construction, thereby shaving weeks off the permitting process.
More than a dozen designs for accessory dwelling units, known as ADUs, will be offered through the city’s ADU Standard Plan Program, set to launch Friday. The small-scale, stand-alone residences are generally tucked into properties zoned for single-family homes. The idea, says the city’s chief design officer (and former Times architecture critic), Christopher Hawthorne, is to take a weeks-long permitting process and ‘turn it into an approval that is over-the counter.’
In its initial incarnation, the program will feature designs by a range of architectural studios, from the well-established to the up-and-coming, including Escher GuneWardena, Fung + Blatt, Taalman Architecture, Design, Bitches and WHY, the Culver City-based firm led by Kulapat Yantrasast that has had a hand in numerous museum expansions — most recently, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
‘We want to solve the housing crisis; we want to stabilize our neighborhoods,” says Garcetti of the initiative. ‘But we also want to see beautiful design.’ […]”