Seeing is Believing: City of Seaside Showcasing ADUs with Innovative Public Demonstration Project

Designing a pre-approved ADU for Seaside, CA. Image courtesy of Workbench

If necessity is the mother of invention and policy reform the father of implementation, then Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) must be their children. Although ADUs — also referred to as granny flats, in-law units or backyard homes — have been on the housing scene for decades, their resurgence in popularity recently spurred California Senate and Assembly Bills to remove barriers to construction.

With the red tape dissolving, ADU design is now evolving. The City of Seaside, in Monterey County, is at the forefront of this evolution with an incredible project showcasing the potential of ADUs.

To communicate this potential in physical form, Seaside has embarked on a Prototype Accessory Dwelling Unit Program that will construct two new detached ADUs on two adjacent city-owned parcels on Canyon Del Rey Boulevard. Once completed, residents will be invited to visit, view, and compare designs. The project also includes rehabilitation of the two existing, primary dwellings constructed circa 1930. All four units have been reserved for very low and extremely low-income households.

The intent of the Program is to also demonstrate the integral role of ADUs in the revitalization and preservation of existing neighborhoods. Local Officials, including the Housing Program Manager, David Foster, recognized the need to adapt to economic and ecological constraints, such as rising costs of homeownership and water scarcity. “This is a new era of housing,” said David Foster, speaking on the importance of ADUs to Seaside.

To assist with the undertaking, Seaside is partnering with Symbium, the Complaw company specializing in the translation of zoning regulations into creatively interactive web applications; and Workbench, a comprehensive design-build firm based in Santa Cruz. Symbium will provide a publicly-accessible program known as Build, which empowers homeowners to understand what type of ADU design might fit their property.

Workbench is providing project management for the initiative and producing architectural plans for one, site-built ADU; the second ADU is anticipated to be a prefabricated design. A competitive construction bid process, open to qualified applicants, will follow plan approval.

These two different scenarios highlight ADUs’ ability to be molded to individual property and budgetary conditions. Alexandra Sklar, Designer and Project Manager for Workbench said, “the public demonstration component of the project is something entirely new” and commended Seaside for their innovative approach to affordable housing.

David Foster explained that once completed, the Workbench ready-made plans would be available to the public, free of charge. The plans will be pre-approved by the City and all plan check fees typically associated with permit review will be waived. Information on estimated construction timelines, energy efficiency and associated costs will also be available.

Additionally, the public will be able to access Build, search for their address, and position the pre-approved plans directly on a map of their parcel. The service is free to the public as a partnership between Seaside and Symbium. Interested in learning how Symbium products can assist your city’s planning and public information needs? Please contact us at or



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