Glamorous Granny Flat.

All photos: Eric Staudenmaier

The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a second house built in the backyard of a first house to provide additional income for a “single family” homeowner.

Los Angeles has now legally liberalized the lawto allow these types of dwellings to go up all over the city. The moral reasoning: this will increase the supply of housing in a city where rents, not to mention costs, are skyrocketingly expensive. 

The so-called maximum square footage of the ADU is 1,200 SF but the one on this page is 1,600 SF.

One can imagine less beautiful and less artful types of ADU’s going up all over this city. 

The $99,000 vinyl and stucco ones that will go up in Van Nuys will be built without architects. Hector and his crew will dig, hammer and nail and the Home Depot and Ikea will supply. Four recent college grads from film, acting, and comedy schools will move in and split the $4600 a month rent with parental assistance.  

So the tenants will not be someone’s granny.

What will likely occur is a kind of typical Los Angeles situation. Property owners will build in the backyard and in a slapdash way shove driveways in front, destroying trees and lawns to create more parking. Security gates and cinderblock fences and concrete will serve as front yard landscaping.

More renters will mean more cars, so almost every street that once was clean of vehicles, will have bumper-to-bumper cars belonging to renters who live in the backyard house. Curbs will be full of McDonalds wrappers and discarded beer bottles.

That’s the Van Nuys way.

I don’t, ironically, object to ADU’s. If every ADU looked like the one on this page, it would be wonderful for architecture in Los Angeles to see a proliferation of fine design.

But the bottom of the barrel ugliness that is the norm, not to mention the cost of construction, ensures that the homely, crowded, poorly thought out ADU will prevail. 

And the ADU on this page will never become the home of a working family. It is, most likely, a guest house for an affluent owner, or perhaps an $8,000 a month rental. So increasing the ADU supply will hardly affect the supply of normal, affordable rentals in Los Angeles.

Credits: Architizer




Residential › Private House 






Eric Staudenmaier

4 thoughts on “Glamorous Granny Flat.

  1. Back in my misspent youth thirty odd years ago I was living in Jersey and helped a friend move in to a new apartment in NYC. It was on 42nd Street in a century old sliver building – fourteen stories tall and one room wide. The apartment was a former dentist office which hadn’t been modified in any way when it was illegally repurposed to a residential unit. Orange molded plastic, synthetic wood paneling, foam drop ceiling, linoleum, fluorescent tube lights, and the original tobacco stains that coated everything. The place was roasting hot in summer with no air conditioning. In winter you could see your breath indoors. The view across the street was a wall of windows of an SRO (residential hotel) full of all manner of characters direct from Central Casting doing everything and anything regularly seen on a crime drama. No curtains. My friend was renting a bedroom from the primary inhabitants in exchange for child care services. Her room was slightly smaller than her mattress which curved up the walls on either side like a taco. This was before Times Square had been reinvented as a Disney theme park – before NYC was rebranded as a home for tech bros, hipsters, and the ultra rich. Back when it was patently obvious to everyone in America that New York was a sewer full for impoverished degenerates. How things change…

    Van Nuys seems to be trapped halfway between the two worlds.


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