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New ADU being built inches from neighbor’s Normal Heights home | What you can do if faced with something similar

Two-story ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units, now have to have at least a four foot side yard setback.

SAN DIEGO — There are less than 18 inches between the chimney attached to Charles Brock’s Normal Heights home and the Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU being built next door. Charles turned to the city for help, but they said the project is permitted. 

“It's very upsetting,” he said. “Make no mistake. My wife and I have lost countless hours of sleep for the last year.”

When Charles first saw the construction starting next door, he didn't give it much thought. “They tore down the garage that had been there, I was like - doing something… none of my business.” 

Then he got a call from the contractor that a fence he thought was on the property line was actually off by more than a foot. The contractor told him the fence was coming down and a new ADU was going to be built right up to the new line.

Working for You, CBS 8 discovered that current codes wouldn't allow this to happen. Two-story ADUs now have to have at least a four foot side yard setback. Unfortunately for Charles, the permit for this construction was submitted before that went into effect. As a result, it’s legal.

That said, there's another problem and it surrounds Charles' chimney. 

“The code says that a chimney has to be two feet above any structure within 10 feet,” Charles said. 

He’s right. Both state and city codes require a chimney to be at least two feet above any structure within 10 feet. Not only is his chimney below the new structure, but it’s also nowhere close to 10 feet away.

A senior structural engineer wrote in an email that as long as they covered the exterior with 7/8th inch stucco, it would "classify the wall as 1-hour fire resistive." He went on to say, "and for the proposed construction, that is satisfactory and code compliant."

But Charles says he's worried his next wood burning fire will cause both homes to catch fire. “I don't object to her building an ADU, I just object to her building an ADU that imposes on me a risk of continuing to use - enjoy my home - the way that I had intended.”

So what can you do to protect yourself from something similar?  A soon as you notice construction in your neighborhood, take a look at the building permits on the city's Development Services Department website. And if there is no permit, report it to the city's Building and Land Use Division.

Editor's Note: This story originally stated incorrectly that the city acknowledges this new structure violates that code when in fact, the city does not acknowledge that the ADU is in any violation of the building code.

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