Lilypad Homes is Closing Its Doors

March 21, 2018

Lilypad Homes has had the great pleasure of serving Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties, as well as other communities throughout California.  In our three years we have helped to create a “friendly” permitting environment for the development of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs).  We have reduced fees and fostered financing options that allow for construction of units based on future value and income.  Working with local governments and nonprofits, we helped institute affordable housing programs that were the first of their kind.  And we have provided hundreds of educational presentations to help homeowners recognize the opportunity to build these units. Our work has been inspired by a desire to create safe, secure, and affordable housing for individuals and families across all income levels.

 I am writing today to let you know that Lilypad will be closing its doors at the end of March due to lack of funding.  While it is a loss, we feel we have accomplished our goals and now have the permitting environment and financing options in place for many people to create additional units.  It is hard to have to say goodbye, but we look forward to participating in new ways in the building environment that we helped to create!  We cannot thank everyone enough for all the support and encouragement you have given us over the years!  We believe the work we started to simplify, streamline, and encourage the development of these units will continue, as jurisdictions look to ADUs to help fulfill their housing goals and champion a dual approach. By offering both large-scale multi-family and J/ADU infill they can develop a full, economically diverse array of housing.  

The good news is that San Mateo County has already shown us the way to continue the growth of this housing movement.  All 21 jurisdictions in that county are collaborating on and investing in this online ADU information center.  Much of the content is useful to anyone considering development, and the website can be used as a template for other communities.  It includes:

  •  Inspirational videos of families who have built ADUs in the county,
  • An idea book with personal stories photos, floorplans and budgets for ADUs that were actually built,
  • A consumer-friendly web calculator (no Excel spreadsheets to navigate) to estimate construction costs based on size, type and level of finish, market vs. affordable rents and added home value (Key!),
  • A step-by-step guide to the process, including resources for new landlords,
  • An interactive workbook that will include questions to ask your planning department, how to know if you are financially ready to build, how to draw a site plan to scale, etc.,
  • 21 fact sheets summarizing the rules of each of the cities and the county with contact information for a single person at each planning department who is an expert in ADU applications and also easy to talk with.

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We Need Emergency Housing Now!

October 13, 2017

We’ve made great strides in the past few months toward creating housing in Marin County. A unit was recently completed in San Anselmo, one is under construction in Novato, another is waiting for permits in San Rafael, seven are in the contractor selection phase, and three are being designed. We’ve helped guide all these homeowners through the process, and before long they will be generating income by housing grateful renters. We think of these flexible living spaces as an insurance policy built into homes. Because, as we all know, life is unsure. And when unforeseen events occur, there may be a need for additional income or housing. 

The tragedy this week could not make this point any more apparent.  I was one of the people forced to evacuate as fires raged through Kenwood, and overnight our work at Lilypad became even more critical. Who doesn’t know at least one person who was displaced and now needs a place to live for a few weeks, months, or even years, while they regroup, repair, and/or rebuild? Most of the people I know are now staying with family or friends in Marin County. And the county has been wonderfully responsive, offering much needed assistance to the thousands who were affected.

Many displaced people will end up sleeping in spare bedrooms and sharing kitchens without much privacy or comfort. Wouldn’t it be great if most homes were equipped with a small flexible apartment that could come and go as needed, especially in emergencies? Having a junior unit in the majority of homes would make dealing with fires, earthquakes, and floods more manageable. It would be gratifying to me, not only in my role at Lilypad as a proponent of flexible housing, but also as a person who had to evacuate in the middle of the night and is now waiting to find out what damage was done. But I am lucky, as my home is one of the few left standing in our neighborhood.

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Astonishing Facts and Accomplishments in 2017

June 8, 2017

Did you know…?

That the traditional family (mother, father and at least one child under 18) now makes up only 33% of the population in California, while single-family homes represent the majority of our housing?  And, that 63% of the homes in Marin County house only one or two people, generally sleeping in a single bedroom?

That grant funding from the County of Marin and other private foundations allows Lilypad to offer free feasibility assessments for homeowners in Marin interested in creating new, long-term housing, looking at the best opportunity to meet individual needs for increased value, additional housing and income?
That Lilypad received a generous grant from the Marin Community Foundation (MCF) in January which allows us to work individually with lower income homeowners on the development of units created within the existing living space of homes and to continue our public education program?
That three new laws in California (AB-2299, SB-1069 and AB-2406) make it much easier and less expensive to create accessory dwelling units (ADUs) by removing costly permitting, water and sewer connection fees and requirements, like creating parking spaces and adding fire sprinklers?

That Lilypad is now teaching classes in three education programs including the College of Marin, the Tamalpais Unified High School District, and Santa Rose Junior College, where participants learn about the financing, design, permitting, building and leasing processes for development of ADUs?

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Exciting New ADU and JADU State Laws!


November 10, 2016

A miracle has happened in California and soon the requirement for an additional parking space will be abolished for many accessory dwelling units! As we noted in an earlier posting, parking requirements kill more potential ADUs than anything else. As of January 1, 2017, California jurisdictions will no longer be able to require a homeowner to add a parking space in order to create an accessory dwelling unit if the ADU falls into one of these five categories:

  1. The accessory dwelling unit is located within one-half mile of public transit.
  2. The accessory dwelling unit is located within an architecturally and historically significant historic district.
  3. The accessory dwelling unit is part of the existing primary residence or an existing accessory structure. 
  4. When on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupant of the accessory dwelling unit.
  5. When there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the accessory dwelling unit.


So if you or someone you know is thinking about creating an ADU or has one that was never permitted because of parking constraints, it’s a great time to consider building or legalizing one to house loved ones or people who work in our community! Additional parking may still be necessary when building a new detached ADU or enlarging the house to create space for an ADU. And if you are thinking about turning your garage into an ADU, you will still have to replace the lost parking space(s) elsewhere on your property, but no additional parking spaces will be required. 

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Marin is ready to start building JR units!

August 17, 2016

A recent decision by the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) board to eliminate water connection fees for JR units means that homeowners in San Rafael, Tiburon, Fairfax and Belvedere now have the green light to start legally building economical, private rental apartments made from underutilized bedrooms in their homes!  Larkspur’s Planning Commission has just passed a proposed JR unit ordinance that is now moving to the City Council for a final vote, while Corte Madera and unincorporated County say they are also getting close to introducing the ordinance.  However, development of room rental spaces can be achieved in the unincorporated areas of Marin right now by navigating a combination of permitting codes and you can actually do it in up to three bedrooms of a home!

Discussions with several of the local sewer agencies have brought about code changes eliminating fees for JR units, a change that can apparently be done through a simple resolution by the board.  So we’re there!  The time has finally come when homeowners, young and old, in the majority of the county can begin re-imagining the ways they are living in their homes and using a streamlined and affordable process to create JR units.

Junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs) were originally established in local permitting code in 2015 in Novato.  Buy-in from the water and sewer agencies reduced the fees by over 95%, making the development of these living spaces truly affordable.  And construction of the very first JR unit in the state is underway!  We have been meeting with many more property owners who are considering being the second to move forward with JR unit development.

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The Parking Question



April 29, 2016

It’s happened over and over again.  We hear from a homeowner who is excited about the prospect of creating a second unit to house a loved one or to generate rental income.  They sound like a perfect candidate with a well-laid-out home.  We want to get excited too, but we are wary, having been through this many times before.  We ask “THE” question, “Do you have room on your property to create an extra parking space for the unit?”  The results are surprisingly similar.  The person says “Yes, no problem, you could park four cars in front of our house.”  Then we tell them the legal definition of a parking space.

This varies by jurisdiction, but is some combination of: the house must be brought up to the current parking standard, the parking spaces must be covered, the space can’t be in the front or side setbacks, no tandem parking is permitted, no parking is allowed on a slope that exceeds X degrees, and the space must be independently accessible for the renter.  And that’s where the discussion often ends.  Most lots in Marin just don’t have the room to create an additional parking space, which is typically what’s required to get a second unit approved.  After you eliminate the front and side setbacks you are left with a skinny strip in front of the garage and another disillusioned family struggling to figure out how to house a family member or keep up with the quickly rising cost of living in California.

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Feasibility Studies – Stories From the Field



February 9, 2016

More and more Marin County homeowners are becoming aware of the benefits of second units, and we’ve been doing a lot of free 45-minute phone consultations to familiarize people with the process for developing these small homes.  And the number of requests from homeowners for feasibility studies has grown considerably.  We love seeing the variety of homes that we have here in Marin and identifying the opportunities that exist for creating second units or junior second units (JSUs).

In Novato, where JSUs are legal, we have visited two single-story homes in the same development, both the same three-bedroom, two-bath model.  In both cases the homeowner plans to turn the master bedroom and bath into a JSU.  Replacing a window with double French doors leading in from a wonderful private side yard with a small deck will create a welcoming entry.  The existing closet will be moved, making room for a wet bar kitchen with a built-in wine rack and small appliances, including an induction cooktop, a convection/microwave and an under-counter refrigerator.  A large window will be added to allow the chef to look out on the open scenic view.  The homeowner has the option of fencing off part of the backyard to create additional private outdoor space for the JSU which would add to its appeal and income potential.
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Lilypad Homes Has a Lot to Celebrate this Year!

tiny house Christmas

December 23, 2015

We would like to thank everyone who has helped us begin to change the way we are living in our homes, and to share Rachel’s first tiny house Christmas with you!

So, if you have:

  • Considered creating a Lilypad in your home
  • Called for a free 45-minute consultation (available to anyone considering a second unit)
  • Mentioned Lilypad Homes to a friend or neighbor
  • Talked to your town or city about passing a junior second unit ordinance
  • Voted to pass a junior second unit ordinance
  • Introduced us to resources
  • Connected us with like-minded people and organizations
  • Created financing opportunities for homeowners
  • Provided funding to support our work
  • Invited us to speak in front of an audience anywhere
  • And/or encouraged us in our work in any way

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98.5% Fee Reduction in Novato Makes Creation of Affordable Housing Truly Affordable

money pile

June 4, 2015

Novato homeowners who want to create legal, private apartments from spare bedrooms can now move ahead. The ordinance permitting these junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs) went into effect in January of this year. In May, the last potential hurdle was removed when the Novato Sanitary District Board unanimously approved a sewer service fee reduction from $8,990 to $40 for JADUs. That followed the April elimination of the North Marin Water District’s $10,000 water connection fee. The City of Novato and the Novato Fire Protection District had previously reduced or eliminated their fees, and the end result is a very impressive 98.5% overall reduction in fees for JADUs, as compared to traditional accessory dwelling units.

†⇒ Fees for a traditional accessory dwelling unit of < 500 square feet:     $27,507*

⇒ Fees for a junior accessory dwelling unit of < 500 square feet:            $     414*

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Lilypad Joins the Tiny House Movement

six baby houses

April 4, 2015

Lilypad Homes and junior second units received national attention this week with a post on the Tiny House Blog entitled Lilypad Homes Converts Spare Bedrooms into Tiny Houses.  To some, “tiny house” conjures up an image of a diminutive cottage on wheels, but in reality tiny houses come in many forms.  The article points out that you can enjoy tiny house benefits and at the same time stay in your own home by converting an existing bedroom (and ancillary spaces, up to 500 square feet in total) into a Lilypad apartment and moving in!  Check out the Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation we have now passed in two cities in Marin that makes this type of conversion relatively simple.  We are helping turn back the clock, re-popularizing a multi-generational housing model to create affordable housing.

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Launch of the Lilypad Flexible Housing Initiative

frog launching off lily pad

February 10, 2015

On January 21, the Lilypad Flexible Housing Initiative, Lilypad FHI for short, was launched at the TEDx Marin Community Gathering and received a lot of attention.  Lilypad FHI formalizes Rachel Ginis’ advocacy throughout Marin County to spread the idea of junior second units (see the previous post for more on JSUs).  Its mission is to help create affordable housing for all, which will be accomplished by:

  • Educating

We are educating key groups about the benefits of flexible housing, and we are publishing articles in local newspapers such as the Voice piece about junior second units published recently in the Marin IJ.  We’ll continue our efforts via classes, talks to organizations, social media, and more.

What can you do to help?  Talk it up – tell your friends about flexible housing and junior second units.  Think about creating a junior second unit yourself.

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Debut of the Junior Unit


December 18, 2014

There’s exciting news in the world of second units! A significant ordinance that will allow for simple and inexpensive permitting procedures for small second units was unanimously approved on December 9 by the Novato City Council and will go into effect in January 2015. These Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADUs), which are created by repurposing spare bedrooms into private apartments, will have lower permitting fees and require no extra parking spaces or sprinkler systems, making creation of a small accessory unit feasible and affordable for many Novato homeowners. What sets JADUs apart from other affordable housing options is that they make both renting and owning a home in Marin more affordable.

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Dollars and Sense

Photo - Wall Street Journal

Photo – Wall Street Journal

November 24, 2014

“The hottest amenity in real estate these days is an in-law unit, an apartment carved out of an existing home or a stand-alone dwelling built on the homeowners’ property.” So states a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Hottest Home Amenity: In-Law Apartments. The article goes on to say that many national and regional home builders are jumping into the market and offering new homes that include integral or detached in-law units. And a Zillow study found that the listing prices of homes with in-law units in major cities were 60% higher than the listing prices of homes that didn’t have units. It’s nice to see that the market is recognizing the value of second units.

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Grandma Never Had It So Good


 I would like to introduce you to a wonderful article published last month in The New York Times titled, “Grandma Never Had It So Good” The story discusses the progress made in Portland to popularize and facilitate the development of second units. Please take a moment to see the many ways this effective and timely housing and investment strategy has enriched families. Second units are a great option for creating a reliable income stream. The return on investment can be instantly recognized in the increased value of your home, sometimes exceeding development costs. However, there are many other compelling reasons for creating one of these living spaces on your property.

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Website Announcements

Lilypad Homes is a design and development firm.  We take a holistic view of homes and offer our clients the best recommendations to optimize the value, enjoyment, and earning potential of their homes.  Lilypad specializes in creating rentable spaces.  This could be a cottage behind the house, converting an attic, family room, or garage into a second unit, or simply repurposing a spare room into a private apartment.  These little homes defray the cost of homeownership, generating substantial income in a dynamic rental market, empowering you to live more comfortably and securely in your home.

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Just Off Paradise

We are excited to announce the completion of our newest 230 square foot Lilypad Home!  We are part of the tiny house movement here in the Bay Area, and the apartments and small cottages we create can house loved ones, caregivers, or be rented out to people who participate in our community.  The income these living spaces provide defray the cost of homeownership.

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Happy Holidays

December 20, 2013

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday and a healthy and prosperous New Year! Thank you for your support and a wonderful year full of new beginnings and exciting possibilities for affordable housing in the Bay Area.

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