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Why We Build: An ADU Keeping Grandma Closer to Home

Hear directly from Jill and Joan about how their custom granny flat Cottage ADU unit in Santa Clara is keeping the family together for these longtime Bay Area residents.

Caleb LeeSeptember 21, 2021

This Cottage ADU is Keeping the Family Together

Until now, families looking to care for grandparents or other elderly family members have had three options.

  • Move grandma in with the family, making a tight home living situation even tighter.
  • Pay for in-home care.
  • Keep grandpa at his existing home that is difficult to maintain and/or too far away.

But now with Accessory Dwelling Units, there is a much better option: move your loved ones closer to home yet separate from home. And that’s exactly what longtime Santa Clara resident Jill did with her Cottage Accessory Dwelling Unit for her aging mother Joan.

“This ADU is important to us because it keeps the family together,” Jill said. “Family has been the most important thing for us.”

Building affordable housing for the homeowners and families that need it most is core to the Cottage mission, and we’re excited to see it come to life with Jill and Joan’s backyard Cottage.

“Cottage exists to help solve the housing crisis by making it easy to build an ADU, and now this ADU helps three generations of a wonderful family get more out of life,” said Zach, the Cottage Project Manager for Jill and Joan’s ADU unit. “We strive to make a meaningful difference. It’s what motivates us—it’s what we talk about in meetings, at the water cooler, and with our friends outside work. It’s what we do, and we love to do it.”

"It's 'Why We Build.'"

Moving On to an ADU

Joan had been married to her husband for over 50 years before he sadly passed away in January 2021 after congestive heart failure. At the same time, her and the entire family tested positive for COVID-19 that same week, forcing them to quarantine for three weeks.

Joan, husband, and Grandson - ADU Feature

All of a sudden, Joan’s 1,600 sq. ft. two-story Pacifica home was too large to take care of alone, and the sudden loss of her husband left her physically and mentally weak. A 45-minute drive away in Santa Clara, Jill started to look for how she could bring her mom closer to home.

“[Joan] comes down about every weekend just to get her out of Pacifica and spend time with [her grandson] and with us,” Jill said. “And you know, it’s hard—she’s lonely in that house. It’s time to move on.”

“Move on to a Cottage!” Joan added.

After finding out about Cottage on her Facebook feed, Jill spoke with Kevin from the Cottage team of ADU experts, and immediately noticed the Cottage difference.

“I think we all saw that Cottage is honest people wanting to actually help people, which you really don’t see in the world today,” Jill explained. “Cottage also was asking what I needed. And I looked at the Cottage testimonials, I looked at the team, and I just like—I loved—the diversity.”

The initial call with Kevin got the ball rolling. The next week, Cottage colleagues Jimmie and Kyu listened carefully to Jill and Joan’s particular needs during the in person site visit. After some discussion, all agreed on starting with a 1 bedroom design that worked for the property's backyard and use case.

ADU Backyard Space

“The process just keeps moving forward,” Jill said. “And because of how you all are so personal and take the time to get to know us in our story—it makes the process easier. It makes it flow.”

For Cottage, the story is what underpins the entire project while helping guide the decision-making process each step of the way. It’s also directly in line with the company’s mission to make communities more livable for existing residents and accessible for newcomers

“From the first conversation, it was clear that family is a driving force in Jill’s life,” said Jimmie, the Cottage Homeowner Consultant for the project. “I have so much admiration for her undertaking of a project that will foster an even closer relationship between her mom and her son. Jill brought a contagious enthusiasm to our work together, and I am grateful to have played a role in materializing her vision.”

“My 3 Year Old Can go a Few Feet to Ring Grandma’s Doorbell for Dinner”

The Santa Clara property where Jill wanted to put the custom ADU for Joan had a sharp angle down the left side of the property. This limited the ADU design and layout options.

“So in a lot of the prefab [designs], I was looking at dimensions and saying, ‘That’s not gonna work’ and ‘That’s not gonna work for our property,’” Jill explained. “I liked [Cottage’s] clean layout.”

After going over the initial layout with the Cottage Design team, Jill and Joan settled on a one that maximized the space with an open floor plan. At the same time, the unit was designed to be cost efficient from a construction standpoint.

ADU Floor Plan

“It was perfect, because it wasn’t just a bedroom and a bathroom; it also had a little den,” Joan said. “Everybody [on the Cottage team] has been very accommodating, and that’s what I like.”

More important than the layout itself was how close the unit would be to the existing home. At the same time, the separate detached ADU unit provides privacy and separation as well—the perfect balance for a family that has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for decades.

With Jill’s son now three years old and going to school soon, having his grandmother close by—and a few other of Joan’s grandkids in the same neighborhood as well—was paramount for keeping the family together. Now Joan’s grandson can zip around on his dinosaur-ATV just outside his grandma’s doorstep.

ATV on ADU Location

The importance of family was clear from the beginning, and something the Cottage team took as table stakes from the start.

“Over the river and through the woods would be fun, but out the back door and across the backyard to grandmother's ADU?” Jimmie said. “That sure seems like a better deal for this family. The new option of having an ADU with the main home has been a game-changer for the family and breathed new life into their outlook on the future.

“My mom keeps asking me questions about her unit—she is excited to be closer to her grandsons since my dad passed in January,” Jill said. “I haven't seen her have such a positive outlook for her future.”

Cottage: Building Housing to Keep Families Together

Cottage as a company started with a simple mission: We believe in a world where the neighborhoods with the most opportunity are both livable for existing residents and accessible for newcomers.

We are proud to help homeowners like Jill and Joan change their lives with their existing homes. Their story is just one of many others just like it, and we’re excited to help more homeowners do the same. It’s Why We Build.

Ready to start your own ADU journey to bring the family closer to home, earn rental income to help with your existing mortgage, or unlock the potential value of your home? Click the "Get Started" button on the top right hand corner to discuss your ADU vision with our team of empathetic ADU experts. We’ll give you a Free Consultation and Estimate based on your specific needs.

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