Potential of ADUs

Rethinking Community and Neighborhood Assets


When people think of ADUs, they usually think of homes or living spaces. However, secondary units and smaller footprint buildings don’t have to be limited to those uses — they can be community gathering spaces, make use of temporarily available land for gathering or commercial activities, and be a way to seamlessly integrate small-scale commercial operations into otherwise unused spaces. ACUs, or Accessory Commercial Units, can allow for schools, small offices, stores or small producer workshops placed within neighborhoods that need and support them. They open up new revenue possibilities to support historic communities and revitalize neighborhoods by creating walkable, accessibly-scaled shops and businesses.

Their size is approachable enough to allow for community building, creating opportunities for educating homeowners on building techniques and maintenance, and building skills and capacity in individuals and collectives. As a physical asset, they also offer opportunities for wealth building and neighborhood stability by allowing lower income homeowners avenues to build and create financial health, older community members to age in place, and multigenerational families to grow together. This conversation imagines how these small building types might create more vibrant, skilled, equitable and wealth-building communities.

Learn more about this series here.

Hosted by:

June Grant
Founder and Design Principal of blink! LAB architecture

June leads blink!LAB architecture, a research-based architecture and design studio committed to the craft of buildings, their potential to enhance cities and develop socially responsible solutions to complex real-world problems.

Guest Speakers:

Teresa Baker

Teresa is reimagining workforce development by providing homebuilding skills to homeowners and community members and realizing driveways and backyard gardens as shared neighborhood assets.

“Tiny homes are becoming more popular as people are pushed out of mainstream housing options. It allows people to have their dream home, be intentional by choosing a housing option that fits their values, and be extra sustainable by challenging themselves to live within their means.”

– Teresa Baker

Neil Heller

Neil is an urban planner and designer who promotes Accessory Commercial Units (ACUs) and other small-scale, locally focused, and community-oriented real estate development for the economic mobility of residents and the fiscal health of the municipality.

“With single-family zone only areas, we become very narrow with what we allow and accept for our communities and what we can provide. ADUs and ACUs allow for gentle density and create opportunities over time for these neighborhoods.”

– Neil Heller

Shira Shaham

Shira works to lay the groundwork for community-led property acquisitions and stewardship in historically marginalized BIPOC communities to combat displacement in the East Bay. Shira is also an Advisor to Build It Green.

“We are empowering and providing a mechanism for marginalized communities to take ownership of the development they see around them in Oakland and the East Bay rather than being displaced by it.”

– Shira Shaham

Action steps you can take

  1. Familiarize yourself better with EB PREC. by watching their orientation video and consider becoming an investor owner.
  2. Help build awareness of ACUs! If if you see any ACUs in the wild, snap a photo and share it on Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook by tagging #builditgreen #ACU
  3. Grow your Tiny House knowledge and meet other tiny house enthusiasts by becoming a LATCH Learner or by attending a Tiny House Festival.
  4. Hone your small developer skills with an Incremental Development Alliance workshop or boot camp to gain an overview of the infill development process including site selection, market analysis, zoning, and financial planning.
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