For their developmentally disabled son, an ADU offers hope

Stepping into the sunlit accessory apartment just steps from his family home in Culver City, Adrian Perez put his hand on the bedroom wall and beamed a big smile.

“Adrian loves to touch things,” explains his mother, Andrea Villicana. “When the ADU was completed, he knocked on all the walls and checked the acoustics. He likes to help. He is a big help. “

Villicana has long worried about the long-term care of Perez, 33, who suffered from a developmental disability and was unable to speak due to health complications when he was a child.

A young man sitting on a bed.

Adrian Perez sits on his bed in the family’s ADU.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“My biggest fear is what will happen to Adrian when I am no longer here,” she said of her son, who lives at home with Villicana, her husband Joey Chavez and their son Alex. , 18 (“We sound like a Mexican law firm,” Joey joked about their blended family.)

So when a counselor at Westside Regional Center, a state-funded organization that helps clients with developmental disabilities, asked about their long-term plans for Perez, Villicana decided it was time. began researching housing options for her son.

Villicana, 58, said: ‘It’s fine to stay at home, but not for Adrian because he can’t talk. I want him close to home and his siblings. I know that parents often rent an apartment for their children but… try renting an apartment on the Westside. “

The toy surrounds a family picture frame.

Family photo in Adrian Perez’s bedroom.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

After seeing an explosion of accessory apartments, or ADUs, throughout Los Angeles – small-scale homes, or luxury condominiums, built on single-family or multi-family lots family – Villicana wondered if Adrian, who attended the adult day program, could live with a caregiver in a similar home in their backyard.

“The idea intrigued me,” she said. The arrangement will also work for Alex, who will eventually inherit the family house. In theory, both can live independently: Perez with an assistant in the ADU and Alex at the front house.

In an effort to learn more about ADUs, Villicana attended a distance learning class taught by Monica Higgins, a certified real estate agent and construction director at West LA College. In the classroom, Higgins addresses the latest housing design and permitting process, budget, and laws, which have changed over the years to help ease the state’s housing crisis.

Three people standing in front of an ADU

Contractor Steven Laszlo, left, architect Marlene Ramirez and construction manager Monica D. Higgins outside Culver City ADU.

(Cole Connor / HomeJab)

The living room and part of the bedroom are viewed from the bedroom's vantage point.

View of ADU from the bedroom.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“Building an ADU can be confusing,” says Higgins, who became a consultant after watching his mother struggle with a difficult renovation project. “This is not a new phenomenon, but the law has changed and it is difficult to understand how it affects homeowners. It all comes down to simply having a conversation with the host and determining their ‘why’. That’s what drives every decision. It is extremely important to know what they want.”

For Villicana and Chavez, their “why” was clear: An ADU would allow Perez to live close to his family and receive round-the-clock care.

After the class, the couple hired Higgins, who tapped architect Marlene Ramirez and contractor Steven Laszlo of Greystone Builders to design and build a 500-square-foot ADU behind their home on a large plot of land. 6,500 square feet.

A man carries a basketball for a walk with his carer outside a house.

Adrian Perez and his carer, Dania Smith, outside the ADU. “He loves people,” his mother said.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Knowing how traumatic it can be to move a child with a disability out of a family home after a parent’s death, Villicana says she wants to act now, rather than rush to complete it. projects when the situation may be more urgent.

Ramirez envisioned three family housing options: a detached ADU, an ADU that would be attached to the garage, and an ADU that would sit on top of the garage. The couple chose a decoupled ADU configuration because it would provide the easiest access for Perez, who had balance issues. It will also preserve the garage, which the family uses as a workshop and part of their backyard.

A man sits on a bed.

“Adrian really likes ADU so far,” his mother said. “He’s enjoying it.”

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Over eight months, the team built the ADU for about $260,000, with some delays and cost overruns due to global supply chain issues. Anticipating this, Higgins ordered all of the materials specified by Ramirez at the start of construction, including windows, doors, and home appliances.

“People are always surprised by how much things cost,” says Higgins. “They watch HGTV and use Waco, Texas, as the framework for their project in California. People need to think about what a quote means. Is it for building, or everything? Architects, engineers, site surveyors, HVAC consultants and licensors are not free. “

Designed with Perez in mind, the ADU features smooth wooden floors and wide, wheelchair-accessible doors. In addition to the main bathroom, which includes an unlimited shower with a handheld showerhead, a vanity has been added to provide privacy for potential caregivers. “I wanted them to have their own bathroom, instead of going through Adrian’s room to use his bathroom,” explains Villicana.

The bathroom also features a pull-down bar next to the toilet, easy-to-access shower controls and a customizable corner vanity with two interchangeable shelves should Perez need a wheelchair.

Two side-by-side images of the kitchen and the shower

Ikea kitchen, left. The bathroom comes with a limited-fit shower.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

The one-bedroom ADU has a middle-class feel with simple lines, easy access to the outdoors, and an open-plan Ikea kitchen with striking blue-gray cabinets.

To add light and privacy, Ramirez has included tall wooden windows and plenty of skylights. The front door, installed on the side of the ADU instead of facing the main house, provides further privacy and easy access to the garage and yard. A small living area outside the kitchen is a versatile space that can be used as a living room, media room or office.

For Villicana and Chavez, who grew up in Mar Vista and have known each other since the age of 10 (the couple reconnected in 1996 after their first marriage ended in divorce), having a family close proximity is important. The same goes for having options.

Two books and a statue of a dog sitting on a wooden surface in the house.

The ADU is decorated with individual touches.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Villicana, who chose to hire Higgins despite paying more for a consultant, says it was worth it. “It works in every way,” she said. “I don’t have the time and knowledge to keep up with everything. Basically Monica did everything for me. She comes every day. She fills me with glitches. When we ordered the stove from Ikea, the installer couldn’t put it in for six weeks so Monica found someone who could.”

For Villicana, the project was everything she expected: an accessible space, close to her family, ensuring the health and safety of her son.

She said: “Although Adrian cannot own the property, at least he has a place in the back where his siblings can watch over him. “We feel very fortunate to be able to do this. We can keep our families close.”

The two brothers sat next to each other, smiling.

Adrian Perez, left, was all smiles during a photo session with his brother, Alex Chavez, inside the family’s ADU.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Higgins will teach the distance class “How to ADU: Turn Your Backyard into a Money House” on August 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is $49. Information: For their developmentally disabled son, an ADU offers hope

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