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North County family run business is bringing Backyard Homes aka Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) to a whole new level

ENCINITAS — Recent state legislation regarding Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs, more popularly known as granny flats, has created a lot of buzz and opportunities for San Diego residents. And the Arendsen Family, owners of Crest Homes, with 33 years of experience in the tailored home business, is committed to providing education and assistance to homeowners.  

As state laws work to ease the housing crisis by making the permit process easier with fewer, even no, costly permit fees, more homeowners are considering backyard homes. John Arendsen and his Crest “Backyard” Homes team have made backyard homes their primary focus. They currently have four furnished models in Leucadia that are available to tour by appointment.

Arendsen, a resident of Vista since 1980, has been in the small home business for most of his life.  “These new laws have definitely enhanced awareness of the possibilities of ADUs and are making it more affordable. However, the biggest misconception is that small means cheap.  In today’s labor shortage environment, California construction can never be considered cheap.”

As a licensed general and manufactured home contractor, manufactured home dealer and real estate broker, Arendsen is experienced in all facets of the industry. His passion for the small home business is apparently contagious.

His wife and partner of 45 years, Janis, runs her own division of On The Level General Contractors Inc. dba CREST HOMES. “She has always been my partner,” he said. And four of his five children are also involved in the design and building industry, two of them with On The Level and Crest Homes. The other two own their own companies but on many projects they all interface with one another. “I am blessed to be able to rely on their expertise,” he added.  

The main draw for ADUs tends to be income. “ADUs can provide an additional revenue stream for homeowners,” he said. “But I caution people to do the math and make sure you are able to recoup your costs and generate enough income off of it to be profitable after you’ve added it to your property and debt service.”

With the onslaught of Baby Boomers wanting to age in place, Arendsen has also seen an increase in people wanting units for family members that offer independent living and privacy but in close proximity to the main home. “For older family members, it allows them to be in a familiar and loving environment as they begin to require more care,” he said. “We’ve also seen units occupied by grown children who have moved back home while paying off college debt.”

Some families wish to have a BACKYARD HOME for a full-time caregiver to reside on the property. Also, those with large estates may want a private dwelling for a full-time groundskeeper or onsite housekeeper.

While the future growth for backyard homes is clear, plenty of confusion continues to surround the ADU industry and the new legislation. This is why Arendsen is organizing an ADU Forum & Panel Discussion titled “ADU4U?” The event will be open to the public and provide comprehensive information from a variety of state and local officials and building experts.  

The event will be hosted by the nonprofit San Diego Creative Investors Association and doors open at 6 p.m. June 11 at the Scottish Rites Center in Mission Valley. Sen. Bob Wieckowski, the architect of the new Senate Bills on ADUs, will lead the discussion with a video presentation from Sacramento about the state laws that are currently in progress that will make it even easier to build an ADU.

The keynote speaker is Greg Nickless, Senior Housing Analyst for the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Other panel members include a San Diego mayor and Geoff Plageman, a city planner whose mission is coordinating the soon-to-be-released PRADU Program. It will be standing room only, so early registration is advised. For more information and tickets, visit

To learn more about Crest Backyard Homes, to find out if your property qualifies for one or to schedule a tour of one of the four furnished models in Leucadia, visit