The process of rezoning

On Behalf of Griswold LaSalle Cobb Dowd & Gin LLP

Zoning is a key aspect of California land use and development. According to the Institute for Local Government, zoning determines what individuals, companies and other entities may use land for in different areas or “zones.” It would not be appropriate, for example, to have residential land use and industrial land use available in the same zone or even in adjacent zones. Zoning can also set other regulations governing different aspects of land use such as density, set backs, building height, landscaping and parking areas. 

If property owners want to use land in a way that current zoning has not approved, they can apply to have the regulations changed for that property. This process is rezoning. 

Common types of zoning 

The following are common zoning types: 

  • Agricultural 
  • Recreational 
  • Industrial 
  • Commercial 
  • Residential 
  • Open space 

Sometimes zones will have subsets as well, particularly in residential zones. A subset may define different density regulations within a residential zone. So, an R1 zone may allow fewer units per acre than an R3 zone, which has higher density zoning. 

The rezoning process 

A conditional use permit allows for certain uses not covered in the original zoning regulations. The governing body reviews applications and approves some permits subject to restrictions. 

Alternately, a person wanting to use land in a way not specified by the zone may need to ask the city or county to change the zoning. According to California code, cities and counties must create clear procedures for zoning hearings. Local zoning agencies must make it clear what rules and procedures they have in place so that any interested parties know how to proceed before a hearing. The governing city or county must approve any zoning changes. 

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