Project applications start at the public counter. Whether the application is for a project renovation or new construction, the public counter is the place where planning and development come together.
Public counters are where applicants submit applications for ministerial, administrative, or discretionary planning approvals. Planners are available at three locations (the Development Services Centers in Downtown, the Valley, and West L.A.) to answer basic zoning questions. Planners at the public counter also help applicants identify which entitlements are needed for a proposed project.
Land Use Process
Research the rules and zoning regulations prior to submitting a project application. Zoning information for properties in the City of Los Angeles is available online through the City’s web-based mapping tool, ZIMAS. Projects that do not require planning approvals may proceed to the public counter to apply for building permits with the Department of Building and Safety.
If a project requires planning approvals, applicants are encouraged to meet with staff before filing an application to verify which land use entitlements are required. Based on the project description, applicants may qualify for the services offered by the Expedited Processing Section.
at the public counter
Schedule an appointment to submit an application at the public counter. Once an application is filed, the project is assigned a case number and routed to the appropriate staff members to review.
Before processing a case, the staff conducts an initial assessment to confirm that the necessary documents have been submitted. Next, the assigned planner reviews the plans and application materials, conducts the necessary environmental review, and makes a recommendation.
After considering the merits of a project and public testimony, the decision maker will approve or deny the project. If the determination is not appealed, the original decision stands; otherwise, the appellant body hears the appeal before rendering a final decision.
After the project has been approved, the applicant returns to the public counter to obtain possible clearances for project conditions while applying for the building permit or permits.
By-Right / Ministerial Projects
A by-right or ministerial project is one that does not require discretionary review by Los Angeles City Planning. These types of projects can proceed directly to the Department of Building and Safety to request a building permit(s) because they meet the existing standards and zoning regulations outlined in the Los Angeles Municipal Code and their scope does not trigger discretionary entitlement review.
Note: A building permit may require sign-off from other departments at the public counter, even if the project does not require planning review or approval.
The By-Right/Ministerial permitting process may also involve administrative approvals to verify compliance with regulations or guidelines, most commonly those of an overlay. Sign-off for these approvals is non-discretionary and can be conducted at the public counter, or by a planner assigned to a specific geography, before the applicant receives a building permit.
Discretionary Entitlement Projects
A discretionary entitlement is a planning approval granted to an applicant to allow for a specific type of land use and/or to allow for the construction, modification, or use of a building. The approval of an entitlement involves a formal discretionary application process, and may require a public hearing prior to issuing a recommendation or a determination letter to approve or deny. Examples of some commonly requested land use entitlements in the City of Los Angeles include: Conditional Use Permits, Zoning Administrator Determinations, Zone Changes, Subdivisions, Site Plan Review, and Project Permit Compliance.
Entitlement Review Process
Development Services Center
Department of Building & Safety
Projects that require a discretionary entitlement must attain a determination letter of approval before receiving approval of a building permit.
Note: This is a simplified version of the local land use process. Actual steps may vary based on the project description and entitlements. For more details, contact public counter staff.