Existing Code

Los Angeles's zoning regulations are published in Chapter 1 of the Municipal Code, commonly known as the Zoning Code. The City's zoning provisions regulate many aspects of how land may be used―everything from specifying where different uses may be located to outlining the processes for requesting relief from certain land use regulations.

In Los Angeles, similar land uses are grouped into general categories and referenced by a letter in the alphabet. This letter is followed by a number to signify the allowable intensity of the use or, in some cases, the density.

Zoning also establishes limitations on the size and scale of buildings through the use of height districts. The height district limits the height of a building and its square footage. The height district is defined by a number, which appears after the zone class.

From time to time, properties may be subject to further development limitations—land use restrictions that prevent construction of a building at the maximum height or mass. These properties have a prefix or an additional suffix attached to the height district.

In a city as large as Los Angeles, some neighborhoods are subject to tailored zoning regulations―an overlay, which functions as an additional layer of zoning rules. Properties located within an overlay are typically identified by a series of letters at the end of the zoning string but may also be identified by a unique zone.

zoning regulations

This example of a commercial zone breaks the zoning string down into its parts, showing how each component regulates different aspects of buildings.

Prefix

A Q condition prefix may impose either temporary or permanent development restrictions on a property. These restrictions are uniquely applied to an individual or group of properties, and can further limit the types of allowed uses that would otherwise be permitted within the Zone Class.

For example, a Q condition can prohibit a property in the C2 zone from being used for commercial uses that are not neighborhood-serving retail or restaurant uses.

Zone Class

The zone class identifies the types of uses that are permitted on a property, including regulations related to building setbacks and minimum lot size requirements.

In this case, a variety of different commercial uses would be allowed, but some uses, like a bowling alley or penny arcade, would not be permitted, based on the City’s Zoning Code.

Height District

The height district specifies the maximum building height and permitted floor area allowed on a property.

For example, the C2 Zone in Height District 1 would allow a 75 foot-tall building and a 1.5 to 1 floor area ratio (FAR).

D Limitation

A D limitation may be adopted on a property or neighborhood to impose further restrictions on the height, floor area, and setbacks of a building.

For example, a D limitation imposed on a C2 Zone in Height District 2 may reduce the permitted floor area ratio of the site from 6 to 1 down to a 3 to 1 FAR.

Supplemental Use District or Overlay

Zones that are located within a Supplemental Use District, or Overlay, are subject to further regulatory controls.

For example, this C2 Zone is subject to the standards of one of the City’s Community Design Overlay Districts (CDO). Other applicable overlays or use districts may include Community Plan Implementation Overlays, Historic Preservation Overlays, or Equinekeeping Districts.

While some of these additional regulations may be found in the City’s Zoning Code, these additional layers of zoning regulations are often adopted as standalone ordinances.

Planning Overlays
 
Overlays implement the City’s General Plan and Community Plans through neighborhood-specific policy objectives, supplementing the underlying base zoning. They provide an additional layer of planning control applied to properties in a clearly defined geographic area, and function as tailored zoning districts each with its own specialized set of regulations.