The Zoning String
Basic information about a zone includes its Zone Class, such as "R1" or "C2," and the general use the zone allows, such as "residential" or "industrial." To those who can read a property’s zoning string, the series of letters and numbers conveys additional information about applicable regulations.
The zoning string of a property consists of two or more parts. All zoning strings include a Zone Class and Height District. Some zoning strings also include a Prefix, D Limits, or an Overlay. Each of these components conveys additional information about applicable regulations.
Below is a typical zoning string from one of our commercial corridors, broken up into its constituent parts:
The prefix—a Q or a T—identifies site- or project-specific provisions established by ordinance: Q Conditions (Qualified Classifications) or T Conditions (Tentative Zone Classifications).
Q Conditions are restrictions to ensure compatibility with surrounding property. T Conditions are City Council requirements for public improvements.
The easiest way to figure out which regulations apply to a given property is to use the Zoning Information and Map Access System (ZIMAS) to find the relevant ordinance.
There are 35 types of zoning classifications in the City of Los Angeles, ranging from most restrictive ("OS," Open Space) to least restrictive ("PF," Public Facility). Most of these Zone Classes specify basic requirements and restrictions, such as permitted uses, minimum lot area, and yards. The first letter of the Zone Class indicates its use: O = open space, A = agricultural, R = residential, C = commercial, M = manufacturing, and P = public facilities.
Each category contains subcategories with different levels of intensity. For instance, the M3 Zone permits more intensive uses than the M2, and the M2 permits more intensive uses than the M1. In general, uses that are allowed in less intensive zones are also allowed in more intensive zones.
Regulations for each Zone Class appear in the Zoning Code (Chapter I of the Los Angeles Municipal Code). To find these regulations, look up the Zone Class in the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC).
The Height District determines the maximum building height in feet, number of stories, or floor area ratio. Regulations applied by the Height District appear in Section 12.21.1 of the Zoning Code.
Height Districts sometimes include D Limits, or development limitations. D Limits further restrict heights, floor area ratio, percent of lot coverage, and building setbacks. To figure out which regulations apply to a given property, look it up in ZIMAS. Click the "Case Numbers" tab and note the ordinances listed for the property.
Some areas in the City of Los Angeles are subject to overlays, or Supplemental Use Districts, which apply additional regulations beyond those required by the base zone regulations. Today, more than two-thirds of the property in the City is subject to at least one overlay.
Overlays are usually intended to protect or create certain neighborhood characteristics. To find the applicable regulations, look up the property in ZIMAS and click the "Planning and Zoning" tab. Then consult Article 3 of the Zoning Code and the documents specific to the overlay.
Real World Example
Here’s a breakdown of the regulations for a real block in the West Los Angeles Community Plan area along Wilshire Boulevard. Its zone is [Q]C4-2-CDO:
Figuring out what is permitted on a given property means searching through multiple parts of the Zoning Code, documents, and ordinances.
Applicable regulations also appear in other portions of the Zoning Code, such as the General Provisions (Section 12.21 of the LAMC), Exceptions (Section 12.22 of the LAMC), and Conditional Use (Section 12.24 of the LAMC).
For in-person assistance, please visit one of the Department’s Development Services Centers.