Requesting a zoning variance

Businesses and private investors in California know the value of commercial real estate holdings, thus prompting many to look for whatever opportunities become available to build up such properties. As is the case across all real estate segments, often the key to a property’s value is “location, location, location.” Yet when it comes to commercial real estate properties, zoning restrictions often bar them from certain locations.

That may not stop a developer from falling in love with a particular location. Should one want to pursue the chance to develop a commercial property on a particular location, a zoning variance may be a possibility.

Reasons for a zoning variance

A zoning variance allows for the construction or development of a certain type of structure or property outside of the standard set by a parcel’s zoning laws. According to the website Bankrate.com, on top of gaining permission to build a new property in contrast of local zoning codes, another common reason for requesting a zoning variance include altering an existing property in a way that would change its current zoning classification.

The zoning variance process in Los Angeles County

With zoning ordinances set at the local level (specifically at the county level), a developer must seek a variance from the same authority. Per Section 12.27 of the Los Angeles County Municipal Code, the county’s Zoning Administrator can only grant a variance in the following scenario:

  • Special circumstances seemingly warrant the variance
  • A variance allows for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property in the zoned area
  • Granting the variance would not adversely affect public welfare or the county’s General Plan (the policy informing future land use decisions)
  • A lack of variance would impose a hardship contrary to the intent of zoning regulations

If the issue of the variance affects public interests, the Zoning Administrator may make the variance hearing public.

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