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Land Use Regulations: A Guide for California Property Owners

By: LS Carlson Law October 5th, 2023

Land use regulations govern land development, ensuring the proper balance between individual property rights and community interests. This article highlights land use regulations in California, including an overview of the regulatory framework, and everyday land use issues.

Understanding Land Use Regulations:
Land use regulations consist of laws, zoning ordinances, and local government regulations that control how land can be used and developed. Such rules encompass various real estate topics, including zoning restrictions, building codes, environmental regulations, and development permits. Land use regulations maintain community aesthetics, protect natural resources, and promote orderly growth.

Environmental Regulations: California has strict environmental regulations that impact land development. Land use involving protected habitats, wetlands, or water use restrictions may require extra compliance measures and permits.

Zoning is a fundamental aspect of land use regulations. Local jurisdictions in California divide land into different zones, such as residential, commercial, industrial, or agricultural. Zoning ordinances define what types of activities and structures are allowed in each area. Property owners should be aware of the zoning regulations applicable to their land to ensure compliance when making changes or improvements.

Common Land Use Issues:
• Building Permits: Obtaining the necessary permits is essential when undertaking construction or renovation projects. Speaking with a qualified attorney is the best way to ensure the proper permits are in place for a building project.

• Zoning Violations: Violating zoning regulations, such as using property for a prohibited purpose or exceeding building height restrictions, can lead to legal issues. Resolving zoning violations may require seeking variances or conditional use permits. While variances and conditional use permits serve similar purposes, there are differences between the two:

A) Variance Permits: A variance permit provides relief to property owners when strict application of zoning regulations would cause undue hardship or prevent reasonable use of their property. Granting a variance is a discretionary decision made by the local zoning board or hearing officer who assesses the individual circumstances of the property.

B) Conditional Use Permit: A conditional use permit (CUP), also known as a special use permit, allows for land uses that are not typically permitted within a specific zoning district but could be suitable under certain conditions. Obtaining a conditional use permit typically involves a public review process, including public hearings and opportunities for input from neighboring property owners and the community.

Role of a Real Estate Attorney:
Consulting with a real estate attorney is an excellent first step when dealing with land use regulations. An attorney can provide valuable guidance, review zoning ordinances, assess the legality of proposed land uses, assist with permit applications, and represent your interests in legal disputes. Real estate attorneys can also help negotiate with local authorities and ensure compliance with applicable laws.

At LS Carlson Law, our experienced real estate attorneys can assist with any of your land use regulation needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and unlock your property’s full potential within the boundaries of California’s land use regulations.

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