What Are Zoning Laws?

what are zoning law and California zoning laws

Zoning laws are laws that regulate structures and uses of property within designated districts or zones. They regulate and affect things such as the use of land, lot sizes, types of structures permitted, building heights, setbacks, and density (the ratio of land area to improvement area).

These laws are enacted in the exercise of police power and are upheld as long as they may reasonably protect public health, safety, and general welfare of an area. Counties or cities usually enact their own zoning laws and regulations pursuant to an enabling act of a state.

Some Types of Zoning

Aesthetic Zoning

Aesthetic zoning laws regulate architectural and landscaping requirements of an area. These laws can affect new buildings and old buildings. They may affect new buildings by requiring them to be built with a certain style of architecture that matches their surrounding buildings. They may affect older buildings by requiring that they can only be renovated with the same style and cannot be remodeled to alter it’s look in any different way.

Bulk Zoning

Bulk zoning laws are meant to control density and overcrowding. They set limits on uses of land, including sizes of buildings, lot sizes, and amount of open area.

More Information About Zoning Laws

Zoning districts are generally divided into residential use, commercial use and industrial use. These main three uses can then be broken down into other subcategories.

The rights of individuals and property owners must not be violated by Zoning laws. Here are some adaptation requirements of zoning:

  • They must be exercised in a reasonable manner.
  • They must be clear and specific.
  • They must not be discriminatory in any way.
  • They must apply to all properties in a similar manner.
  • They must promote public health, safety, and general welfare.

Some Exceptions to Zoning Laws

Buffer zones separate residential areas from non residential areas. Nonconforming use is an improvement that does not comply with the zoning ordinances because it was constructed prior to the adoption of the zoning laws

Buffer Zones

Buffer zones are areas such as parks, that separate residential areas from non residential areas.

Nonconforming Use

A structure that does not comply with the current zoning laws because it was constructed prior to the adoption of zoning laws and it is not illegal under certain circumstances. If the functionality of a legal nonconforming use building changes, it may become illegal nonconforming use unless the structure becomes upgraded in order to meet current zoning standards.

California Zoning

Most California cities have adopted ordinances that divide their jurisdictions into different types of zones. Specific regulations control each type of zone. Some types of zones include single-family residences, multi-family dwellings, commercial uses, industrial activities, open space or agriculture, and mixed uses.

Local zoning authority derives from the police power in Article XI, Section 7 of the California Constitution. California state law sets minimum standards for zoning regulations of counties or cities in order to supplement the authority. This makes counties and cities be discrete with controlling land use. Additionally, it is worthy of noting that zoning as a police power action is invalid unless it rationally promotes public health, safety, and welfare.

Building Codes

Building codes set the standards for the types of materials to be used for construction, fire prevention standards, electrical wiring, and more.

Most cities use building requirements and standards that are set by the Building Officials Conference of America (BOCA). A building permit from a city clerk is usually required to build or alter a building. The purpose of a building permit is to enforce compliance of building codes and zoning law. This is done by examining the plans, then inspecting the work.