On behalf of Michael Brooks of Law Offices of Michael A. Brooks posted in land use & zoning restrictions on Thursday, August 9, 2018.

What can you do when you find the perfect piece of property — except for the zoning regulations that stand in the way of what you’d like to accomplish? Do you just walk away and start your search all over?

That’s always an option, but you don’t have to go that route automatically. There are a number of ways to potentially circumvent zoning issues. Following are a few of those.

A variance

This is a discretionary modification or waiver of the usual zoning regulations. It’s most appropriate when there’s some unusual characteristic of the property that makes a strict application of the zoning requirements a hardship.

For example, imagine that you want to build a home of similar size to all the other homes in the area. However, the irregular shape of a parcel of land makes it impossible to do so and obey the regulation that requires a property to sit back at a specific number of feet from the road. A variance would allow you to build your home closer to the road.


Rezoning asks the city to change the allowable use of a property altogether. For example, say that you want to build a shopping center on a spot that’s currently designated for agricultural use only. If the city agrees to rezone the area for commercial use, you could move ahead with your project.

Conditional Use Permits

Somewhat like a variance, these permits allow a property to be used in a way that it normally wouldn’t without a change in zoning. This type of permit is most likely to be granted when your plans for the property would benefit the city or the public.

For example, you might seek a conditional use permit to operate a small business out of your home, like a bed-and-breakfast, in an area that’s strictly residential. You could argue that your business encourages tourism to the area and thus, indirectly, benefits the public as a whole.

Overcoming a zoning restriction can help you achieve your dreams. Consider getting help from a California attorney experienced with real estate transactions as you decide which of these methods will work best for your needs and how to approach the zoning board with your request.

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