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You own a piece of land in California and want to develop a warehouse on it. Now what?
Development in California is not a straightforward process. Over the course of time various legislature has been passed that seeks to limit the environmental impacts of new development. The major law that drives this is the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA). CEQA requires the Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) such as cities or counties to review a proposed project's environmental impact. Let's run through what the development process and considerations typically are for an industrial project (this process differs slightly for other commercial or residential projects).
Every project will need to look at the following aspects that affect a parcel:
1. What is my zoning?
2. What is my land use in the General Plan (more on General Plans in a later post)?
3. What does the development/municipal code allow to be built by-right, with a Conditional Use Permit, or Minor Permit?
If the land already has a building on it there are other considerations and possible exemptions (keep an eye out for my redevelopment post later on!) that can make the approvals timeline shorter.
The city will have a zoning map that identifies what each parcel is currently zoned. Example zonings could include: Commercial General, Mixed Use, or Light Industrial.
2. General Plan Land use
The General Plan is the blueprint for a city's growth and development. A General Plan gets updated every 4-8 years (Housing Element by law in this period, other elements can take longer to get updated). In the General Plan, the Land Use Element provides guidance on the vision for types of development throughout the city. Oftentimes this is represented by a map though it is not required to be detailed by parcel.
Due to the General Plan getting updated periodically there are times that the Land Use in the General Plan doesn't match the Zoning per code. Since the General Plan is the vision for the city, Planning departments are typically open to zone changes to convert a parcel's zoning to match the General Plan Land Use designation.
3. Allowable Uses per Development Code
With the zoning and land use determined, the next step is to review the Development Code to see what is allowed in each zoning district. A project can be Permitted, require a Conditional/Minor Use Permit, or Not Allowed. Most cities have a matrix showing each typical use and the status in each zoning district. See an example below:
Now that you've determined what you can build on your property per existing code your next step is to go through the Planning approval process. The below flowchart gives you an idea of just how many steps are involved before you even start construction!
Stay tuned for future posts about the CEQA process, navigating plan check, and more!