Within LA County there are 88 cities, each with their own city council and planning department. The areas that are not part of a city are unincorporated and we are their planning department. More than 65 percent of LA County is unincorporated. For the 1+ million people living in these areas, the County Board of Supervisors provide municipal services.
Unincorporated communities sometimes use a city name in the mailing address, but you can use our interactive GIS mapping tool, Z-NET, to check if we are your planning Department.
There are over 120 unincorporated communities that are socially and economically diverse. Some are as small as a few blocks, and some are large urban centers with more than 150,000 people. Some have large areas but few people, such as the high desert. If unincorporated LA County was a city, it would rank third in California in population size after the City of Los Angeles and City of San Diego.
A Site Plan Review (SPR) involves determining whether a project is in compliance with the Los Angeles County Code Title 22 Planning and Zoning and any applicable provisions within a Community Standards District (CSD) or special area relative to setbacks, parking, height, and related standards. It is an administrative procedure and does not require a public hearing.
Note that an approval does not ensure that a lot is buildable. Please contact the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW), Building & Safety Division to determine which other departments you would need to obtain approvals from in order to receive an eventual building permit. We encourage contacting DPW, the Fire Department, and the Department of Public Health (DPH), if necessary, early on in your project.
Yes, plans are required for most applications. Please consult the checklist for the appropriate application for this information.
The General Plan is a comprehensive policy document which aids County decision-makers in guiding future development in a manner that is consistent with the needs, goals, and interests of the public. Our current General Plan, which was adopted in 2015, consists of nine elements: Land Use, Mobility, Air Quality, Conservation and Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation, Noise, Safety, Public Services and Facilities, and Economic Development. Click here to learn more about the General Plan.
The General Plan is structured to address issues that are of countywide importance. In California, however, more detailed local-level planning is often carried out through community-based plans. Community-based plans in the County, such as Community Plans and Area Plans, are a part of the General Plan but focus on a particular region or community in the unincorporated County. Community-based plans refine policy at a local level and must be consistent with the General Plan, but they may not cover all of the topics that are covered in the countywide General Plan. As such, community-based plans should not be seen as a replacement to the General Plan, but instead, as a supplemental policy document.
As required by State law, all zoning regulations and development permits must be consistent with the jurisdiction’s General Plan (which includes all additional Community or Area Plans as well). However, being long-range in nature, General Plans are continually amended to reflect changes in land use policy and development patterns.
Plan amendments may be initiated by the Board of Supervisors, the Regional Planning Commission, or by individual property owners who desire to develop property with a land use or density that is not permitted by the General Plan or Community Plan. The General Plan or Community Plans can be amended to address changed circumstances but only after thorough study and public hearings before the Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. Amendments to State mandated elements of the County-wide General Plan are limited to four per calendar year.
Major issues involved in the evaluation of plan amendments include the need and justification for the amendment, including development plans for the subject property; consistency with General Plan (or Community Plan) goals, policies and programs; compatibility with surrounding general plan designations, existing, and proposed land uses; rationale for existing map designations and/or text; land suitability and physical constraints; availability of adequate access, public services and facilities to serve the proposed development; potential environmental impacts and mitigation measures; and consistency with State and County standards.
To apply for a General Plan or Community Plan amendment, please follow the instructions on the Applications and Forms for submittal. Along with the items listed under General Plan Amendment. Please refer to the fee schedule for the cost of a particular application submittal.
Note that all discretionary applications requiring a public hearing, except Subdivision applications or in conjunction with Subdivision applications, are currently taking approximately 1 year to process. Applications which involve a subdivision are currently taking a minimum of 2-3 years to complete. Please contact the public counter for more information or assistance.
In 1976, the California State Legislature passed the California Coastal Act (Coastal Act), which established a comprehensive coastal protection program and secured the Coastal Commission’s role as the state agency responsible for the protection of coastal resources. Coastal Act policies address a broad range of issues including shoreline public access and recreation, lower cost visitor accommodations, sensitive habitats, visual resources, agricultural lands, commercial fisheries, industrial uses, water quality, and offshore oil and gas development.
In partnership with local governments, the Coastal Commission plans and regulates development and natural resource use within the Coastal Zone. LCPs are the basic planning tools that carry out this partnership between the State and local governments in their shared stewardship of the coast.
Each LCP is comprised of two components. The first component is a Land Use Plan (LUP), which designates land use classifications, type and density of allowable development, and goals and policies concerning development. The second component is a Local Implementation Plan (LIP), which consists of the zoning ordinances required to implement the LUP. Local governments prepare LCPs and submit them to the Coastal Commission for approval.
LCPs must be certified by the Coastal Commission to be recognized as official regulatory documents. Once certified, permitting authority is transferred to the local government, which applies the requirements of the LCP in reviewing proposed new developments. The Commission retains permanent coastal permit jurisdiction over development proposed on tidelands, submerged lands, and public trust lands, and the Commission also acts on appeals from certain local government coastal permit decisions. The Commission reviews and approves any amendments to previously certified Local Coastal Programs. There are currently over 90 certified LCPs that cover over 87% of the geographic Coastal Zone.
Generally, any “development” activity in the Coastal Zone requires a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) from the Coastal Commission or local government with a certified LCP.
“Development” is broadly defined by the Coastal Act. Examples of development include, but are not limited to:
- Demolition, construction, replacement, or changes to the size of a structure
- Grading, removal of, or placement of rock, soil, or other materials
- Clearing of vegetation in, or that provides, sensitive habitat
- Impeding access to the beach or public recreational trails
- Altering property lines, such as through a lot line adjustment or subdivision
- Changing the intensity of use of land, such as using a single family home as a commercial wedding venue
- Repair or maintenance activities that could result in environmental impacts
The specific regulations and policies applicable to Marina del Rey, Santa Catalina Island, and the Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone can be found in each area’s LCP. The CDP application form is available here.
Airport Land Use Planning
A Minor Aviation Case is for proposed heliports and receives an administrative review at a lower fee. A Major Aviation Case is for projects located within Airport Influence Areas (AIA)s or that may impact AIAs such as a plan or zoning update. A Major Aviation Case requires Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) review at a public hearing and a deposit.
- Staff reviews application for completeness within 30 days of submittal.
- Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) completes its review of the case within 60 days of the application being deemed complete and prior to the local jurisdiction taking action on the project.
Only items that are related to the permitted primary use, for example a house, may be stored and maintained on the property. With some exceptions, such as lawn furniture, BBQ grills and children’s toys for outside use, items are required to be stored inside a structure. The storage structures must comply with the required minimum distance between structures and the property lines, building separation and use requirements/development standards. Vacant land may not be used to store any items. If you have an approved project with an active building permit, construction materials and equipment may be stored on the property for the duration of construction and for up to 30 days afterwards.
A Manufactured home (double-wide mobile home) may be used as single-family residences (house) upon County approval if it is certified under the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, is on a permanent foundation system approved by Building & Safety and complies with the Zoning Code (Title 22) development standards. A single-wide mobile home does not qualify because it does not meet single-family residence development standards, such as yard setbacks, although it may be allowed as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or temporary living quarters during construction of a new single-family residence.
Residential Zones do allow a home-based occupation (home business) as an accessory use to the single-family residence when operated by the resident who lives at the property. The home-based activities include office-type uses that do not change or disrupt the character of a neighborhood and are required to comply with specific restrictions.
Agricultural Zones primarily allow for some animal and agricultural businesses and for limited types of industrial uses. Businesses operating in Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial Zones, Mixed-Use Development and Rural Commercial Zones must meet development standards and obtain approvals from various County Departments. Properties located in areas that have Community Standards Districts, Specific Plans, Green Zones District, or other overlay zones may have to comply with additional requirements.
Please see the Zoning Code (Title 22) for more information.
In Light and Heavy Agricultural Zones (A-1 or A-2), one cargo storage container as accessory to a permitted agricultural use can be placed on parcels with a minimum net area of two acres. In Residential Zones, a cargo container may be approved for temporary storage of construction equipment and building materials while approved construction is occurring on the property. The placement and use of a cargo container must comply with the minimum distance between a structure and the property lines, size limitations, and all other Zoning Code (Title 22) requirements, including a Site Plan Review (SPR).
Cargo containers may also be placed within Unlimited Commercial Zoned (C-3) properties if the containers comply with the regulations in Title 22 for outside storage. Properties located in Community Standards Districts, Specific Plans, Significant Ecological Areas, Green Zones Districts, or other overlay zones may have to comply with special development requirements and/or land use limitations. Please check your zoning and go to the Zoning Code (Title 22) for further information.
The maximum height for fences and walls within a front yard setback area is 42 inches (3.5 feet) and 6 feet for interior side and rear yard fences. All fence/wall height restrictions also apply to hedges/vegetation that serves as a fence/wall in the yard. Please note that there may be additional limitations and/or requirements for fences and walls for properties within a corner side yard, Community Standards Districts, Specific Plans, Industrial Zones or other overlays.
Yard sales may be held on designated weekends, which are on the last connected Saturday & Sunday of each month. Up to 2 additional yards sales on non-designated weekends during the year are permitted upon registration with the department. The registration is FREE. Yard sale hours of operation are between 7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Please see the Yard Sales Flyer for more information.
If you would like to change the use of your garage or carport to storage, habitable space or as an Accessory Dwelling Unit, consult with planning staff to determine if you comply with the required development and parking standards.
Required covered off-street parking structures, such as a garage or carport, must be accessible to park vehicle(s). For example, the garage entrance and driveway must be free of items and outdoor storage to allow vehicles to drive into the driveway and garage or carport and be parked inside.
Generally, in Residential and Agricultural zones, rooms in a single-family residence (house) may be rented to four or fewer residents, unless the residence is also used as a licensed adult residential facility or a group home for children or transitional housing. Room rentals are not permitted within the Malibou Lake Area of Santa Monica Mountains North Area Community Standards District or within the Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone District. See Zoning Code (Title 22) for requirements on renting to 5 or more residents. Renting to 5 or more tenants in a house is considered a Boarding House use, which requires a business license and additional LA County Planning approvals.
Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program
The Mills Act is an incentive program for the preservation and restoration of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. Enacted in 1972, the state Mills Act legislation grants participating local governments (cities and counties) the authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the preservation, restoration and maintenance of their historic properties while receiving property tax relief.
No. Participation in the program is voluntary. The contracts are intended for property owners who have a strong commitment to historic preservation, and to assist property owners who plan to rehabilitate their property.
See eligibility criteria under the Historic Preservation Program.
No. Only properties located within the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County may be considered for this program. Please contact your city’s historic preservation or planning department for further information. For properties located within the City of Los Angeles, please contact the City's Office of Historic Resources.
Most improvements are eligible for the Mills Act, as the intention is to encourage the preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of historic properties. Properties with a Mills Act contract are held to high standards of preservation responsibility. As such, all completed work must be consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standard for the Rehabilitation of Historic Properties.
Beginning in 2017, there is no limit on the number of contracts that may be approved, subject to the County’s Mills Act Program Cost Control Provisions established by the County Board of Supervisors.
Yes, you may apply for an exemption request. The Board of Supervisors may approve an exemption request if the property is deserving of an historical property contract due to its exceptional nature, or because it is subject to special circumstances not generally applicable to other qualified historical properties.
The contract is written for an initial term of 10 years. However, the contract automatically renews each year on its anniversary date. The contract, in effect, runs in perpetuity with the land. The initial 10-year term is the period of time in which major rehabilitation projects should be substantially completed. If an owner desires to be released from the contract, a letter of non-renewal is submitted to the County. The owner is released from the contract ten years after the notice of non-renewal is submitted.