Mulholland Drive

A Draft Outline Gives Shape to the New Zoning Code

on March 22, 2018

The re:code LA team recently released a new draft Zoning Code Outline that culminates several important stages of the ongoing project to revise the City of Los Angeles’s Zoning Code.

The draft outline is now available on the re:code LA website, and has been shared with the Zoning Advisory Committee and PlanCheckNC, an organization representing Neighborhood Councils around the city on matters of planning and land use. While re:code LA has previously released snippets of the draft Zoning Code through various public channels, this is the first time an outline for the entire Code has been released to the public.

The draft Zoning Code Outline represents a kind of a crossroads in the process of revising the City's Zoning Code, reflecting all the work dedicated to the project so far, while also showing the path forward for remaining work.

Framework for a New Zoning Code

The scope and organization of the new Zoning Code can be explored by paying attention to the Articles included in the outline. Articles are further broken into Divisions, where regulatory detail starts to emerge, but the Articles provide the framing structure for the entire new Zoning Code.

  • Article 1. Introductory Provisions
  • Article 2. Form
  • Article 3. Frontages
  • Article 4. Development Standard Sets
  • Article 5. Citywide Development Standards
  • Article 6: Use Districts
  • Article 7. Citywide Use Standards
  • Article 8. Streets & Public Improvements
  • Article 9. Division of Land
  • Article 10. Incentive Systems
  • Article 11. Overlays & Specific Plans
  • Article 12. Administration
  • Article 13. Nonconformities
  • Article 14. Measurements, Definitions
  • Article 15. Fees

The Articles of the Zoning Code act like the chapters of a book, and when it comes time to deploy the new Zoning Code through Community Plan processes, community members and planners will reference this book to make choices about which Forms, Frontages, Development Standard Sets, Use Districts, and Density requirements work best for their situation. In another way of putting it, after thus draft Zoning Code Outline becomes the full citywide Zoning Code, it will act like a toolbox to provide the right planning tool for the right planning job.

Work in Progress

For those who have been following the re:code LA project as it has evolved over the years, the new draft Zoning Code Outline reveals the most recent changes in the progress toward a new Zoning Code. The biggest changes include removing the concept of "Context" and adding "Development Standard Sets."

An examination of this change illustrates how the Zoning Code is designed to work as a system, with components that can be interchanged to address specific needs around the City. The re:code LA team describes the ability of the different components of the Zoning system to work together as "modularity." Most of the draft Outline is now organized by each component, or module, of the new zoning system—Form, Frontages, Development Standards, and Use.

Zoning String Outline

The structure of the draft Zoning Code Outline is now organized by the building blocks of the Zoning Code shown in the diagram above. That organizational structure enables an even more customizable Zoning Code that can be tailored to fit the needs of every unique neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles. By comparison, the previous outline prepackaged sets of Form Districts, Frontages, and Development Standards, with Contexts providing organizational structure. By changing the organization of this draft Outline, the new Zoning Code has now un-bundled these packages, making the Code more flexible and modular.

While Context has been removed to maximize the flexibility of each part of the Zoning Code, Development Standard Sets are the big new addition. The new Development Standard Sets are listed in Article 4 of the draft Zoning Code Outline. Development Standards allow for some grouping of regulations that apply in specific situations, like Hillside neighborhoods, Coastal neighborhoods, and neighborhoods with easy access to public transit options. In Article 4, Divisions 4.1 through 4.6 list the goals and purpose of each of the sets. Development standards are grouped in sets, similar to how Contexts worked for Forms and Frontages in previous iterations of the new Zoning Code, but will only be deployed as necessary. For example, grading quantities need to be limited in Hillside communities, but may not be as necessary in flatter parts of the City.

In the coming months, re:code LA will be filling in the details on the framework provided by the draft Zoning Code Outline. Many of the next steps and remaining projects in completing the new Zoning Code are apparent in the outline, especially with the "intent statements" that lay out the goals for each of the Articles and Divisions in the Zoning Code. The details of the regulations that will achieve the state purpose must still be tested and refined. The Outline also has sections that are written in gray or have question marks, designating sections that are in an early concept stage or under consideration.

Feedback will be important to ensure the Zoning Code is effective and flexible enough to respond to the needs of the many unique neighborhoods around the City. The Zoning Advisory Committee and PlanCheck are already getting a chance to offer feedback, but don't miss your chances to offer your insight and opinion on these choices. At every point in the process, from drafting to implementation, there will be many opportunities for you to weigh in on the future of zoning in the City of Los Angeles.

[Banner image by Flickr user Kim Berlin.]