What Are the Major Types of Planning Review?

Planning Website on the Application Page

Los Angeles City Planning receives thousands of project applications every year, varying in scale and complexity from something as large as a multi-block development to something as small as a retaining wall at a private residence. In general, the Department has three major tracks for project approvals: ministerial, administrative, and discretionary. 

The entitlement pathway best suited for a given project depends on the level of review required to assess its compatibility with the Zoning Code. The approvals required are determined by the description of the project, its location within the City, and the application request. 

  • By-Right or Ministerial Approvals. If a project meets the development standards and zoning regulations outlined in the Zoning Code and does not require additional or formal planning approvals, it is a by-right project, and the applicant may proceed directly to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety to request a building permit. 
  • Administrative Approvals. The by-right/ministerial permitting process may require an applicant to obtain an administrative approval to verify compliance with existing Zoning regulations or guidelines, especially if the project is within the boundaries of a Plan Overlay (e.g., a local historic district). Sign-off for administrative approvals is based on objective standards and is non-discretionary. Either the public counter or a planner assigned to the project’s specific geography may complete the review before the applicant files for a building permit. 
  • Discretionary Approvals. If a development project is determined not to be in compliance with the Zoning Code, or if its proposed size, use, or location triggers additional formal review, staff at the public counter will instruct the applicant to file for and request a discretionary entitlement. This type of project involves a discretionary entitlement application process, and may require a public hearing before City Planning issues a recommendation or a determination letter. 

Unlike discretionary applications, administrative applications can move through an accelerated project review process that advances compliant projects into the development pipeline at a significantly faster rate. Because they do not require environmental analysis or a formal public hearing, the timeline for administrative applications is often months shorter than the turnaround for discretionary entitlement applications. 

On average, administrative approvals were issued within 13 days of submission, and the sustained growth in these types of case filings indicates a strong, continued demand for new development throughout the City. In 2018, only three out of every eight cases were filed as administrative applications. Today, three out of every five applications filed are administrative. Recent streamlining updates to the review process have enabled the Department to now move more qualifying applications onto the administrative track to expedite their review and approval. As a result, the number of administrative applications processed by City Planning has grown steadily over the last two years, rising from 2,769 in 2018 to 4,146 in 2020—a 67% increase.

The median processing time for an administrative case is 14.7 times faster than for a typical entitlement. Over the last five years, these projects have generated nearly 2,000 units of affordable housing and more than 450,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space.

For additional information, contact City Planning staff at any of the three Development Services Centers (DSC). 

Metro (Downtown) DSC - planning.figcounter@lacity.org 
West Los Angeles DSC - planning.westla@lacity.org
Van Nuys (Valley) DSC - planning.mbc2@lacity.org 


June City Planning Commission Meetings:
June 10th, 17th, and 24th

June Area Planning Commission Meetings:  
Central: June 8th and 22nd
South Los Angeles: June 1st and 15th
South Valley: June 10th and 24th  
West: June 2nd and 16th
East: June 9th and 23rd
Harbor: June 1st and 15th
North Valley: June 17th