Zoning Introduction

If cities were living organisms, zoning would be their genetic code.

Through the use of zoning regulations, city governments are able to translate broad land use goals and policies into property-specific development standards and requirements. In Los Angeles, zoning regulations determine the uses (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial) that are allowed on any given site, in addition to regulating the possible size and scale of development projects. Zoning can also regulate and restrict the size and scale of future development across the City, including requirements for open space, parking, and signage.

New Zoning Code

Zoning has evolved over the years as new approaches to planning have emerged and local priorities have shifted. City Planning is currently in the process of developing a new and innovative approach to regulating the use and form of buildings throughout Los Angeles.

The new zoning approach aims to better regulate a building’s character in relation to its surroundings, by governing attributes relating to the size and scale of buildings and their relationship to the street front. New land use tools are being developed through the Community Plan Updates to provide tailored regulations that reflect the local architecture and character of Los Angeles’s neighborhoods.

To learn more, visit the New Zoning Code webpage.

Major Approaches to Zoning

The various approaches to zoning can each be classified under one or more of the following broad categories: Euclidean, Performance, Incentive, Form-Based, and Hybrid Zoning.


Euclidean Zoning zoning approach

Euclidean Zoning

The most common form of land use regulation in the United States is known as Euclidean Zoning. This type of zoning is characterized by the separation of land uses, classified under broad categories such as agricultural, residential, commercial, or industrial, among others.

Performance Zoning zoning approach

Performance Zoning

Often blended with Euclidean Zoning, Performance Zoning accommodates a wider range of land uses. It establishes a set of quantifiable performance standards to regulate the permitted activities onsite in order to prevent adverse impacts on neighboring sites (e.g., noise, traffic, pollution, etc.).

Incentive Zoning zoning approach

Incentive Zoning

Similar to Performance Zoning, Incentive Zoning uses Euclidean Zoning as a baseline. Incentive Zoning, however, enables projects to exceed zoning limitations (e.g., Floor Area Ratio or Density) in exchange for providing local community benefits, such as affordable housing, neighborhood amenities, or open space.

Form-Based Zoning zoning approach

Form-Based Zoning

Form-Based Zoning regulates development not by land use but by examining the scale, design, and placement of buildings, in order to advance a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Hybrid zoning approach

Hybrid Zoning

Most zoning codes today contain elements of more than one of these categories, an approach often referred to as Hybrid Zoning. Modular Zoning is a specific type of Hybrid Zoning. Unlike traditional zoning which focuses exclusively on a building's use, Modular Zoning regulates the physical environment, everything from the building to the physical space around it, in addition to the activities allowed onsite.

Zoning in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is shifting from strictly Euclidean to Hybrid zoning. The new framework supports Modular Zoning—offering a wider array of options to reflect the cultural and topographic diversity of the City.