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

As genes determine people’s height and eye color, zoning dictates cities’ land use and built environment. The regulations in the City’s Zoning Code are expressions of the land use policies in the General Plan and Community Plans.

Understanding Zoning

In the City of Los Angeles, the first letter of the Zone Class indicates its use: O = open space; A = agricultural; R = residential; C = commercial; M = manufacturing; and P = public facilities. Subcategories of zones give more specific instructions about the uses allowed. For instance, the M3 Zone permits the manufacturing of chemicals, which is a less restrictive use than those allowed in the M2 Zone.

Uses that are allowed in more restrictive zones are usually also allowed in less restrictive zones. For example, almost anything may be built in a M3 Zone except residential structures, while only single-family homes can be built in an R1 Zone.

Zones also include Height Districts, which regulate buildings' height, Floor Area Ratio (FAR), and, in some cases, number of stories.

Generalized Summmary

Overlays apply additional layers of regulation to an area. Los Angeles uses numerous types of overlays to achieve specific goals. Some overlays restrict certain types of development, while others focus on maintaining the visual identity and character of a neighborhood. See the Department’s Guide to the Zoning String for more information.