Analysis & Feasibility
Two properties that appear the same may have radically different land use regulations and characteristics which mean widely different development opportunities. Our analysis and feasibility reports are critical to uncover value and avoiding pitfalls early and before significant funds are committed to a project.
Due Diligence / Land Use Evaluation
Every property is unique. We evaluate as many as three dozen land use attributes, any of which may have a significant impact on the development potential of your property. Looking beyond obstacles, we also investigate opportunities and incentives that could realize value for a new project or use.
“How do I get my project entitled?” Land use entitlements can create value for a project, but there may be more than one way to achieve your goal. We evaluate the property, review similar & precedent cases, and research alternative approaches to determine the optimum land use solution, providing estimates of the cost, timeframe and likelihood of approval.
Maximum Development Potential
“What’s the most I can build on my property?” We evaluate the property, review similar & precedent cases, scour through the various regulations, and research alternative approaches to determine the Maximum Development Potential of your property for the product types you want to consider. We look at both by-right projects and development reasonably attainable through land use entitlements, providing estimates of the cost, timeframe and likelihood of approval.
Entitlement Processing and Expediting
Land use entitlements can add value before you build.
Conditional Use Permits & Plan Approvals
Many commonly desired uses are not prohibited nor approved outright, but they may be approved subject to certain conditions. The Conditional Use Permit (often abbreviated as “CUP” or “CU”) are usually required for hotels, schools, churches and alcohol establishments. In other cases, they are required for special permission to exceed a certain size, operate in a certain manner or exceed other limits that require conditioned approval. Plan Approvals can help renew or modify an existing CUP (and sometimes renew a variance).
Variances and Adjustments
Variances allow exceptions to use, height, area, fences, density, and many other development standards that regulate real estate development. Adjustments are like “mini-variances” when only a minor deviation from the rules is required to make a project pencil out.
Subdivisions, Tract Maps, Parcel Maps, Small Lots
Any time new lots are created or several lots are merged into fewer, a Subdivision entitlement is required. It can help unlock value by allowing more total housing units on a property zoned for less density and without a zone change. Other subdivisions can help reconfigure lots, absorb alleys, allow sale of part of a property, create condominiums, or separate an existing building from the rest of a property for an eventual sale.
Urbanomics processes all types from tract maps to parcel maps, from ground lots to airspace condos, and from residential to commercial subdivisions.
Lot Line Adjustments; Parcel Map Exemptions
Lots lines can be reconfigured to realign properties, sell part of a property and to make a development more feasible – and best of all, since no new lots are created, it doesn’t require a subdivision. These much simpler entitlements are often called Lot Line Adjustments or Parcel Map Exemptions as they are exempt from much of the requirements of a full subdivision because they do not increase the density or intensity of land use.
Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) (City of Los Angeles)
In 2016, voters in Los Angeles approved Measure JJJ that offered a “stick” and a “carrot”. Projects with zone changes and other legislative amendments require affordable housing and prevailing wage agreements, but they also created the TOC program.
Projects near major transit centers that offer a minimum of restricted affordable housing units can be eligible for bonuses in density and FAR and reductions in parking, setbacks and open space. The bonuses are significant – e.g. up to 80% increase in density over the 35% offered by the State’s Density Bonus program.
Urbanomics processes TOC projects from start to finish, including housing covenants, and works to ensure you get the maximum benefits.
Density Bonus & Mixed-Income Housing
Since Senate Bill 1818 was passed in 2005, the State of California has a Density Bonus program that offers increases in unit density and reductions in parking that cannot be denied by a local government or decision maker. Over the years, the Density Bonus program has been expanded and modified with multiple state laws. Urbanomics navigates these incentives to ensure you get the development rights your project needs, and those it is entitled to under State law.
Eldercare Unified Permit Processing (ELD)
In 2006, the City of Los Angeles introduced the ELD permit as a way to provide a wide range of senior assisted living housing while offering exceptions from the zoning code. The ELD permit can be used to exceed most zoning and land use regulations to help meet the rapidly growing needs of this vital land use as baby boomers are entering retirement and elder care years.
Zone Changes, General Plan Amendments and Height District Changes
An irony of land use entitlements is that it may often be easier to change the rules than get an exception to the rules. Zone Changes, Height District Changes and General Plan Amendments are changes to the underlying law and must be approved by the City Council. Still they can unlock tremendous potential for a property once we can establish that they are in the greater public interest. Urbanomics offers a full range of these services.
Specific Plan & Overlay Permits, Adjustments, Modifications and Amendments
In California, Specific Plans are a policy tool that cities can use to overrule local zoning to meet the needs of a district that warrants special regulations. Urbanomics processes the permits, adjustments, amendments and other entitlements related to these Specific Plans.
Director’s Determinations, CDO Permits and Design Review Board approvals
Special overlays and districts that are not as formal as a Specific Plan require a Director’s Determination that usually does not require a public hearing. These entitlements are commonly needed for Community Design Overlays, Pedestrian Oriented Districts, Streetscape Overlays and some Design Review Board approvals. Urbanomics understands how to meet the needs of these districts and design overlays while getting the most out of the design review process.
Zoning Administrator Determinations (ZAD)
Various entitlements are required for special permission to alter a use or a dimension of a project but don’t fit neatly into the other categories. The City of LA has these, so called, Zoning Administrators Adjustments that are similar to Conditional Use Permits but often have less stringent public noticing requirements and less onerous conditions. ZADs have applications ranging from live-work units to retaining walls and from relief for hillside development on substandard streets to relief from transitional height requirements.
Coastal Development Permits (CDPs) & Mello Act Processing
The California Coastal Commission regulates development along the coastline and within 1000 feet of certain waterways and is primarily concerned about public access to the beach, both in terms of visitors and in terms of opportunities for residents. The result is that projects near the ocean often need approvals from both the City and the Coastal Commission. Housing near the coast may also fall under the Mello Act which aims to preserve affordable housing near the ocean. Urbanomics works closely with the cities and the Coastal Commission to get projects approved in a practical manner.
Getting Unpermitted Units Approved / Unpermitted Dwelling Unit (UDU) Processing
California is in a perennial housing shortage. So, many of the properties that are being cited for unapproved units are now eligible to keep those units so they can be legalized instead of removed from the housing supply. The City of LA now offers the UDU program to help owners of multi-family zoned properties retain the housing units they care for, and in many cases, bought unaware their units were unpermitted. Urbanomics evaluates and processes eligible properties for the UDU program.
Accessory Dwelling Units
The State of California allows so-called “granny flats” or “mother-in-law units” that enable owners of single-family homes to include an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on their property. The State and local programs have restrictions but they also have incentives for owners to keep existing units or provide new units for tenants. Urbanomics keeps abreast of this rapidly changing policy landscape for the benefit of our clients.
Minor Permit & Major Permit Processing
Various cities in California distinguish between processing “Major Permits” from “Minor Permits”. They may be types of Conditional Use Permits or they may be for variations and adjustments. We work closely with Planning Departments and Community Development Departments to get through the red tape efficiently and successfully so you can get your project or business moving forward.
Street Vacations, Private Streets and Street Dedications
Real estate development is often affected by the public streets and alleys as much as by the parcels themselves. Urbanomics takes a creative approach to dealing with vacating streets; creating, modifying or terminating private streets; and limiting the impact of unnecessary street dedications on projects and communities.
Project Representation & Community Relations
Successful land use approvals depend upon good communication with the community, the City departments, elected officials and the official decision makers. Urbanomics is your representative through the land use entitlement process from research to outreach and from Neighborhood Council meetings to each public hearing.