What Is a Zoning Variance and When Do You Need One?

Zoning refers to legally designating different kinds of properties that can be built in a specific neighborhood or area. Municipalities and counties enact zoning ordinances for dictating and shaping a particular community. It also prevents illegal, inappropriate, or disputed real estate properties from cropping up. Choose an experienced real estate litigation attorney who can help you obtain a zoning variance.

What is Zoning Variance?

Normal zoning laws are put in place to match the classification of a certain property with predefined zones. For instance, every city has a predefined residential, commercial, and industrial area. Industries are usually not allowed anywhere near residential areas. A zoning variance is an exception to these area laws. These are granted on an individual case basis by the local government.

For instance, if you have a non-polluting business, like a seamstress shop, you may be able to get a zoning variance and set up your business in a residential district. Zoning variances help in bypassing zoning restrictions. A single-family residence is of more value when situated beside other single-family residences.

The residential value will drop if the single-family house is situated next to a public library. While getting a variance application accepted is difficult, you may be able to obtain one by working with a tenacious and knowledgeable real estate attorney. This is someone who’s been around the legal corners before and knows what dangers could present themselves.

Common Types of Zoning Variances

There are two main types of zoning variances in California:

Area Variance

Property owners can use an area variance to construct a property that is against the physical requirements of a particular zoning ordinance. For instance, the zoning variance may allow you to construct a building larger than the permissible square-footage restriction put in place by the zoning board.

Property owners are allowed to make changes to their property through area variances. Based on this, property owners should prove that any changes made should not impact the neighborhood in a negative manner. Construction of a detached garage and other additions to the home are a few examples of projects requiring zoning approval.

Use Variance

Use variance allows for the use of land or property in a manner restricted by zoning laws. You would theoretically be able to run a business in a housing district by obtaining a use variance. Moreover, this variance is not as easy to acquire as an area variance. Property owners get the right to use their land in a manner normally restricted under existing municipality zoning regulations.

Owners can use their property contrary to existing regulations. This means there is an added burden of proving that current zoning conditions have created an undue hardship.

Need for a Zoning Variance in California

There are several situations in which you may require a zoning variance. This includes:

  • If you want to build a property on a vacant piece of land.
  • If you are altering or constructing a building in a manner that directly changes its classification.
  • If you want to change the existing use of a building.
  • If you want a piece of land to be used in a manner different from its purpose defined in the zoning classification.

Make Sure You Have a Skilled Real Estate Lawyer on Your Side to Obtain a Zoning Variance

Zoning laws are created by municipalities to protect and safeguard the rights of individual property owners. Land usage sets restrictions for what a property or building can be used for in different areas. Governments use zoning restrictions to protect the quality of life, usage, planning, growth, and environmental implications.

Land use or zoning variance allows for these rules to be set aside. With that said, getting a zoning variance can be challenging. You need to convince the board to accept your application. You will need to prove that without the variance you will suffer undue hardship. A proven real estate attorney can help you get the waiver you need for undertaking the proposed activities.

Your attorney will help you show the following to be considered for a variance:

  • The request won’t harm the neighborhood.
  • Strict enforcement of the land use code will result in severe hardships without the variance.
  • The application and demand are consistent with the spirit and purpose of the Land Use Code.
  • You are not asking for favoritism by comparing with nearby properties.
  • You are asking for the minimum relief.

You need to have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the California Land Use Code and other relevant laws. The growth and development of an area is regulated by the Land Use Code. Your attorney can help you in effectively proving that you need a zoning variance.

Get Strong Legal Representation from Our Leading Real Estate Litigation Lawyers. Call Now.

At Peterson, Martin & Reynolds LLP, our experienced northern California real estate attorneys have extensive knowledge of zoning and land use variances. Our attorneys have assisted a large number of property owners over the years get successful outcomes by presenting strong evidence and making convincing arguments in their favor. To schedule a consultation, call us at (415) 399-2900 or fill out this online contact form.