02 - General Conditions and Requirements for Development Projects

Revised on 08-06-2019

City of Los Angeles Department and/or Bureau Involvement

Throughout the life of a development project, there are many different City of Los Angeles Departments and Bureaus that may be involved.  The following is a list of these Departments and Bureaus that may be involved as well as the role they may play in the development project.

  • Building & Safety (LADBS):  This department issues permits and enforces all ordinances and laws relating to the construction, alteration, repair, demolition, removal or relocation of buildings or structures as well as the installation, alteration, repair, use and operation of heating, plumbing, lighting, ventilating, refrigerating, electrical and mechanical appliances and equipment therein. The department also enforces the zoning ordinance of the City.
  • City Planning:  This department prepares and maintains a general plan which is a comprehensive declaration of purposes, policies and programs for the development of the City including such elements as land use, conservation, historic preservation, circulation, service systems, highways, public works facilities, branch administrative centers, schools, recreational facilities and airports. The department regulates the use of privately-owned property through zoning regulations and State laws and through the approval of proposed subdivisions. The department investigates and reports on applications for amendments to zoning regulations, and passes upon zone variance applications. 
  • Fire:  This department controls and extinguishes dangerous fires; provides rescue and emergency medical services; protects life and property from fire risks by inspecting buildings for fire hazards and enforcing fire prevention laws; carries on a fire prevention educational program; and investigates suspected cases of arson. The department’s Hydrants and Access Unit is responsible for ensuring that newly constructed buildings meet minimum requirements for fire department emergency access and proximity to a fire hydrant.
  • Public Works:  The Board of Public Works manages the Department of Public Works and is responsible for operation of the several bureaus within the department. The LAMC requires written permission from the Board of Public Works for the construction in any property, street, or other right of way owned by or under the control of the City. 
  • Bureau of Contract Administration (BCA):  This Bureau is responsible for administering contracts and permits for construction of public works such as buildings, streets, bridges, sewers, storm drains and related improvements. It provides inspection services at construction sites and in plants engaged in manufacturing concrete and steel pipe, asphalt and concrete paving materials; prepares statements of payments due on contracts; recommends acceptance of completed public improvement projects; inspects the installation of erosion control devices whenever grading operations create a hazard to dedicated and future streets within the City; and reviews contractor compliance with affirmative action, minority business enterprise and other requirements on City projects. 
  • Bureau of Engineering (BOE):  The Bureau prepares environmental assessments, designs, plans, specifications and estimates; supervises plans and specifications prepared by private engineers and architects; checks plans and prepares structural, electrical and mechanical engineering details for all storm drains, sewers, treatment plants, bridges and other structures, buildings, service yards and related public improvements. It administers contract documents and provides construction management. Public counters enable research into City records, review of private projects and the issuing of permits for work in the City's rights-of-way or public properties. The Bureau establishes the engineering features and standards of all private subdivisions and tracts. It acquires rights-of-way and easements for City projects; examines titles, and processes title transfers and property matters; and purchases properties used by City departments. The Bureau is responsible for all basic and project surveying, the preparation of all basic maps, and is the custodian of all related records. It is also the custodian of all original maps, plans, profiles, field books, estimates, records and other data relating to the public works with which the bureau is concerned. The Bureau conducts research into hydraulic modeling, geology and soils conditions to support its design work. It researches all aspects of public works engineering, develops standard plans for its own use, and distributes same to the private sector for continuity and standardization. The Bureau’s district offices are responsible for issuing permits and checking plans for work in the public right of way. (Refer to the Permit Manual.) The Land Development Group investigates and processes various land use and right of way applications.
  • Bureau of Sanitation (BOS):  This Bureau collects and disposes of household refuse and dead animals; collects and  processes recyclables; operates land reclamation sites for the disposal of refuse and acceptable wastes; plans and arranges for design of refuse collection facilities; and plans and designs refuse disposal facilities. It controls the discharge of wastewater, industrial wastes and storm waters into sewers, storm drains, open channels and navigable waters; inspects and maintains open storm water channels; maintains, operates and repairs all sanitary sewers, storm drains, culverts and appurtenant structures, such as wastewater and storm water pumping plants; and sewer ventilating plants; and operates and maintains wastewater treatment plants. The Bureau administers the Stormwater Pollution Abatement Program which oversees City compliance with the terms of the permit issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). 
  • Bureau of Street Lighting (BSL):  This Bureau provides engineering design, construction, maintenance and repair of the City's Street Lighting System; maintains adequate roadway and sidewalk illumination for vehicular and pedestrian safety; prepares specifications, Ordinance of Intention and cost estimates for new installations and maintenance assessments for operation of all street lights in the Los Angeles City Lighting District; administers the development of street lighting financed by the basic Assessment Act procedures; spreads the cost of special assessments processed by the City in accordance with State Laws and City street lighting construction and maintenance ordinances; provides assessment advisory services to the City Council and its Public Works Committee; evaluates petitions for street lighting in accordance with the 1911 Improvement Act and requests for utilitarian (additional illumination) street lights; provides technical services to other agencies; and participates in the development and application of national illumination standards.
  • Bureau of Street Services (BSS):  This Bureau maintains, repairs and cleans improved roadways, bridges, tunnels, sidewalks, pedestrian subways and related structures. It provides general maintenance for landscaped street islands and embankments and unimproved roadways, cleans unimproved lots, and removes brush from hillside properties. It constructs new improvements as ordered by the Council or the Board of Public Works Commissioners; resurfaces and reconstructs streets; and constructs street and alley pavements under special assessment procedures as forces are available. It inspects the refilling of and replaces surfaces over utility excavations. The Bureau enforces street tree ordinances, issues permits for the planting and removing of trees within parkways, and maintains such trees planted in new subdivisions. It sprays parkway trees for pest control, trims such trees for traffic and overhead utility lines clearance, and removes dead or hazardous parkway trees. It enforces street use and sidewalk vending ordinances and inspects the movement of houses or oversized loads on streets. 
  • Recreation & Parks:   This Department operates and maintains parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, public golf courses, recreation centers, recreation camps and educational facilities, and structures of historic significance; supervises all recreation activities at such facilities; and controls its own funds. The LAMC requires the dedication of land or payment in lieu to the department for park and recreational facilities in conjunction development projects creating additional dwelling units.
  • Transportation (LADOT):  This Department is responsible for the development of plans to meet the ground transportation needs of the traveling public and commerce; it has centralized authority over the conceptual planning and operation of the City's streets and highways system; and it provides a primary interface with the other government agencies on transportation matters. The department studies parking and traffic needs; provides for the installation and maintenance of traffic signs, signals, parking meters, street name signs and other transportation control devices; controls traffic and pedestrian movement at all intersections; enforces parking rules and regulations and accounts for all revenue therefrom; coordinates the development of off-street parking; oversees crossing guard services; provides public utility regulation. Developers may be required to mitigate any transportation impacts of a development project as determined by the department.
  • Water & Power (LADWP):  This Department is responsible for supplying the City and its inhabitants with water and electric energy by constructing, operating, and maintaining for that purpose works extending throughout the City and State to import water and electric energy and to other western states to import electric energy; fixes rates for water and electric service subject to approval of the Council by ordinance and controls its own funds. 

Development Agreements

Vested Rights

Generally, a developer must comply with the laws in effect at the time a building permit is issued for a particular project. If a developer has performed substantial work and incurred substantial liabilities in good faith reliance on a permit issued by the City, that developer acquires a vested right to complete construction in accordance with the terms of the permit. In order to preserve its rights to complete the project as approved during the entitlement phase, the developer can enter into a development agreement with the City. Development agreements limit the power of the City to apply newly enacted ordinances, policies, and standards to ongoing developments. Another procedure to obtain vested rights is through a Vesting Tentative Map. (Refer to D 200.)

Avco Decision

The basic rule is that if a city changes its land use regulations, a property owner cannot claim a vested right to build out a project unless he has obtained a building permit and performed substantial work and incurred substantial liabilities in good faith reliance upon the permit. This common law vested rights rule in California was reaffirmed when the California Supreme Court stated:

It has long been the rule in this state and in other jurisdictions that if a property owner has performed substantial work and incurred substantial liabilities in good faith reliance upon a permit issued by the government, he acquires a vested right to complete construction in accordance with the terms of the permit. [Citations omitted.] Once a landowner has secured a vested right the government may not, by virtue of a change in the zoning laws, prohibit construction authorized by the permit upon which he relied. Avco Community Developers, Inc. v. South Coast Regional Comm'n, 17 Cal. 3d 785, 791 (1976).

Legal Authority
The authority for the development agreement procedure is contained in California Government Code Sections 65864-65869.5. The California Supreme Court described development agreements as follows: 
[D]evelopment agreements between a developer and a local government limit the power of that government to apply newly enacted ordinances to ongoing developments. Unless otherwise provided in the agreement, the rules, regulations, and official policies governing permitted uses, density,  design, improvements, and construction are those in effect when the agreement is executed. 

City of West Hollywood v. Beverly Towers, Inc., 52 Cal. 3d 1184, 1193 n. 6 (1991).

The court also stated "The purpose of [vesting tentative maps and development agreements] is to allow a developer who needs additional discretionary approvals to complete a long-term development project as approved, regardless of any intervening changes in local regulations." Id. at 1194.


The principal provisions of the legislation governing development agreements are:

  1. Cities are given express authorization to enter into a development agreement and may adopt procedures to do so by resolution or ordinance.  (Gov. Code Sec. 65865.);
  2. The development agreement shall be enforceable by any party thereto, notwithstanding any change in any applicable general or specific plan, zoning, subdivision, or building regulation adopted by the city. (Gov. Code Sec.65865.4);
  3. Unless otherwise provided by the development agreement, the applicable rules, regulations and policies shall be those which are in force at the time of the execution of the agreement. (Gov. Code Sec.65866);and
  4. A development agreement is a legislative act which must be approved by ordinance, be consistent with the general plan and any specific plan, and is subject to repeal by referendum. However, the opportunity for such repeal expires 30 days after the city's adoption of the ordinance approving the agreement, and thereafter the project is immune to subsequent changes in zoning ordinances and land use regulations which are inconsistent with those provided for in the agreement. (Gov. Code Sec.65867.5)