01 - Purpose & Definition of Development Projects

Revised on 11-19-2020

Overview of Development Projects

The Land Development Manual covers the processing of development projects as it relates to BOE's involvement in these projects. It serves as a guide for the training of new employees or as a reference to experienced professionals. It is not a substitute for detailed knowledge of engineering principles, building and zoning regulations, or real estate law. There is no single or correct way to proceed with a development project. Owners and their professional staff must come up with an implementation plan that includes project controls to achieve their objective. 


A development project as defined in California Government Code Section 66000 is any project undertaken for the purpose of development. Development project includes a project involving the issuance of a permit for construction or reconstruction, but not a permit to operate. Development in the City of Los Angeles involves a number of departments and interdepartmental procedures governed by various local, state and federal codes and regulations. The participants in a development project can include a combination of owners, engineers, planners, attorneys and other specialists navigating their way through the process to complete the project. The types of projects can include commercial, industrial, or residential developments, governmental or institutional facilities, and can range from a simple addition to a complex phased project requiring multiple approvals.

From the City’s perspective, every development project proceeds through a series of phases, from the time the developer makes an application to the City through the end of construction. Although the terminology may vary from agency to agency, in general the development process can be organized into the following three phases. 

  • Entitlement Phase:  This phase is defined as a period during which the developer applies for the official permission to develop and construct the facility on a property within the governing jurisdiction. It starts when the developer formally submits the development application and ends when it obtains the development approval.  Obtaining the development approval allows the developer to build the project on that site according to the concept it was approved for. The entitlements process varies from agency to agency. Among the major elements in obtaining its development permit are obtaining the Planning Commission and the City Council approval. Although this period seems more technical, the most challenging part is the exposure of the proposed project to the scrutiny of the public.
  • Permit Phase:  A developer needs a permit before it can construct a facility on a property. The permit phase is defined as a period during which architects and engineers collaborate on completing the proposed facility’s design development and construction documents to obtain construction permits from the governing authorities. This phase starts when the developer receives a project’s development approval and continues until it receives the construction permits from various departments allowing the developer to build the facility.
  • Construction Phase:  This phase represents the building period from when builders start constructing physical work on site until the project receives its certification—Certificate of Occupancy—from the authority that the facility is safe for occupation.



In addition to the definitions and terms in this section, terms related to land development can also be found in the California General Plan Glossary published by the California Planning Roundtable.

  • Access/Egress:  The ability to enter a site from a roadway and exit a site onto a roadway by motorized vehicle.
  • Acres, Gross:  The entire acreage of a site. Most communities calculate gross acreage to the centerline of proposed bounding streets and to the edge of the right-of-way of existing or dedicated streets.
  • Acres, Net:  The portion of a site that can actually be built upon. The following generally are not included in the net acreage of a site: public or private road rights-of-way, public open space, and flood ways.
  • Adjoining Arterial Streets (formerly Service Road):  That part of a major or secondary highway, containing a roadway which affords access to abutting property and is adjacent and approximately parallel to and separated from the principal roadway.
  • Adverse Impact:  A negative consequence for the physical, social, or economic environment resulting from an action or project.
  • Advisory Agency:  “Advisory Agency” means a designated official or an official body charged with the duty of making investigations and reports on the design and improvement of proposed divisions of real property, the imposing of requirements or conditions thereon, or having the authority of local ordinance to approve or disapprove maps. The Director of Planning is designated as the Advisory Agency for the City of Los Angeles. The Director is authorized to act in such capacity through one or more deputies who are appointed by him/her for that purpose. The Director, with the concurrence of the Chief Zoning Administrator, may designate an or more existing dwelling units to a stock cooperative. 
  • Air Rights:  The right granted by a property owner to a buyer to use space above an existing right-of-way or other site, usually for development.
  • Alley:  A narrow public way, either public or private, which provides a permanently reserved but secondary means of public access not intended for general traffic circulation. Alleys typically are located along rear property lines.  An alley is not a street or highway and it provided a means of vehicular access to abutting property.
  • Annex:  To incorporate a land area into an existing district or municipality, with a resulting change in the boundaries of the annexing jurisdiction. 
  • Annexation:  The act of bringing under the jurisdiction of the government of a city and its various departments, real estate which prior to annexation was solely or jointly under the jurisdiction of the surrounding county (unincorporated territory), or under the jurisdiction of another municipality (incorporated territory). Land which prior to annexation or detachment is a part of another municipality must be detached prior to or simultaneously with annexation to the city.
  • Apartment:  (1) One or more rooms of a building used as a place to live, in a building containing at least one other unit used for the same purpose. (2) A separate suite, not owner occupied, which includes kitchen facilities and is designed for and rented as the home, residence, or sleeping place of one or more persons living as a single housekeeping unit. 
  • Appeal Board:
    1)  The City Planning Commission, for the purpose of hearing and making decisions upon appeals from actions of the Advisory  Agency with respect to any parcel map or tentative map which creates or results in (a) 50,000 or more gross square feet of nonresidential floor area; or (b) 65,000 or more gross square feet of lot area; or (c) 50 or more dwelling units or guest rooms or combination of dwelling units and guest rooms; and/or the kind, nature and extent of improvements required in connection with these actions.

    2) The Area Planning Commission, for the purpose of hearing and making decisions upon appeals from actions of the Advisory Agency with respect to any parcel map or tentative map which creates or results in (a) less than 50,000 gross square feet of nonresidential floor area; or (b) less than 65,000 gross square feet of lot area; or (c) fewer than 50 dwelling units or guest rooms or combination of dwelling units and guest rooms; and/or the kind, nature and extent of improvements required in connection with these actions. The Area Planning Commission which hears the matter shall be the  Area Planning Commission in the area in which the parcel map or tentative map is located.
  • Appropriate:  An act, condition, or state that is considered suitable. 
  • Benefit Assessment District:  An area within a public agency's boundaries that receives a special benefit from the construction of one or more public facilities. A Benefit Assessment District has no legal life of its own and cannot act by itself. It is strictly a financing mechanism for providing public infrastructure as allowed under the Streets And Highways Code.  Bonds may be issued to finance the improvements, subject to repayment by assessments charged against the benefiting properties. Creation of a Benefit Assessment District enables property owners in a specific area to cause the construction of public facilities or to maintain them (for example, a downtown, or the grounds and landscaping of a specific area) by contributing their fair share of the construction and/or installation and operating costs. 
  • Bikeways:  A term that encompasses bicycle lanes, bicycle paths, and bicycle routes.
  • Blockers:  A term used to mean a 1-foot wide future street easement, specifically as it relates the subdividing of land.
  • Boundary Adjustment:  The act of adjusting the political boundary between a city and another municipality, or the county is properly done by annexation and/ or detachment.  A combined annexation and detachment to a city is usually done to eliminate inconveniences due to boundaries not following tract lines or other logical physical or legal demarcations. In this latter special case, a boundary adjustment consists of one or more simultaneous annexations and detachments of adjoining or nearby parcels in one action.
  • Building:  Any structure used or intended for supporting or sheltering any use or occupancy.
  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA):  A State law requiring State and local agencies to regulate activities with consideration for environmental protection. If a proposed activity has the potential for a significant adverse environmental impact, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must be prepared and certified as to its adequacy before taking action on the proposed project. General Plans require the preparation of a "program EIR." 
  • Circulation Element:  One of the seven State-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains adopted goals, policies, and implementation programs for the planning and management of existing and proposed thoroughfares, transportation routes, and terminals, as well as local public utilities and facilities, all correlated with the land use element of the general plan.
  • City Engineer:  The City of Los Angeles, City Engineer
  • Condominium:  A structure of two or more units, the interior spaces of which are individually owned; the balance of the property (both land and building) is owned in common by the owners of the individual units.(See "Townhouse.")
  • Conservation Element:  One of the seven State-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains adopted goals, policies, and implementation programs for the conservation, development, and use of natural resources including water and its hydraulic force, forests, soils, rivers and other waters, harbors, fisheries, wildlife, minerals, and other natural resources.
  • Conveyance Tax:  A tax imposed on the sale, lease, or transfer of real property. " is drawn).
  • Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs):  A term used to describe restrictive limitations that may be placed on property and its use, and which usually are made a  condition of holding title or lease.
  • Cul-de-sac:  A short street or alley with only a single means of ingress and egress at one end and with a large turnaround at its other end.
  • Dedication:  The turning over by an owner or developer of private land for public use, and the acceptance of land for such use by the governmental agency having jurisdiction over the public function for which it will be used. Dedications for roads, parks, school sites, or other public uses often are made conditions for approval of a development by a city or county.
  • Dedication, In lieu of:  Cash payments that may be required of an owner or developer as a substitute for a dedication of land, usually calculated in dollars per lot, and referred to as in lieu fees or in lieu contributions.
  • Detachment:  The act of "deannexing" city territory allows it to revert to unincorporated county territory, or to be annexed to another municipality. The detachment is henceforth not subject to the city government, although some services (e.g. water, power, sewers, etc.) may continue to be provided under agreements between the city and the other jurisdiction.
  • Developable Land:  Land that is suitable as a location for structures and that can be developed free of hazards to, and without disruption of, or significant impact on, natural resource areas.
  • Developer:  An individual who or business that prepares raw land for the construction of buildings or causes to be built physical building space for use primarily by others, and in which the preparation of the land or the creation of the building space is in itself a business and is not incidental to another business or activity.
  • Development:  The physical extension and/or construction of urban land uses. Development activities include: subdivision of land; construction or alteration of structures, roads, utilities, and other facilities; installation of septic systems; grading; deposit of refuse, debris, or fill materials; and clearing of natural vegetative cover (with the exception of agricultural activities). Routine repair and maintenance activities are exempted.
  • Development Agreement:  A legislatively-approved contract between a jurisdiction and a person having legal or equitable interest in real property within the jurisdiction (California Government Code Section 5865 et seq.) that "freezes" certain rules, regulations, and policies applicable to development of a property for a specified period of time, usually in exchange for certain concessions by the owner.
  • Development Fee:  (See "Impact Fee.")
  • Development Rights:  The right to develop land by a land owner who maintains fee-simple ownership over the land or by a party other than the owner who has obtained the rights to develop. Such rights usually are expressed in terms of density allowed under existing zoning. For example, one development right may equal one unit of housing or may equal a specific number of square feet of gross floor area in one or more specified zone districts. (See "Interest, Fee.", "Interest, Less-than-fee." and "Development Rights, Transfer of (TDR).")
  • Development Rights, Transfer of (TDR):  Also known as "Transfer of Development Credits," a program that can relocate potential development from areas where proposed land use or environmental impacts are considered undesirable (the "donor" site) to another ("receiver") site chosen on the basis of its ability to accommodate additional units of development beyond that for which it was zoned, with minimal environmental, social, and aesthetic impacts. (See "Development Rights.")
  • Discourage, v.:  To advise or persuade to refrain from.
  • Discretionary Decision:  As used in CEQA, an action taken by a governmental agency that calls for the exercise of judgment in deciding whether to approve and/or how to carry out a project.
  • Duet:  A detached building designed for occupation as the residence of two families living independently of each other, with each family living area defined by separate fee title ownership.
  • Duplex:  A detached building under single ownership that is designed for occupation as the residence of two families living independently of each other.
  • Dwelling:  Any residential building, other than an Apartment House, Hotel or Apartment Hotel.
  • Dwelling, Group:  Two or more one-family, two-family or multiple dwelling, apartment houses or boarding or rooming houses, located on the same lot. 
  • Dwelling, Multiple:  A dwelling containing two dwelling units and not more than five guest rooms.
  • Dwelling, One-Family:  A detached dwelling containing only one dwelling unit.
  • Dwelling, Two-Family:  A dwelling containing two dwelling units.
  • Dwelling Unit:  A room or group of rooms (including sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation facilities, but not more than one kitchen), which constitutes an independent housekeeping unit, occupied or intended for occupancy by one household on a long-term basis. 
  • Easement:  Usually the right to use property owned by another for specific purposes or to gain access to another property. For example, utility companies often have easements on the private property of individuals to be able to install and maintain utility facilities.
  • Eminent Domain:  The right of a public entity to acquire private property for public use by condemnation, and the payment of just compensation.
  • Engineer:  The Registered Civil Engineer employed by the owner or by the subdivider to prepare the Subdivision Maps and improvement plans. 
  • Enhance, v.:  To improve existing conditions by increasing the quantity or quality of beneficial uses or features.
  • Environment:  CEQA defines environment as "the physical conditions which exist within the area which will be affected by a proposed project, including land, air, water, mineral, flora, fauna, noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance."
  • Environmental Impact Report (EIR):  A report required of general plans by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and which assesses all the environmental characteristics of an area and determines what effects or impacts will result if the area is altered or disturbed by a proposed action. (See "California Environmental Quality Act.") 
  • Environmental Impact Statement (EIS):  Under the National Environmental Policy Act, a statement on the effect of development proposals and other major actions that significantly affect the environment. 
  • Exaction:  A contribution or payment required as an authorized precondition for receiving a development permit; usually refers to mandatory dedication (or fee in lieu of dedication) requirements found in many subdivision regulations.
  • Final Maps :  A map prepared in accordance with the provisions of this article and with any applicable provisions of the Subdivision Map Act, designed to be recorded in the County of Los Angeles, Office of the County Recorder.
  • Finding(s):  The result(s) of an investigation and the basis upon which decisions are made. Findings are used by government agents and bodies to justify action taken by the entity.
  • Flag Lot:  A lot that is located behind another lot or lots, has street access only via a long driveway corridor, and does not have a standard street frontage.
  • Flood Hazard:  A hazard to land or improvements due to overflow water having sufficient velocity to transport or deposit debris, scour the surface soil, dislodge or damage buildings, or erode the banks of water courses.
  • Floor Area:  Is that area in square feet confined within the exterior walls of a building, but not including the area of the following: exterior walls, stairways, shafts, rooms housing building-operating equipment or machinery, parking areas with associated driveways and ramps,
  • space for the landing and storage of helicopters, and basement storage areas.
  • Footprint; Building Footprint:  The outline of a building at all of those points where it meets the ground.
  • Freeway:  A highway in respect to which the owners of abutting land have no right or easement of access to or from their abutting lands or in respect to which such owners have only limited or restricted right or easement of access, and which is declared to be such in compliance with the Streets and Highways Code of the State of California.
  • Frontage:  All property fronting on one (1) side of a street between intersecting or intercepting streets, or between a street and right-of-way, waterway, end of dead-end street, or city boundary measured along the street line. An intercepting street shall determine only the boundary of the frontage on the side of the street which it intercepts. 
  • Frontage Road: A street lying adjacent and approximately parallel to and separated from a freeway, and which affords access to abutting property. 
  • Future Street or Alley: Any real property which the owner thereof has offered for dedication to the City for street or alley purposes but which has been rejected by the City Council of the City of Los Angeles, subject to the right of said Council to rescind its action and accept by resolution at any later date and without further action by the owner, all or part of said property as public street or alley.
  • General Plan:  A compendium of city or county policies regarding its long-term development, in the form of maps and accompanying text. The General Plan is a legal document required of each local agency by the State of California Government Code Section 65301 and adopted by the City Council or Board of Supervisors. In California, the General Plan has 7 mandatory elements (Circulation, Conservation, Housing, Land Use, Noise, Open Space, Safety and Seismic Safety) and may include any number of optional elements (such as Air Quality, Economic Development, Hazardous Waste, and Parks and Recreation). The General Plan may also be called a "City Plan," "Comprehensive Plan," or "Master Plan." 

  • General Plan Advisory Board (GPAB):  The GPAB is an advisory board, whose members include the City Engineer, the Director of Planning, the Mayor, other elected and appointive City Officers, and other department heads or their representatives. In addition to its primary function of advising and assisting the Director of Planning in preparation of the General Plan, it is to report on each proposed boundary adjustment to the City Council, and make recommendations to the Council.
  • GPAB City Boundaries Committee:  The GPAB city Boundaries Committee is a subcommittee of the GPAB, composed of management and technical staff representatives of Council-controlled departments and the Council's Chief Legislative Analyst. Through its secretary, it solicits data, comments, and exhibits for all proposed boundary adjustments. The Secretary assembles the returned material into a preliminary report which is acted upon by voting members in Committee session. The final report, with recommendations, is forwarded to the GPAB, as the basis for its action on the proposed boundary adjustment.
  • Goal:  A general, overall, and ultimate purpose, aim, or end toward which the City or County will direct effort.
  • Granny Flat:  (See "Second Unit.")
  • Ground Floor:  The story or basement within a portion of a building that has an access door that is directly accessible to and fronts on the street, and the elevation of the floor level is within three feet above or below the adjacent curb. The point on the adjacent curb is
    determined by drawing a line perpendicular to the door between the centerline of such door and the curb of the street. No portion of a ground floor can be located directly above or below another ground floor.
  • Guest House:  A dwelling containing not more than five guest rooms or suites of rooms, but with no kitchen facilities.
  • Guidelines:  General statements of policy direction around which specific details may be later established.
  • Hidden Lot:  A parcel that contains more than one legal building site but only one dwelling unit. 
  • Highway, Major:  Any street designated as a major highway on the Highways and Freeways maps of the Transportation Element of the General Plan.
  • Highway, Secondary:  Any street designated as a secondary highway on the Highways and Freeways maps of the Transportation Element of the General Plan.
  • Hillsides:  Land that has an average percent of slope equal to or exceeding fifteen percent.
  • Hillside Area:  Any land designated as a Hillside Area on the Bureau of Engineering Basic Grid Map, Map No. A-13372, excluding those areas specifically identified in maps entitled Hillside Ordinance Amended Exhibit A attached to Council File No. 91-1621.  Hillside areas is defined in LAMC Section 91.7003.
  • Historic; Historical:  An historic building or site is one that is noteworthy for its significance in local, state, or national history or culture, its architecture or design, or its works of art, memorabilia, or artifacts.
  • Historic Preservation:  The preservation of historically significant structures and neighborhoods until such time as, and in order to facilitate, restoration and rehabilitation of the building(s) to a former condition.
  • Housing Element:  One of the seven State-mandated elements of a local general plan, it assesses the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community, identifies potential sites adequate to provide the amount and kind of housing needed, and
    contains adopted goals, policies, and implementation programs for the preservation, improvement, and development of housing. Under State law, Housing Elements must be updated every five years. 
  • Impact:  The effect of any direct man-made actions or indirect repercussions of man-made actions on existing physical, social, or economic conditions.
  • Impact Fee:  A fee, also called a development fee, levied on the developer of a project by a city, county, or other public agency as compensation for otherwise-unmitigated impacts the project will produce.  California Government Code Section 66000 et seq. specifies that development fees shall not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of providing the service for which the fee is charged. To lawfully impose a development fee, the public agency must verify its method of calculation and document proper restrictions on use of the fund.
  • Implementation:  Actions, procedures, programs, or techniques that carry out policies.
  • Improvement:  The addition of one or more structures or utilities on a parcel of land.
  • Inhabited Area:  An area considered for annexation, which contains twelve (12) or more registered voters
  • In Lieu Fee:  (See "Dedication, In lieu of.")
  • Infill Development:  Development of vacant land (usually individual lots or left-over properties) within areas that are already largely developed.
  • Infrastructure:  Public services and facilities, such as sewage-disposal systems, water-supply systems, other utility systems, and roads.
  • Interest, Fee:  Entitles a land owner to exercise complete control over use of land, subject only to government land use regulations.
  • Interest, Less-than-fee:  The purchase of interest in land rather than outright ownership; includes the purchase of development rights via conservation, open space, or scenic easements.
  • Kitchen:  Any room or any portion of a dwelling unit, whether an enclosing subdivision thereof or otherwise, used or intended or designed to be used for cooking and preparing food except a light housekeeping room or that portion of a recreation room in a multiple residential use, or in an accessory building appurtenant thereto, containing the facilities for the cooking and preparation of food.
  • Knox-Nisbet Act:  The California Legislative Act (California Government Code Section 54774 et al) which requires each County to establish a Local Agency Formation Commission.
  • Land Use:  The occupation or utilization of land or water area for any human activity or any purpose defined in the General Plan.
  • Land Use Element:  A required element of the General Plan that uses text and maps to designate the future use or reuse of land within a given jurisdiction's planning area. The land use element serves as a guide to the structuring of zoning and subdivision controls, urban renewal and capital improvements programs, and to official decisions regarding the distribution and intensity of development and the location of public facilities and open space. (See "Mandatory Element.") 
  • Leapfrog Development:  New development separated from existing development by substantial vacant land.
  • Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO):  The LAFCO of Los Angeles County regulates all boundary adjustments. They prevent haphazard and illogical boundary adjustments, and ensure a more orderly supply of municipal services. When denying a boundary adjustment, LAFCO effectively stops all proceedings.
  • Local Coastal Program (LCP):  A combination of a local government's land use plans, zoning ordinances, zoning district maps, and (within sensitive coastal resources areas) other implementing actions that together meet the local requirements of, and implement the provisions and policies of, the California Coastal Act of 1976.
  • Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan:  The relevant portion of a local government general plan or coastal element that details type, location, and intensity of land use, applicable resource protection and development policies, and, where necessary, implementation actions. 
  • Lot:  A parcel of land occupied or to be occupied by a use, building or unit group of buildings and accessory buildings and uses, together with the yards, open spaces, lot width and lot area as are required by this chapter and fronting for a distance of at least 20 feet upon a street as defined in LAMC 12.03 - Definitions, or upon a private street as defined in LAMC 12.03 - Definitions. The width of an access-strip portion of a lot shall not be less than 20 feet at any point. In a residential planned development or an approved small lot subdivision a lot need have only the street frontage or access as is provided on the recorded subdivision tract or parcel map for the development. (Also see “Site”)  
  • Lot, Air Space:  A division of the space above or below a lot as defined in this section with a finite width, length, and upper and lower elevation occupied or to be occupied by a use, building or portion thereof, unit group of buildings or portions thereof, and accessory buildings or portions thereof or accessory uses. An air space lot shall be identified on a final map or a parcel map recorded in the office of the County Recorder with a separate and distinct number or letter.  An air space lot shall have such access to a street or private street (as defined in the LAMC) by means of one or more easements or other entitlements to use in a form satisfactory to the Advisory Agency and the City Engineer.
  • Lot, Flag:  A lot so shaped and designed that the main building site area is set back from the street on which it fronts and includes an access strip not less than 20 feet in width at any point connecting the main building site area to the frontage street.
  • Lot Line, Front:  In the case of an interior lot, the line separating the lot from the street or place, and in the case of a corner lot, a line separating the narrowest street frontage of the lot from the street, except in those cases where the latest tract deed restrictions specify another line as the front lot line. 
  • Lot Line, Rear:  A lot line which is opposite and most distant from the front lot line and, in the case of an irregular, triangular, or gore-shaped lot, a line ten (10) feet in length within the lot, parallel to and at the maximum distance from the front line.
  • Lot Line, Side:   Any lot boundary line not a front lot line or a rear lot line. 
  • Lot Width:  The horizontal distance between the side lot lines measured at right angles to the lot depth at a point midway between the front and rear lot lines.
  • Lot Depth:  The horizontal distance between the front and rear lot lines measured in the mean direction of the side lot lines.
  • Lot Area:  The total horizontal area within the lot lines of a lot.
  • Lot, Corner:  A lot situated at the intersection of two (2) or more streets having an angle of intersection of not more than one hundred thirty five (135) degrees.
  • Lot, Reversed Corner:  A corner lot the side street line of which is substantially a continuation of the front line of the first lot to its rear.
  • Lot, Interior:  A lot other than a corner lot.
  • Lot, Key:  The first interior lot to the rear of a reversed corner lot and not separated there from by an alley. 
  • Lot, Through:  A lot having a frontage or two parallel or approximately parallel streets, but not including those lots having frontage on a street and frontage on a navigable public canal or waterway parallel or approximately parallel to said street.
  • Lot, Transitional:  The first 100 feet of a lot in an RA or R Zone having a side line adjoining or separated only by an alley from a lot in a C or M Zone. 
  • Lot, Vacant:  A lot on which no building, temporary or permanent, is erected. 
  • Lot of Record:  A lot that is part of a recorded subdivision or a parcel of land that has been recorded at the county recorder's office containing property tax records.
  • Maintain, v.:  To keep in an existing state.
  • Mandatory Element:  A component of the General Plan mandated by State Law. California State law requires that a General Plan include elements dealing with seven subjects--circulation, conservation, housing, land use, noise, open space and safety--and specifies to various
    degrees the information to be incorporated in each element. (See "Land Use Element.")
  • Map (Tract/Parcel):  A map showing a division of land other than those divisions which require a Final Map as defined by the Subdivision Map Act.
  • May:  That which is permissible.
  • Mello-Roos Bonds:  Locally issued bonds that are repaid by a special tax imposed on property owners within a "community facilities" district established by a governmental entity. The bond proceeds can be used for public improvements and for a limited number of services. Named
    after the program's legislative authors. 
  • Minimize, v.:  To reduce or lessen, but not necessarily to eliminate. 
  • Ministerial (Administrative) Decision:  An action taken by a governmental agency that follows established procedures and rules and does not call for the exercise of judgment in deciding approval.
  • Mitigate, v.:  To ameliorate, alleviate, or avoid to the extent reasonably feasible.
  • Municipal Organization Act of California of 1977 (MORGA):  The Legislative Act which consolidated all State laws which pertain to City boundary adjustments and incorporation, consolidation, and disincorporation. 
  • Multiple Family Building:  A detached building designed and used exclusively as a dwelling by three or more families occupying separate suites. 
  • Municipal Services:  Services traditionally provided by local government, including water
    and sewer, roads, parks, schools, and police and fire protection. 
  • Must:  That which is mandatory.
  • Natural State:  The condition existing prior to development.
  • Necessary:  Essential or required.
  • Need:  A condition requiring supply or relief. The City or County may act upon findings of need within or on behalf of the community.
  • Noise Element:  One of the seven State-mandated elements of a local general plan, it assesses noise levels of highways and freeways, local arterials, railroads, airports, local industrial plants, and other ground stationary sources, and adopts goals, policies, and implementation
    programs to reduce the community's exposure to noise.
  • Nonconforming Building:  A building, structure or portion thereof, which does not conform to the regulations of this chapter and which lawfully existed at the time the regulations, with which it does not conform, became effective. 
  • Nonconforming Lot:  A lot whose width, area or other dimensions does not conform to the regulations of this chapter and which lawfully existed at the time the regulations with which it does not conform became effective. 
  • Nonconforming Use:  A use of building or land which does not conform to the regulations of this chapter and which lawfully existed at the time the regulations with which it does not conform became effective.
  • Non-Motorized Transportation Facility:  As defined in Section 156 CSHC, “non-motorized transportation facility” means a facility designed primarily for the use of pedestrians, bicyclists or equestrians. It may be designed primarily for one or more of such uses.
  • Notice (of Hearing):  A legal document announcing the opportunity for the public to present their views to an official representative or board of a public agency concerning an official action pending before the agency. 
  • One-Way Service Road (formerly Service Road):  That part of a major or secondary highway, containing a roadway which affords access to abutting property and is adjacent and approximately parallel to and separated from the principal roadway.
  • Open Space Element:  One of the seven State-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains an inventory of privately and publicly owned open-space lands, and adopted goals, policies, and implementation programs for the preservation, protection, and management of open space lands.
  • Open Space Land:  Any parcel or area of land or water that is essentially unimproved and devoted to an open space use for the purposes of (1) the preservation of natural resources, (2) the managed production of resources, (3) outdoor recreation, or (4) public health and safety. 
  • Ordinance:  A law or regulation set forth and adopted by a governmental authority, usually a city or county. 
  • Parcel:  A lot, or contiguous group of lots, in single ownership or under single control, usually considered a unit for purposes of development.
  • Plan Line:  A precise line that establishes future rights-of-way along any portion of an existing or proposed street or highway and that is depicted on a map showing the streets and lot line or lines and the proposed right-of-way lines, and the distance thereof from the established centerline of the street or highway, or from existing or established property lines.
  • Planning Area:  The area directly addressed by the general plan. A city's planning area typically encompasses the city limits and potentially annexable land within its sphere of influence.
  • Policy:  A specific statement of principle or of guiding actions that implies clear commitment but is not mandatory. A general direction that a governmental agency sets to follow, in order to meet its goals and objectives before undertaking an action program. (See "Program.") 
  • Principle:  An assumption, fundamental rule, or doctrine that will guide general plan policies, proposals, standards, and implementation measures. The State Government Code (Section 65302) requires that general plans spell out the objectives, "principles," standards, and proposals of the general plan. "Adjacent land uses should be compatible with one another" is an example of a principle. 
  • Private Road/Private Street:  Privately owned (and usually privately maintained) motor vehicle access that is not dedicated as a public street. Typically the owner posts a sign indicating that the street is private property and limits traffic in some fashion. For density calculation purposes, some jurisdictions exclude private roads when establishing the total acreage of the site; however, aisles within and driveways serving private parking lots are not considered private roads. 
  • Private Street:  A private road easement as defined herein which has been determined by the Advisory Agency or the Director of Planning to be adequate for access and for the purposes set forth in the LAMC Sec. 18.01.
  • Private Road Easement:  A parcel of land not dedicated as a public street, over which a private easement for road purposes is proposed to be or has been granted to the owners of property contiguous or adjacent thereto which intersects or connects with a public street, or a private street; in each instance the instrument creating such easement shall be or shall have been duly recorded or filed in the Office of the County Recorder of Los Angeles.
  • Program:  An action, activity, or strategy carried out in response to adopted policy to achieve a specific goal or objective. Policies and programs establish the "who," "how" and "when" for carrying out the "what" and "where" of goals and objectives.
  • Pro Rata:  Refers to the proportionate distribution of the cost of something to something else or to some group, such as the cost of infrastructure improvements associated with new development apportioned to the users of the infrastructure on the basis of projected use.
  • Protect, v.:  To maintain and preserve beneficial uses in their present condition as nearly as possible. (See "Enhance.") 
  • Public Service Easement:  As defined in Section 8306 CSHC, “public service easement” includes all or part of, or any right in a right-of-way, easement or use restriction acquired for public use by dedication or otherwise for sewers, pipelines, polelines, electrical transmission and communication lines, light and air, and other limited use public easements other than for street or highway purposes. An easement or right reserved from a vacation.
  • Public Way:  Any street, channel, viaduct, subway, tunnel, bridge, easement, right of way or other way in which a public agency has a right of use.
  • Recognize, v.:  To officially (or by official action) identify or perceive a given situation.  A rule or order prescribed for managing government.
  • Residential Building:  A building or portion thereof designed or used for human habitation.
  • Residential, Multiple Family:  Usually three or more dwelling units on a single site, which may be in the same or separate buildings.
  • Residential, Single-family:  A single dwelling unit on a building site.
  • Restore, v.:  To renew, rebuild, or reconstruct to a former state.
  • Right-of-way:  A strip of land occupied or intended to be occupied by certain transportation and public use facilities, such as roadways, railroads, and utility lines. 
  • Risk:  The danger or degree of hazard or potential loss.
  • Roadway:  That portion of a right of way for a street or alley used or intended to accommodate the movement of vehicles.Street, Collector:  A street (including the principal access streets of a subdivision which carries traffic from local streets either directly or via other existing or proposed collector streets to a major or secondary highway.
  • Rule 16 Motion Motion passed by the City Council streamlining the street vacation process from two-eight years to about one year by not requiring an Ordinance of Intention and combining the elements of multiple steps into one City Engineer Report that is considered by the committee.
  • Safety Element:  One of the seven State-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains adopted goals, policies, and implementation programs for the protection of the community from any unreasonable risks associated with seismic and geologic hazards, flooding, and wildland and urban fires. Many safety elements also incorporate a review of police needs, objectives, facilities, and services.
  • Second Unit:  A Self-contained living unit, either attached to or detached from, and in addition to, the primary residential unit on a single lot. Sometimes called "Granny Flat."
  • Setback:  The horizontal distance between the property line and any structure.
  • Shall:  That which is obligatory; an unequivocal direction. 
  • Should:  Signifies a directive to be honored if at all possible; a less rigid directive than "shall," to be honored in the absence of compelling or contravening considerations.
  • Single-family Dwelling, Attached:  A dwelling unit occupied or intended for occupancy by only one household that is structurally connected with at least one other such dwelling unit. (See "Townhouse.")
  • Single-family Dwelling, Detached:  A dwelling unit occupied or intended for occupancy by only one household that is structurally independent from any other such dwelling unit or structure intended for residential or other use. (See "Family.") 
  • Single Room Occupancy (SRO):  A single room, typically 80-250 square feet, with a sink and closet, but that requires the occupant to share a communal bathroom, shower, and kitchen.
  • Site:  A parcel of land used or intended for one use or a group of uses and having frontage on a public or an approved private street. A lot. 
  • Slope:  The plane or incline of land usually expressed as a percentage where % slope = vertical distance / by horizontal distance X 100
  • Special District:  As defined in Section 54775 CGC, “special district” means an agency of the State for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limit boundaries. “Special district” does not include the State, the City, a County or a school district. “Special district” does include a county service area, but does not include a special assessment district formed under the Improvement Act of 1911, the Municipal Improvement Act of 1913, the Street Opening Act of 1903, the Vehicle Parking District Law of 1943, the Parking District Law of 1951, the Pedestrian Mall Law of 1960 or any similar assessment law or similar procedural ordinance adopted by a chartered city. “Special district” does not include an improvement district or zone formed for the sole purpose of designating an area which is to bear a special tax or assessment for an improvement benefiting that area.
  • Specific Plan:  A legal tool authorized by Article 8 of the Government Code (Section 65450 et seq.) for the systematic implementation of the general plan for a defined portion of a community's planning area. A specific plan must specify in detail the land uses, public and private facilities needed to support the land uses, phasing of development, standards for the conservation, development, and use of natural resources, and a program of implementation measures, including financing measures.
  • Street Furniture:  Those features associated with a street that are intended to enhance that street's physical character and use by pedestrians, such as benches, trash receptacles, kiosks, lights, newspaper racks.
  • Street Tree Plan:  A comprehensive plan for all trees on public streets that sets goals for solar access, and standards for species selection, maintenance, and replacement criteria, and for planting trees in patterns that will define neighborhood character while avoiding monotony or maintenance problems. 
  • Streets (City Definition):  Any public thoroughfare other than an alley or walk, except that in those cases where a subdivision has been recorded containing lots which abut only on an alley or walk, said alley or walk may be considered to be a street.  As defined in Section 11.01(a) LAMC, “street” shall include all streets, highways, avenues, lanes, alleys, courts, places, squares, curbs, or other public ways in this City which have been or may hereafter be dedicated and open to public use, or such other public property so designated in any law of this State.
  • Streets and Highway (State Definition):  As defined in Section 8308 CSHC, “street” and “highway” include all or part of, or any right in, a State highway or other public highway, road, street, avenue, alley, lane, driveway, place court, trail, or other public right-of-way or easement, or purported public street or highway, and the rights connected herewith including, bit not limited to, restrictions of access or abutters’ rights, sloping easements, or other incidents to a street or highway.
  • Streets, Collector:  Any street designated as a collector street on an adopted community plan element of the general plan. 
  • Streets, Local:  (S-407-1 and Mobility 2035 Plan):  Any street other than a collector street, Boulevards, Avenues (formerly major and secondary highway), or freeways, providing access to abutting property and serving local traffic as distinguished from through traffic.
  • Streets, Major:  The transportation network that includes a hierarchy of freeways, arterials, and collectors to service through traffic.
  • Streets, Standard Hillside Limited:  A street (public or private) with a minimum width of 36 feet and paved to a minimum roadway width of 28 feet, as determined by BOE.
  • Streets, Substandard Hillside Limited:  A street which does not meet the minimum requirements of a Standard Hillside Limited Street.
  • Streets, Through:  Streets that extend continuously between other major streets in the community.
  • Structure:  Anything constructed or erected that requires location on the ground (excluding swimming pools, fences, and walls used as fences). 
  • Subdivider:  A person, firm, corporation, Partnership or association who proposes to divide, divides or causes to be divided real property into a subdivision for him or herself or for others.
  • Subdivision:  The division of a tract of land into defined lots, either improved or unimproved, which can be separately conveyed by sale or lease, and which can be altered or developed. "Subdivision" includes a condominium project as defined in Section 1350 of the California Civil Code  (<-check this link) and a community apartment project as defined in Section 11004 of the Business and Professions Code.  The same as defined in Section 66424 of the Government Code. Subdivision includes a stock cooperative project as defined in LAMC Section 12.03.
  • Subdivision Design: Design of a subdivision shall include:
    • street alignments, grades and widths
    • drainage and sanitary facilities and utilities, including alignments and grades thereof
    • location and size of all required easements and rights–of–way
    • fire roads and firebreaks
    • lot and size configuration
    • traffic access
    • grading
    • land to be dedicated for park and recreation purposes
    • other specific requirements in the general plan and configuration of the entire subdivision as may be necessary or convenient to insure conformity to or implementation of the general plan or any adopted specific plan.
  • Subdivision Map Act:  Sections 66410, Division 2 of the California Government code, this act vests in local legislative bodies the regulation and control of the design and improvement of subdivisions, including the requirement for tentative and final maps. (See "Subdivision.")Substantial:  Considerable in importance, value, degree, or amount.
  • Summary Vacation:  A procedure that allow a City to vacate the public-right-of-way without a public hearing which is authorized under Sec. 8333(a-c) CSHC and Sec. 8334(a) CSHC.
  • Surveyor:   A licensed land surveyor authorized to practice in California.
  • Sustainability:  Community use of natural resources in a way that does not jeopardize the ability of future generations to live and prosper.
    Sustainable Development:  Development that maintains or enhances economic opportunity and community well-being while protecting and restoring the natural environment upon which people and economies depend. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • Taking:  A real estate term traditionally used to mean acquisition by eminent domain but broadened by the U.S. Supreme Court to mean any government action that denies economically viable use of property. More recent federal and state legislative proposals would consider any government program causing a "substantial" reduction in property values to be a taking. 
  • Tentative Map:  Refers to a map made for the purpose of showing the design of a proposed subdivision creating five or more parcels, five or more condominiums, or five or more units in a community apartment project or stock cooperative, and showing the existing conditions in and around it and need not be based upon an accurate or detailed final survey of the property.
  • Townhouse; Townhome:  A one-family dwelling in a row of at least three such units in which each unit has its own front and rear access to the outside, no unit is located over another unit, and each unit is separated from any other unit by one or more common and fire-resistant walls.  Townhouses usually have separate utilities; however, in some condominium situations, common areas are serviced by utilities purchased by a homeowners association on behalf of all townhouse members of the association. (See "Condominium.")
  • Tract Map:  Tract map refers to either a tentative map or final map.
  • Trees, Street:  Trees strategically planted--usually in parkway strips, medians, or along streets--to enhance the visual quality of a street. 
  • Underutilized Parcel:  A parcel that is not developed to its full zoning potential.
  • Undevelopable:  Specific areas where topographic, geologic, and/or surficial soil conditions indicate a significant danger to future occupants and a liability to the City or County are designated as "undevelopable" by the City or County.
  • Undue:  Improper, or more than necessary.
  • Uninhabited Territory:  Territory proposed for annexation or detachment which at the time of the hearing (if required) contains less than twelve registered voters.
  • Uniform Building Code (UBC):  A national, standard building code that sets forth minimum standards for construction, published by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO).  
  • Use:  The purpose for which land or a building is arranged, designed or intended or for which either land or a building is or may be occupied or maintained. 
  • Use Permit:  The discretionary and conditional review of an activity or function or operation on a site or in a building or facility. 
  • Vacation:  As defined in Section 8309 CSHC, “vacation” means the complete or partial abandonment or termination of the public right to use a street, highway or public service easement.
  • Vesting Tentative Map:  A tentative map for any land division that has printed conspicuously on its face the words “Vesting Tentative Map” and is characterized by certain rights to proceed with development when filed and  processed in accordance with LAMC Section 17.15.
  • Will:  That which is expected or may be expected. Expresses intent or purpose. (See "Shall" and "Should.")
  • Yard, Front:  A yard extending across the full width of a lot, the depth of which is the minimum horizontal distance between the front lot line and a line parallel thereto on the lot.
  • Yard, Rear:  A yard extending across the full width of the lot, the depth of which is the minimum horizontal distance between the rear lot line and a line parallel thereto on the lot.
  • Yard, Side:  A yard more than six (6) inches in width between a main building and the side lot line, extending from the front yard or the front lot line where no front yard is required, to the rear yard. The width of the required side yard shall be measured horizontally from the nearest point of the side lot line toward the nearest part of the main
  • Zero Lot Line:  A detached single family unit distinguished by the location of one exterior wall on a side property line. 
  • Zoning:  The division of a city or county by legislative regulations into areas, or zones, which specify allowable uses for real property and size restrictions for buildings within these areas; a program that implements policies of the General Plan. 
  • Zoning Administrator:  The Zoning Administrator shall mean the Chief Zoning Administrator or an Associate Zoning Administrator. The Director of Planning may appoint the Zoning Administrator to act as the Director’s designee or as a Hearing Officer for the Director.
  • Zoning Map:  Government Code Section 65851 permits a legislative body to divide a county, a city, or portions thereof, into zones of the number, shape, and area it deems best suited to carry out the purposes of the zoning ordinance. These zones are delineated on a map or maps, called the Zoning Map.


2" IP Two inch Iron Pipe
B.C. Beginning of Curve
BIS. Bisector
C.A. OP. City Attorney Opinion
CCC California Civil Code
CCP California Code of Civil Procedures
C.E.F.B. City Engineers Field Book
CEQA California Environmental Quality Act
CF Council File
CGC California Government Code
C/L Control Line
CPUC California Public Utilities Code
C.S.F.B. County Surveyors Field Book
CSHC California Streets and Highways Code
E. East
E.C. End of Curve 
ESTAB. Established
FD Found
GP & W Gin Pin and Washer
INST# Instrument Number
INT. Intersection
L&T Lead and Tack
L&TAG Lead and Tag
LAAC Los Angeles Administrative Code
L.A.C.E Los Angeles City Engineer 
LACC Los Angeles City Charter (Rev. 7/1/2000)
LAMC Los Angeles Municipal Code
L.S.# Licensed Surveyor, Certificate Number 
M.B. Map Book 
N&TAG Nail and Tag
N. North
N'ly Notherly
NR'ly Northeasterly
O/S Offset
P.C.C. Point of Compound Curvature
P.I Point of Intersection 
P/L Property Line 
P.L.S Professional Land Surveyor
P.M.B Parcel Map Book 
PM's Punch Marks
P.R.C Point of Reverse Curvature
PROD. Production
R = Radius
RAD. Radial
R.C.E# Registered Civil Engineer, Certificate Number
R.R. SPK. Railroad Spike 
R/W Right of Way
S. South
S&T Spike and Tin
S&W Spike and Washer
S.M.M. Sewer Maintenance Hole
S.M.H.M. Sewer Maintenance Hole Monument
SPK. Spike
S.S.D.M Standard Survey Disk Monument
S.S.M. Standard Survey Monument 
S.T.M. Standard Transverse Monument
T/O Throw Over
W. West


Laws, Codes and Ordinances the Govern Development Projects


Key Federal and State of California Takings and Exactions Cases

The following court cases established certain rules and principles which determine whether or not a taking has occurred.

Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255 (1979)

This case, originating in California, established a “two-prong” test for determining when a regulatory taking has occurred. This test continues to be applied by Federal and California courts. Agins’ five acre parcel in Tiburon was rezoned from allowing five units to a designation permitting as few as one unit. Agins alleged that the regulations amounted to a taking. The U.S. Supreme Court held that a regulation amounts to a taking if one of the following is true: 

  1. Regulation does not substantially advance legitimate state interests; or
  2. Regulation denies an owner economically viable use of his land.

Here, the Court found that Tiburon’s regulation substantially advanced a legitimate state interest (regulating the density of development in the community) and left Agins with economically viable use of the property.

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987)

The U.S. Supreme Court found that the Coastal Commission’s condition to a coastal development permit requiring dedication of access along the beach across Nollan’s property was a taking under the first prong of the Agins test. The Court addressed the required relationship between conditions imposed on development and the impacts of that development and held that there must be connection or “nexus” between the conditions and the impact. Here, the Court said that there was no such nexus between the lateral beach access condition and the identified impact of the project: blocked views of the ocean from areas
inland of Nollan’s property.  

Donan v. City of Tigard, 114 S.CT. 2309 (1994)

This case, dubbed the sequel to Nollan by the U.S. Supreme Court, addressed the required degree of connection under Nollan’s nexus requirement. The Court held that two conditions imposed on a building permit approval, dedications of land within the 100-year flood plain and for a bicycle path, met Nollan’s “essential nexus” requirement. However, the Court said that the conditions did not meet the required standard of “rough proportionality” with regard to their relationship to the impacts of the project. In order to establish rough proportionality, a city must make an “individualized determination” based on some quantification.