Los Angeles Small Lot Ordinance

What are the target goals?

Los Angeles has set a goal to construct 100,000 new residences within the city by 2021. Challenges to achieving this goal include a decreasing amount of available land, an increasing population, and an increasing demand for moderately priced housing. To help overcome these complexities, the Advisory Agency (a part of the city's Division of Land, Department of City Planning) established the Small Lot Ordinance and Small Lot Design Guidelines to promote the development of higher density homes on single or small lots. The ordinance allows the subdivision of these lots for fee simple, infill development homes while the guidelines provide a design framework in accordance with the area's General Plan Framework and Community Plans.

The goals of the Small Lot Design Guidelines include creating a high-quality of life for residents, enhancing the public realm, providing greater opportunities for homeownership at multiple income levels, creating solutions for infill housing, developing structures that blend with the existing neighborhood fabric, and prioritizing livability and market value. While the guidelines are not mandatory, they are recommended and are intended to prevent potential project delays, redesign mandates, and community appeals.

Other Details

The Small Lot Ordinance applies only to multi-family and commercial zones identified in the city's municipal code. Therefore, the Small Lot Design Guidelines are applicable only in those multi-family and commercial zones already subject to the conditions of the Small Lot Ordinance. In addition, the guidelines are not intended to replace any existing area specific plans, but merely to provide additional design strategies and solutions. Finally, high density housing structures designed in accordance with the guidelines are restricted to a maximum of 47 units per lot in all zones.

Although these measures are not mandatory, many developers and designers are embracing these guidelines and utilizing them in their development planning. As of November 2013, more than 1,500 individual small lots were approved for subdivision with the intent to construct high density and/or mixed use housing structures. Examples of completed complexes include Perlita Mews (23 units), Maltman Bungalows (17 units), Rock Row (15 units), and Blackbirds (18 units).

When was the program launched?

The Small Lot Ordinance (LAMC Section 12.22-C,27) was established in 2005. According to the 2014 Advisory Agency Policy, all small lot subdivision applications submitted after February 1, 2014 are now required to follow the 2014 Small Lot Design Guidelines through any applicable means.


Advisory Agency (2014, January), Advisory Agency Policy-Small Lot Ordinance and Small Lot Design Guidelines http://planning.lacity.org/PolicyInitiatives/Housing/SmallLot/SmallLotPolicy_DesignGuide.pdf

Glen, Deborah Snoonian. (2014, December 16). In Los Angeles, Density That Doesn't Overwhelm, City Labhttp://www.citylab.com/design/2014/12/in-los-angeles-density-that-doesnt-overwhelm/383798/ 

Los Angeles Department of City Planning, (2013, July), What's Happening in Planning 2013, http://cityplanning.lacity.org/Reorganization/Planning2013.pdf

 Los Angeles Municipal Code, Small Lot Ordinance: Chapter 1, Article 2, Section 12.22-C, 27.http://amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates&fn=default.htm&vid=amlegal:lapz_ca 

 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Los Angeles, California: Small Lot Ordinance. http://www.huduser.org/portal/casestudies/study_102011_1.html

City Solutions and Applied Research
National League of Cities, www.nlc.org
Uploaded February 2015, JAB

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