Small Lot Subdivisions / Los Angeles

13 Replies

Are there any investors or developers in the Los Angles or California area that are familiar with (or expert) with Small Lot Sub Divisions?

They're have been a lot of these popping up in Los Angeles. The appeal is that developers are allowed to structure their properties so that there is no HOA, just a smaller maintenance fee making it more appealing for buyers looking for single family residences.

There's a bit of grey area as an owner/investor because there is no governing body. There are CC&R's but aren't governed the same as a normal HOA found on condo units.

If you are familiar with SLSD and are opening to talking about your experience as an owner, investor and developer let me know. I'd like to learn more about them.

Hey @Chris Caparro

Here's a guide to Small Lot Subdivision in LA which encompasses a lot of great information:

Here's another guide:

Here's the actual Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance that was passed in 2006:

My wife is currently working with a few investors looking for land / tear-downs in and around LA's westside. Feel free to PM me if you'd like me to put you contact with her to either answer any questions or help you with your search.

This seems like a great way to maximize returns on a smaller lot, but I suspect the challenge will be finding a lot that meets the qualifications (it needs to be zoned multifamily). Nevertheless, it can be done.

Thanks. @Joshua McGinnis Great intel. I'll look through the links this weekend and then PM you.

Hi Chris, we've got one in planning near the new Expo Line. As @Joshua McGinnis points out the challenge is finding lots that lay out properly for the idea. Modative has done a good job synthesizing info and programs in the links Joshua provided, but there are also others that have done some creative work.

Jay Vanos is a spectacular architect and is very well versed in the THO/SLSD. I'd also suggest googling Mott Smith and his Maltman Bungalows.

Another note re: zoning. they are allowed in C zones and some R2 depending on how close you are to commercial zones.

Good luck



Good morning. I would agree with all of the notes above as Modative has been one of the driving forces to define and explore the Small Lot Subdivision (SLSD) in Los Angeles. They have been asked many cities to assist them in writing similar planning zoning subsets - including my area here in San Diego.

A friend of mine recently worked for them but now is working for one of the developers who was a client of Modative. From what I understand there has been some push back from the public regarding the impact these SLSD have imposed on the neighbors. Not sure what has happened with that but just beware and do your own research.

Personally, I am a big fan of this zoning niche and will see it being pushed further in Los Angeles but in other parts of the country as they will want to push density higher in specific areas. I would contact Modative regarding the HOA issues as my friend Jesse told me how they get around this and it requires some specific deeding and work with the CA department of RE.

Chad Conrad, AIA

@Chris Caparro

All of the above advice and info is sound. I have my first small lot project in planning right now and have done studies on countless others. Feel free to PM me with any questions.

Also check out HeyDay, they are developer/ architects and have been doing small lots for some time.

Best of luck,


I have been hearing about more of these being developed in L.A . I'm wondering how you are all doing with your projects as it sounded like several of you were in the process of developing small lot subdivision projects in L.A

@Joshua McGinnis  @Allan Glass  @Tavi Perttula

Anyone else? 

It would be great to hear some updates! 

Joseph NA

We have sold one project pre-development to an affordable housing developer.  The site is right on a transit stop and better suited for higher densite.  64 apartment units vs. the 13 townhomes we could have built.

Second project is currently under design in the mid cities / West Adams area of Los Angeles.  We expect to build 8 units on the site.  Expect to break ground by end of 2015.

We are under contract for out third project in the Melrose area, and if all goes well expect to close within 60 days and begin design for 2 side by side live/work townhomes.

Good luck to the rest of you!


@Allan Glass

 I hope you'll post it on the Investor Deal Diaries Forum. I'd love to see your plans, etc. The project with 8 units, how big is the lot? Costs for the land, development, etc.? Both of those projects sound interesting, and I'd love to see them progress. Good luck.

@Allan Glass,

How are you comping the units with regard to exit value? Do you use single family comps? Townhouse/Condo comps? A hybrid model? 

I'm crunching numbers on a potential 4 unit site near Hancock Park - a wealthy Los Angeles submarket for all you non-locals - and would be interested to get your insights. 

Thank you.


PS - Revisiting your podcast this evening. Great stuff!

Hi @Anthony E Russell

There are several small lot comps to give us direction, none I can think of in Hancock Park, but several in areas surrounding that should give you some direction.

My position is that they will sell somewhere between the condo values and SFR values for the area.

Good luck!


@Allan Glass

Thank you for all of your input. I'm no noob when it comes to SFR as I flipped a few houses over the last 2 years, but I am noob when it comes to development of these. I have tied up an 8,100 SF lot in Hancock Park zoned RD1.5. I have also received confirmation from 2 separate architects that I can build 4 units easily, with a potential of a 5th. Luckily there is no historical preservation ordinance on this lot.

I guess my first question is, how do you know you should go forward and purchase a lot that you can SLS?  Do you first contact your architect to see what is feasible?  I know with time you will be able to roughly estimate on your own, but for someone like me at the beginning, where do you begin?

With this said, I have 2 potential contractors lined up for this project, but I really don't know where to start when it comes to the entire process and costs of professionals.  I have not spoken to Modative yet, but the other architectural groups have quoted about $90,000 for taking me through Entitlement Docs (will attend only one meeting with City Planning, Community, and Neighborhood Council), Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Docs, and Plan Check.  Bidding and Construction Observation and Admin is billed at an hourly rate.  To me this seems very pricey, almost $15/sf on build-able area.  Having some commercial development experience, I recall my firm was paying somewhere between $5-$8/sf.   What are your thoughts on this?  Is this in line with what you pay for these services?  Not to forget, this isn't even covering the fees and costs with the city (which I can only guess and have no guidance) or any professional services such as structural engineers, MEP engineers, Geotechnical engineers, surveyor, waterproofing and kitchen consultants.

Any guidance from anyone would be greatly appreciated.  I have  nothing to benchmark the process, costs and pricing of things against so if anyone is willing to share a model breaking out soft and hard costs associated with a project like this, I would be forever grateful and in debt to you.

- Justin

Hello Everyone,

I am noticing all the areas and locales where these small lot subdivisions are popping up. I have a few questions. The first question is "What about the current renters and tenants, where are they going to be relocated to?" Second "Do these subdivisions have to be new builds or can you add to lots with existing structures on the land?" 

Good Luck to all of you wealthy developers out there


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