OK, who are my CA zoning specialist ? Value add Questions here...

7 Replies

so i am interested in buying a 1-4 unit property in so cal and or surrounding. 

credit is great now but id like a "sleeper" or "value add" play. 

I'm mostly curious on what the simple "back of the napkin" formula to be able to understand  zoning and development potential just from looking at these codes quickly. 

as of now i google the city zoning map PDF and just use the legend to see if the parcel i'm looking at is RES or LR2 and all i know is that LR2 and LR3 mean the following: 

LR2 : more that one unit 

LR3 : a lot of units maybe 5-12 

so what im asking is does anyone know a quick rule of thumb like building height / car parking space. 

FYI: my interest is to get a property that has a unit or 2 or 3  that aren't incorporated. reason being is that the listing or sale price will not reflect the full potential of the property yet renting as is should be more simple than waiting for my Los Angeles market to cool off before i buy my first owner occupied investment property. Also if i am not mistaken i can also use CalHFA and Zip / CHDAP downpayment assistance programs having my skin in the game very  minimal. 

please don't bash me too hard or discourage me too much, those of you who go too straight edge and by the books frowning at anything that is not 100% permitted or those of you who have the portfolio and income to turn down and scoff at these "garbage properties. i don't currently have that luxury and i'm will to get in and grind so i can have more free time to make a full career transition into Real estate. 

Thanx in advance all BP'ers  

You need to spend a lot of time getting familiar with the cities zoning and development standards. All the answers you need are in there. Print out a copy of everything for a three ring binder and then mark it up, with tabs on the pages you use a lot.

You need to be familiar with permitted uses, setbacks, parking, etc. This is one of the most important steps in the due diligence process.

Also, be aware that this is a land development strategy and it may take years to come to fruition.

I have some good contact for you very hard to navigate but very rewarding if done right.you may pm me.

Its a very sticky question and cannot have a "back of the napkin formula" unless there is a very similar building that is very close to the property that you can reference on and you're going to be using the same construction type. Even then, you still need a professional to review the situation. 

Zoning can only tell you part of it in terms of the height and parking. Other factors that can dictate how high the building can be are: 1.) the neighborhood regulation, certain areas or certain neighbors can impose height limitations way below than what the building code dictates. 2.) Building codes like california bldng/residential code or whatever the state you are in is using. 3.) Type of construction ei wood, masonry or steel frame. 4.) What type of fire suppression system you have. Sprinkler system or non? Which can definitely affect it significantly. 5.) Part of the zoning would be the lot's FAR - floor area ratio and lot coverage percentage. How much square footage of the bld'g vs the lot you can build on which can affect not only the height of the building but the unit sizes etc.

These are just the things I can think of on top of my head. I'm sure there are other things.

With regards to parking spaces, there are also many factors that will affect it. I wont expand on these but: bldg codes, zoning, ada regulations (disabled parking), etc. to name a few.

Bottomline is that you need professional guidance to help you with this.

Now having said that, I hope I didn't discourage you in anyway. Its just things to think about before going into something as development.

Although if I were to go this route, (which I did explore before), I would look for a property zoned for multi-family residential which has only a single family residential or maybe duplex as long as its an under utilized lot (pretty much what you're doing), then ask the bld'g dept. the property's FAR, figure out how much sq.ft. I can build, then divide that total sq.ft by each unit's sq.ft. (ex: total sq.ft. you can build is 10,000sf and you want 3 bdrm units with 1,000sf each. So if you do the math its 10,000÷1,000=10 3bdrm units.), ask if there is any specific rule for that particular area (height, # of units etc.). With this you can kind of gauge the future potential of the property.

I hope this helps and good luck. 

@Jo-Ann Lapin   PM'd you.

@Seth Borman thats a good idea. i would not mind investing in a note book for the couple of cities i am working in. 

Awesome @James Amon info noted. What is the professionals title who helps with this? is it the one who draws up plans? 

The issue is every city is different. They LR2 might be for one city but the next city could say “I have no clue what that is”. Code might be 50% the same so you need to work that other 50% through research and reading city specific codes.

I agree. The designation is different every city so its probably best to focus on one city at the beginning.

@Christopher Abernathy An architect can help you navigate through this. Look for one who has experience with local multifamily housing projects or whatever type of project you're doing. They will be more familiar with local issues and knows how the bldg dept works very well.

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