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How to Understand Zoning Laws for Commercial Real Estate


Many would agree that one of the most important elements of any successful business is: location. One of the most important elements of any business location is proper zoning. When considering any piece of commercial real estate for development of use as a commercial tenant, it's vital that you understand zoning laws and how they apply to your business.

  1. Check the Zoning Laws
  2. Know What Zoning Laws are Designed to Do
  3. Know the Factors that Affect Zoning Laws
  4. Know Where to Go for Help

The first thing you need to do when determining if you have found the perfect location for your business is to check the zoning laws. Before you sign a lease or make other commitments to conduct business on any specific property, check the zoning laws pertaining to the parcel of land. Some businesses may be allowed while others are prohibited. In some locations, the zoning board may need additional time to make up their mind. In this case, you may need to put a contingent lease in place. This would protect you from liability in case the zoning laws worked against you.

Zoning laws are intended to prohibit property owners from interfering with each other. Depending upon the use of the property, neighboring properties could become too noise, polluted or disruptive to the neighborhood. Zoning laws are in place to protect against this problem. For example, the existence of a school would prohibit a nightclub from going in next door. A sawmill (noisy industry) wouldn't be zoned in a retail-clothing block. An industrial factory wouldn't be zoned next door to a zoo (the animals could become ill from the runoff, etc.)

There are many factors that affect zoning laws: traffic, parking, signs for advertisement, environmental quality, waste management, the appearance of the business, etc. For instance, in a historic district, the appearance of a business could matter a great deal. Some areas have limitations on the number of businesses allowed per zone (i.e. 2 bars per block, etc.)

If you need assistance in navigating the zoning laws of southern California, contact the experienced real estate and business attorneys at The Law Office of Retz & Aldover LLP.

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