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Understanding R1 Zoning

About this post: R1 zoning, also known as single-family residential zoning, is a land use designation that restricts the use of properties to single-family homes.

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Embarking on a real estate or construction project involves navigating a myriad of regulations, and one critical aspect is understanding a city’s zoning code. In this series, we’ll delve into the intricacies of zoning, starting with residential zoning in the City of Los Angeles—in particular, R1.

R1 zoning, often designated for residential areas, is crucial in dictating the type and scale of construction allowed in a particular location. The “R” stands for residential, and within this category, R1 zoning is commonly associated with single-family homes. Together, R1 zones cover 16% of the City.

Understanding R1 Zoning

R1 Zoning

In traditional “Euclidean” zoning, the zoning designation specifies which uses are allowed or prohibited and may also outline the size, height, or placement of permitted or prohibited buildings. Zoning is often applied to an area after its development, leading to “non-conforming” uses or structures within a zone. Zoning ordinances typically allow for “variances” to be granted so that non-conforming structures may exist within a zone.

R is such a zoning designation or class, in addition to “A” for Agriculture, “C” for commercial, and ”M” for manufacturing. These classes are further distinguished by number, from R1 to R40, all with their land uses, general development standards, and requirements.

In Los Angeles, R1 zoning is designated for “One-Family Residential” uses. If a property developer tried to build a multifamily apartment building in an R1 Zone, city planning would block their efforts. Once an area is zoned, changing it requires a series of legislative approvals and administrative actions, such as a “zone change” or “change of use”.

Although designated primarily for residential, one-family houses, an R1 zone does not necessarily consist of only one-family houses. Some neighborhoods in R1 zones consist of only one-family houses, but other neighborhoods in R1 zones are a mix of one-family and multi-unit buildings and possibly even other types of uses or structures, depending on the history of construction and the zoning code.

What is allowed in an R1 zone in Los Angeles?

The following permitted uses apply in the “R1” One-Family Zone according to the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC):

  1. One-family dwelling;
  2. Parks, playgrounds, or community centers, owned and operated by a governmental agency;
  3. Truck gardening; the keeping of equines, poultry, rabbits, and chinchillas in conjunction with the residential use of the lot (subject to conditions);
  4. Two-family dwellings on lots having a side lot line adjoining a lot in a commercial or industrial zone, provided that:

    (a) The lot on which the use is located does not extend more than 65 feet from the boundary of the less restrictive zone which it adjoins; and

    (b) There is a minimum lot area of 5,000 square feet for each two-family dwelling;

  5. Conditional uses enumerated in Sec. 12.24 when the location is approved prior;
  6. Accessory buildings, including private garages, accessory living quarters, servant’s quarters, recreation rooms, or private stables (subject to conditions);
  7. Accessory uses and home occupations (subject to conditions); and
  8. Backyard beekeeping, as an accessory use, provided that the activity complies with established performance standard.

More information on R1 conditions of use can be found in section 12.08 of the LAMC.

Zoning regulations also have general development standards that must be adhered to by developers or owners of homes. These standards include:

  • Front Yard requirements
  • Setback requirements
  • Height restrictions
  • Lot Area
  • Maximum Residential Floor Area
  • Parking Requirements

The table below summarizes the R1 General Development Standards for the City of LA as of March 2024.

Max. Height (Stories)Max Height (Feet)Front YardsSide YardsRear YardsMin. AreaParking Required
Unlimited (9)Subject to Height District20% lot depth; 20 ft max., but not less than prevailing*5 ft; or 10% lot
width where lot is < 50 ft wide, not less than 3 ft ; additional 5 ft offset required for side walls >45 ft long & >14 ft high*
15 ft min5,000 sq-ft per lot and per dwelling unit2 covered
spaces per
dwelling unit
(8)

*Height, yard, and parking requirements for single-family dwellings in a designated Hillside Area may differ or be excluded.

In addition to zone class, these standards, height districts, supplemental use districts, and specific plan overlays dictate a land parcel’s use and construction standards.

Height Districts: The height district designation determines the maximum Floor Area Ratio, Residential Floor Area Ratio, and sometimes the number of stories and/or feet. R1-zoned projects are subject to Encroachment Plane (see definition here). Height Districts do not apply to R1 Variation Zones (see below).

Supplemental Use Districts: Supplemental use districts contain additional regulations beyond those required by the base zone regulations, usually to protect or create specific neighborhood characteristics. This includes Sign Districts and Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZ).

R1 Variation Zones

In a diverse city like Los Angeles, different neighborhoods have been subject to multiple layers of overlay zones in an ad hoc manner. This has resulted in various modified R1 zones, each managing change in its way. In 2017, the LA City Council adopted amendments to the Zoning Code to create more tailored development standards for single-family neighborhoods. A new subset of zones within the R1 Zone was created: the R1 Variation Zones.

The R1 Variation Zones incorporate context-sensitive design standards for building coverage and envelope, Floor Area Ratio (FAR), height, and setbacks.

For example, changes to R1 Variation Zones include (not in Non-Hillside Areas in the Coastal Zone):

  • The first 100 sq. ft. of ceilings over 14 feet in height are now counted toward the Residential Floor Area (RFA) calculation.
  • The 250 sq. ft. exemption for covered porches, patios, and breezeways is eliminated.
  • The RFA exemption for front garages is reduced from 400 to 200 sq. ft.
  • The 20% RFA bonus provided to green buildings is eliminated.
  • A public hearing must now take place to grant an additional 10% in RFA in non-Hillside Areas.

R1 Variation Zones are divided into “R1V” Variable-Mass, “R1F” Front-Mass, “R1R” Rear-Mass, and R1H” Hillside. All of the R1 Variation Zones are subject to encroachment plane limits and the side yard plane break/offset requirement for all R1 properties.

Beyond Class-Based Zoning

While R1 zoning is still in effect today, the City of Los Angeles has embarked on the first comprehensive update of its zoning code since 1946: re:code LA. This will revise the existing code for the twenty-first century, making it web-accessible and resolving inconsistencies and ambiguities in the existing code.

It will also move away from traditional zoning classifications such as R1 and create neighborhood-specific typologies that focus on form, mass, and overall customization. You can learn more about these changes and how they will impact residential zoning here.

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