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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws governing how land can and cannot be used in Bakersfield, California are fairly confusing, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.

"Zoning" is the process by which a local government makes laws determining how individual pieces of land within its jurisdiction can be used. Typically, towns or cities are segmented off into "zones," each one being designated for a specific type of use. Examples of common zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

Local governments have several different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to protecting property values. For example, most people wouldn't buy a home in a neighborhood where they knew it was possible for a neighbor to turn their house into a factory.

Zoning laws usually acknowledge the necessities of things like factories, sewage treatment plants, and stockyards, but recognize that such activities shouldn't be conducted in residential areas.

What if My Property Violates Bakersfield, California's Zoning Laws?

If something on your property is in violation of a Bakersfield, California zoning law, the landowner has various options.

It should be clear, however, that the ideal solution is to simply fix any condition on your property which is in violation of a local zoning law. If the violation is not serious, and correcting it won't considerably interfere with your use of your property, this is probably the best course of action.

However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For example, suppose you have just spent a large amount of money and effort remodeling a house to turn it into your dream home. You thought you were in total compliance with local zoning laws when you did this, but find out that there is some small, technical violation of Bakersfield, California's zoning laws. In these cases, you have recourse in the form of a variance. You are entitled to petition the local zoning board to grant you a variance, which is an official decision not to apply a particular provision of a zoning law to a single violation. These aren't always granted, but usually have to be granted if the violation doesn't interfere with anyone else's use of their property, and doesn't thwart the purposes of local zoning laws.

Additionally, if you have been living on your property for a long time, and made improvements on it that complied with the zoning laws in effect at the time, a new zoning law that would be violated by your current use of your property, the new law cannot be enforced against you. The U.S. Constitution bars the passage of "ex post facto," or retroactive, laws. Once the laws take effect, however, you'll have to comply with the new zoning laws with respect to any new improvements you want to make on your property.

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How Can a Bakersfield, California Attorney Help?

If you want to make improvements to your property, apply for a variance, or contest a zoning regulation as being applied to you retroactively, you have a right to do so, including some constitutional protections. However, your chances of prevailing in a zoning conflict will be markedly improved if you hire an efficient Bakersfield, California real estate attorney to help.

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Life in Bakersfield

Bakersfield, California is a city of over 300,000 people, located in Kern County, roughly at the midpoint between Los Angeles and Fresno. Bakersfield is considered one of the sunniest places in the United States.

Bakersfield, California's economy mostly revolves around oil and agriculture. Its other sectors largely operate in support of those major industries. In fact, Kern County is the most oil-productive county in the U.S. - and is responsible for about 10% of America's domestic oil production. Kern County is also one of the most agriculturally-productive regions in the United States, and is particularly well-suited for growing grapes, citrus fruit, roses, and almonds. Needless to say, Bakersfield is, and will continue to be, a very important part of America's economy.

More recently, however, other industries (such as manufacturing) have moved into Bakersfield, California, thanks to an abundance of inexpensive land.

In addition to the steady economic stimulus provided by industry, Bakersfield, California, has another relatively stable economic lifeline: a large four-year university. California State University, Bakersfield has approximately 7,800 students, from all over California, and the country.

It should go without saying, then, that there is no shortage of Bakersfield, California lawyers. Whatever legal issue you or a loved one might be facing, a Bakersfield, California lawyer can help.

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