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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Eureka, California are fairly perplexing, 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. Usually, towns or cities are segmented off into "zones," each one being designated for a specific type of use. Examples of typical zoning categories are single family residence, commercial, multi-unit housing, or industrial.

Local governments have numerous different reasons for enacting zoning laws, ranging from ensuring that residential areas are peaceful and quiet, to safeguarding property values. For instance, 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 don't exist just to protect residential use - it also protects people who engage in other types of use of land, by making sure that they are able to do their business, without bothering neighboring landowners, and thereby preventing legal disputes.

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

Suppose you find that some condition on your land is in violation of Eureka, California's zoning laws. In cases like this, you have quite a few avenues.

First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very significant, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.

Of course, just fixing a zoning violation isn't always affordable or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For instance, you might have just undertaken a significant remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Eureka, California's zoning laws. If this happens to you, you can apply to your local zoning board for what's known as a "variance." This is simply a decree by the zoning board that the particular rule your property violates no longer applies. The Supreme Court has held that local zoning boards have to grant variances when the violation is very minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

Also, if the zoning laws governing your property have changed, and some aspect of it is now violating the new rules, these changes can generally not be enforced against you, because it would be unfair to apply a new law retroactively.

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How Can a Eureka, California Attorney Help?

If you suddenly become involved in a zoning dispute with your local government, it's essential to seek competent legal representation. The counsel of an experienced Eureka, California real estate attorney can make it much easier for you to act within the law to use your own property as you wish, or at least be as free as possible to make improvements to your land.

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