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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

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

Local governments will normally divide the city or town into sections, called "zones," each of which is designated for a particular use, such as residential homes, commercial businesses, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. This process is known as "zoning."

Zoning serves many different purposes - but it its basic one is to increase or preserve property values by ensuring that conflicting uses don't result in legal disputes. Obviously, if you bought a house in a residential neighborhood, and your neighbor could simply convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease substantially.

While zoning laws appear to be geared just toward protecting residents, they also protect industry, by ensuring that they are free to conduct their business without getting caught up in the several legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.

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

If a condition on your property violates the local zoning laws of Oakland, California, there are a few different solutions.

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

Of course, simply fixing a zoning violation isn't always modest or easy, and may interfere with your planned use of your property. For example, you might have just undertaken a considerable remodeling of your home, and later found out that some small part of it technically doesn't conform to Oakland, 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 extremely minor, and enforcing the ordinance would be unduly burdensome and not in the public interest.

You are also protected if your land is currently in full compliance with local zoning regulations, but the area where your land sits is re-zoned, and your property is suddenly not in compliance with the new zoning regulations. Typically, these new regulations cannot be used to force you to change existing conditions on your property. No laws can be applied retroactively, under the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you make any improvements on your land after the law changes, you'll have to comply with the new law.

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How Can a Oakland, 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 disagreement will be markedly improved if you hire an accomplished Oakland, California real estate attorney to help.

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Life in Oakland

Oakland is a San Francisco Bay Area city and major West Coast port. During the 1940s the Port of Oakland provided a bustling war industry that attracted many residents from the Deep South who were looking for work. Oakland home to seven major companies who are also major local employers: Kaiser Permanente, Clorox, Dreyer's, Cost Plus, Ask.com, and Pandora Radio to name a few. Oakland is also home to the Oakland International Airport, a major United States Postal Service center, FedEx, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Southwest Airline who each employ over 4,000 employees. Some San Francisco and Silicon Valley professionals opt to live in Oakland because the cost of living is much lower and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) options make it cheap to commute. Drivers use the Bay Bridge for nearest access to the peninsula.

Oakland is one of the most Diverse Alameda County cities with annual parades and celebrations. Some of that diversity can be attributed to the major universities and colleges in Oakland. California College of the Arts, Mills college, Holy Names University, Patten University, and University of California Berkeley all have installations in Oakland. Historic attractions like Jack London Square, Oakland Zoo, Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, the USS Potomac (President Roosevelt's Yacht), and the famous Fox Theater draw visitors from near and far.

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