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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California
The laws controlling how land can and cannot be used in Riverside, California are fairly complicated, and can be confusing to laypersons. This should provide a basic overview.
Local governments will typically divide the city or town into sections, called "zones," each of which is designated for a specific use, such as residential homes, commercial businesses, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. This process is known as "zoning."
Zoning serves various different purposes - but it its general 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 just convert his property into a steel mill, your property's value as a residential lot would decrease considerably.
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 various legal disputes that would be inevitable if they were closer to a residential area.
What if My Property Violates Riverside, California's Zoning Laws?
Zoning laws are frequently quite extensive and meticulous, and it's quite possible that your property in Riverside, California contains some minor zoning violation that you don't know about. If this happens to you, you have substantial legal protections.
First of all, and most simply, the owner could just fix the violation. If the violation isn't very substantial, and fixing it wouldn't cost very much, this is likely the best and simplest option.
However, it isn't always practical or affordable to correct a minor violation of a zoning law. For instance, 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 Riverside, 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 certain 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.
You also have substantial protections if a zoning law changes, and you find that the land you've been living on for years is suddenly in violation of the new law. In general, zoning laws cannot apply to structures and uses which were built or commenced before the law was changed. Under the U.S. Constitution, it's not permissible for state or local governments to pass laws which have retroactive effect. You should know, however, that any future changes you make to your property will have to comply with the new zoning law.
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How Can a Riverside, California Attorney Help?
If you are in the early stages of a major construction or remodeling project on your property, particularly if it is in a residential area (where zoning laws tend to be most restrictive), you are likely to confront one zoning law issue or another. Of course, having read this article, you should now be aware that you have rights when it comes to contesting a zoning law as applied to you. While such contests do not always come out on the side of the landowner, the guidance of a reliable Riverside, California real estate attorney will greatly improve one's chances.
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Life in Riverside
The City of Riverside is unsurprisingly the seat of Riverside County and home to numerous historical, cultural, and educational institutions. In fact, Riverside is called the "City of Arts and Innovation." The Fox Performing Arts Center is better known as the "Fox Theater" is best known for being the location for the first theater preview screening of the American Classic "Gone with the Wind." The Fox Theater was recently restored and reopened for a sold out Sheryl Crow concert. It's located in downtown near the California Museum of Photography, which boasts the most comprehensive photographic collection west of the Mississippi. The Riverside County Historic Courthouse is a historical and architectural attraction built in the "beaux arts" style. There are also a number of Queen Anne style homes in Riverside's Historic District.
Annual visitors come to Riverside for events like the Riverside International Film Festival, Riverside Air Show, and the Riverside Dickens Festival that campaigns for literary and community awareness. Other seasonal visitors include students attending the nearby institutions of higher education like nearby University of California at Riverside. UC Riverside is also the largest employer in the city with over 7,100 faculty and staff. California Baptist College, California Southern Law School, Riverside City College, and La Sierra University round out the other major colleges in Riverside. There are also a number of important courts in Riverside like the United States District Court, US Bankruptcy Court for Central California, Riverside Superior Court, and California Court of Appeals. You might guess there would be a number of knowledgeable lawyers in the area as well. Bakersfield actually offers a number of lawyers who specialize in more than Criminal, Bankruptcy, and Immigration cases. The bustling film industry in Riverside has brought a number entertainment and contract related lawyers to the city.