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Land Use, Zoning and Planning Law in California

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

Local governments will usually 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 several 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 significantly.

Zoning also serves the interests of industry, as well as residents. By ensuring that there are places where heavy industry can take place, well-planned zoning regulations will ensure that industrialists are free to practice their trade, and that residents will not be disturbed by those activities, which makes industry more useful by helping it prevent costly nuisance lawsuits.

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

You have quite a few options if you find that a planned or prevailing use of your property breaks Signal Hill, California's zoning regulations.

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.

What if, however, you've invested a significant amount of time and money into making an improvement on your property, only to find that it breaks your local zoning laws in some minor way? In this case, you can apply for a variance. This is essentially an exception to the zoning rules. If declining to enforce these rules would not harm anyone, and would not do much to advance the purpose of Signal Hill, California's zoning laws, a variance will usually be granted.

You are also protected if your land is currently in complete 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. Generally, these new regulations cannot be utilized 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 Signal Hill, 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 Signal Hill, 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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