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How do I find my zoning in:

San Diego, CA

This is a guide to help those who wish to find the zoning information for a particular property in San Diego by themselves.

 

It’s helpful to have a guide to make sure you are getting up-to-date, authoritative, and complete zoning information possible. That is what we are providing here. 

Essentially, there are 3 ways to find the zoning information you need to start any design, construction, or land valuation work. 

  1. Hire a local professional (i.e., architect, contractor, land-use attorney)

  2. Use UrbanForm

  3. Do it yourself

 

There are valid reasons to do any of the above. Depending on how you value your time, your pre-existing familiarity with the codes, and other factors, one or another method may be best for any given set of circumstances.

There are many for whom doing it themselves may be their best option.

This guide is for those who wish to figure out how best to get the zoning information they need in San Diego, California. Please continue reading below. 

Guide Outline

This Guide to San Diego zoning is organized into 5 sections to help you source, gather, and understand the zoning. 

Use the links here to skip to any particular section, or the button to go back to the very beginning.

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

1. Jurisdictions

Screenshot 2023-08-01 170738.png

The City of San Diego is part of the San Diego-Carlsbad MSA and is entirely located within San Diego County in California.

 

From Wikipedia: “With a population of over 1.3 million residents, the city is the eighth-most populous in the United States and the second-most populous in California. The city is located immediately adjacent to the Mexico–United States border and is the seat of San Diego County, which has a population of nearly 3.3 million people as of 2021.”

 

For UrbanForm, we are only concerned with properties within the City of San Diego boundaries, where the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) has authority.

Guide Outline

This Guide to San Diego zoning is organized into 5 sections to help you source, gather, and understand the zoning. 

Use the links here to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning.

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

2. Sources

The City of San Diego’s Development Services department provides a good website where access and links to zoning maps, codes and regulations, permit applications, as well as other building information can be found.

 

The site is located at: https://www.sandiego.gov/development-services/zoning

The City of San Diego provides an official (though disclaimed) webapp GIS viewer called ZAPP (Zoning and Parcel Information Portal) where you can find parcel information.

 

This map is searchable by address or APN (unique parcel identification number) or by navigating through the map with your mouse.

 

Parcel outlines, zoning outlines, and a rough street map and aerial map are provided as layers, and once a specific parcel has been selected, information pertaining to zoning designation, overlays, planning areas, and other locations specifics can be found such as Environmentally Sensitive Lands, Historic and Cultural designations, and Airport and other Transit overlays.

 

The site can be found at: Zoning and Parcel Information Portal (ZAPP) (arcgis.com)

 

What this site omits, of course, is any further information pertaining to development regulations. For those, you will need to go into the zoning code text.

The zoning code text itself is contained within the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) within the Office of the City Clerk, located here:

Municipal Code | Office of the City Clerk | City of San Diego Official Website

 

Chapters pertaining to land-use, development, and zoning are found in Chapters 10-15.

 

For most base zones, Chapter 13 will be the most relevant, though additional important regulations are found in other Chapters as well.

In San Diego, SanGIS provides the best source for GIS data. The site is located here: https://www.sangis.org/

 

This is a good single, authoritative source for GIS data, formed as a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego to provide the San Diego region with a single source of reliable GIS data free for public use.

 

There is a good guide to all available layers under the Download Data tab: Download Data | SanGIS Website (arcgis.com)

Guide Outline

This Guide to San Diego zoning is organized into 5 sections to help you source, gather, and understand the zoning. 

Use the links here to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning.

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

3. Zoning

  • Open Space Base Zones

    • OP

    • OC

    • OF

    • OS

    • Found in Chapter 13, Article 01, Division 02

  • Agricultural Base Zones

    • AG

    • AR

    • Found in Chapter 13, Article 01, Division 03

  • Residential Base Zones

    • RE

    • RS

    • RX

    • RT

    • RM

    • Found in Chapter 13, Article 01, Division 04

  • Commercial Base Zones

    • CN

    • CR

    • CO

    • CV

    • CP

    • CC

    • Found in Chapter 13, Article 01, Division 05

  • Industrial Base Zones

    • IP

    • IL

    • IH

    • IS

    • IBT

    • Found in Chapter 13, Article 01, Division 06

  • Mixed-Use Base Zones

    • RMX

    • EMX

    • Found in Chapter 13, Article 01, Division 07

  • Planned District Ordinance Zones

    • Zones not listed above

    • Found in Chapter 15

Zone names or zoning designations often are the key to understanding the structure and organization of the zoning code text. Because of that, it can often make sense to understand how zones are named first.

 

For San Diego, the zone categories, base zone names, and where the regulations pertaining to those designations can be found are as shown above.  

 

It is important to note that additional regulations that supercede or modify the underlying base zone designations are often found elsewhere in the SDMC, such as the important recent regulations in effect under the Complete Communities Housing Solutions Act, found in Chapter 14, Article 3, Division 10: http://docs.sandiego.gov/municode/MuniCodeChapter14/Ch14Art03Division10.pdf

Actual zone designations may still need a bit of deciphering. For instance, you will find zone designations such as RS-1-2 or CUPD-CT-3-3. Here’s how to understand those names.

 

In San Diego, the first set of letters in a zone designation pertain either to the Base Zone category (found in Chapter 13) or to the Planned Districts (found in Chapter 15).

 

Any numbers found following a Base Zone designation are a particular category within that Base Zone; any letters or numbers following a Planned District designation are further subdistricts within that Planned District.

  • San Diego Planned Districts:

  • BLPD: Barrio Logan

  • CCPD: Centre City Planned District

  • CSPD: Cass Street

  • CUPD: Central Urbanized Planned District

  • CVPD: Carmel Valley

  • GQPD-GASLAMP-QTR: Gaslamp Quarter

  • LJPD: La Jolla

  • LJSPD: La Jolla Shores

  • Marina (repealed 2019)

  • Mid-City (repealed 2016)

  • MBPD: Mission Beach

  • Mission Valley (repealed 2019)

  • OTCC: Old Town San Diego - Commercial Zones

  • OTMCR: Old Town San Diego - Commercial Zones

  • OTOP: Old Town San Diego - Open Space Park Zones

  • OTRM: Old Town San Diego - Residential - Multiple Unit

  • OTRS: Old Town San Diego - Residential - Single Unit

  • San Ysidro (repealed 2016)

  • Southeastern San Diego (repealed 2016)

  • West Lewis (repealed 2016)

Here is a list of Planned Districts in San Diego and their zone designation bases.

 

For any and all of these, the building regulations and development standards can be found in Chapter 15 of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC).

The city of San Diego provides a very brief guide to gathering zoning information, as seen above. Essentially: 1) find the zoning designation that pertains to a property in question, then 2) go to the code text.

 

What this guide omits is the need to review the regulations that pertain to any overlays that may be applicable (Chapter 13, Article 2), as well as any other important modifying regulations (primarily Chapters 14 and 15). 

 

Those additional steps are certainly required to gain a complete picture of development potential and building regulations for any site within the City of San Diego.

San Diego’s Municipal Code is maintained as PDFs on the governmental website.

 

Each PDF contains one single Division within an Article within a Chapter.

 

As seen in A above, page footers within each PDF show the Chapter, Article, Division, and page number.

 

As seen in B above, section markers (e.g., §131.0201) indicate the Chapter, Article, Division, and Section (§) of the text.

 

For UrbanForm, we reference the appropriate section using the same annotation style as the SDMC (e.g., 131.0201). For ease of display across multiple screen formats and data types, we omit the specialized section character (§).

San Diego also has a set of special zones, or districts on top of (overlaid upon) the Base Zone designations.

 

They either modify or completely supersede the regulations in the Base Zone.

 

Generally, these are referred to as overlays, and they are best found while searching the maps. 

 

For San Diego, many of these can be found in ZAPP, and the corresponding regulations in Chapter 13 Article 2, and in Chapter 14.

Summary of basic steps for gathering zoning information in San Diego:

 

  1. Decipher the zoning designation name

  2. Identify the base zone category

  3. Identify any overlays or location modifiers

  4. Read through the zoning text, starting at the base zone category (Chapter 13) 

  5. Read through the zoning text for the overlays zone districts (Chapter 13, Article 2)

  6. Read through the modifying regulations (Chapters 14 and 15)

After you've understood the jurisdictions and made sure you have found the right sources for information, the above are the next basic steps for gathering zoning information.

Guide Outline

This Guide to San Diego zoning is organized into 5 sections to help you source, gather, and understand the zoning. 

Use the links here to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning.

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

4. Additional Considerations

An important zoning incentive to be aware of is San Diego’s Complete Communities Housing Solutions Act, which “is an optional affordable housing incentive program aimed at encouraging the building of homes near high-frequency transit. The focus is intended to create a variety of housing options for everyone, particularly those at low and middle-income levels.  These incentives include investments in neighborhood amenities, such as pocket parks and plazas, as well as the preservation of existing affordable housing units. General Regulations for Complete Communities Housing Solutions can be found in San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 14, Article 3, Division 10.”

 

Discovering if your property is within one of the designated areas and qualifies for some of the incentives can completely alter the development potential for a property.

Guide Outline

This Guide to San Diego zoning is organized into 5 sections to help you source, gather, and understand the zoning. 

Use the links here to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning.

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

5. Document clearly the information and sources you've researched. 

Once you've determined the correct jurisdiction, the right sources of information, gotten a general understanding of the structure of the zoning, found the maps, and identified all relevant base zone code designations as well as overlays, plan districts, and other location information, and read through the zoning code to identify the relevant parts, you now need to make sure you can reference this information easily. 

Zoning information needs to be studied, communicated to others, verified it with others, and used to justify your work. So the documentation of the zoning information you've researched is extremely important. 

This no small task, and the one that will save you the most time if you do it properly. 

Professionals often develop their own internal spreadsheets and documents to guide them through this process for each jurisdiction. This should be a part of their internal operations that help them create efficient professional processes. 

But the basic task is the same in any such process:

  1. identify the relevant information,

  2. write it down somewhere, and

  3. note the sources. 

Everything in this guide up until this point was just about accomplishing task number 1 above; each person will have their own preferred way of doing numbers 2 and 3. 

For San Diego, it's helpful to keep in mind the format structure of the Municipal Code, as that is how the source location should be noted for easy reference. 

As seen in A above, page footers within each PDF show the Chapter, Article, Division, and page number.

 

As seen in B above, section markers (e.g., §131.0201) indicate the Chapter, Article, Division, and Section (§) of the text.

Once this has been accomplished, then you've successfully found the zoning information for a single property. Congratulations!

Based on surveys with UrbanForm customers, and from our own professional experience, we've found that this process takes between 3-4 hours for someone with decades of experience in that particular jurisdiction, to 2-3 weeks for someone who is doing it for the first time. For an average professional, the median seems to be about 12 hours allotted to the process of acquiring zoning information. 

It's worth noting at this point that this entire process is exactly what UrbanForm has automated. In under 20 seconds, the entire process detailed above can be completed by using UrbanForm. 

We understand that there are times when the old-fashioned, manual way of acquiring zoning information may be the most suitable. UrbanForm was developed as an alternative.  

Also, we understand that the sources are constantly evolving. One of UrbanForm's primary values is continual improvement, so if there is anything that anyone sees which could be improved, we'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment or reach out to us at our contact information below. 

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