Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

CPC, GPA, CPIO, HPOZ . . .  what two things do these acronyms have in common? If you are a planning nerd like we are, they could randomly appear in a bowl of alphabet soup. Okay, so maybe that was a stretch. For the rest of you, they are examples of the Planning Department’s most frequently used acronyms in planning and zoning!

Having to decipher a multitude of acronyms doesn’t help the already confusing process of dealing with the City’s Zoning Code. Not to worry! The re:code LA team is here to make a few letter combinations of this alphabet soup more palatable and easily digestible.

Out of the 100-plus acronyms used by the Planning Department (really, there’s a whole list), we’ve selected and included brief explanations of the 21acronyms most helpful in understanding planning jargon and our work with the Zoning Code.


CDO in soup InitialsCommunity Design Overlay District

An overlay district with the purpose of assuring that development within communities is in accordance with community design policies adopted in the Community Plans, and with the Community Design Guidelines and Standards. Applicants for projects within a CDO are required to submit proposed design overlay plans and for approval before construction can begin. For more information, see Section 13.08 of the LAMC.


NOTE: If you don't know how to navigate the Zoning Code, check out this Citation Guide to learn how to find what you're looking for.  For example, to find the Code provision referenced above you would go to Chapter 1, Article 3, Section 13.08 of the LAMC.


CPC alphabet soup initialsCity Planning Commission

A citizen board composed of nine members who are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council. CPC is responsible for giving advice and making recommendations to the Mayor, Council, Director of Planning, and other City departments and agencies with respect to zoning ordinances, amendments to the General Plan and related activities, including legislation. The CPC studies planning policy and makes reports and recommendations to other governmental officers or agencies, as necessary, to implement and secure compliance with the General Plan; and performs other functions prescribed by the Charter or by ordinance. The CPC holds public hearings to hear evidence that forms the basis of its decisions.


CPIO soup initialsCommunity Plan Implementation Overlay

An overlay intended to provide for supplemental development regulations tailored to each community plan area to ensure that development enhances the unique architectural, environmental, and cultural qualities of each community plan area. The CPIO integrates improvements and enhancements to the public right-of-way and maintains compatible land uses, scale, intensity, and density. It also creates an approval process to enable infill development that will positively impact communities. For more information, see Section 13.14 of the LAMC.


CPU soup initialsCommunity Plan Update

An update to one of the City’s 35 Community Plans, which together make up the Land Use Element of the City’s General Plan.


CU soup initialsConditional Use (sometimes referred to as CUPs, or Conditional Use Permits)

A use that is not allowed as a matter of right within a zoning district, but can be allowed to operate when the appropriate conditions are in place. These conditions are put in place to assure that the activity will enhance the surrounding neighborhood, be compatible with the surrounding activities, and conform to the General Plan and any other applicable plans. For more information, see Section 12.24 of the LAMC.


letter D soup initialDevelopment Limitations

Provisions made in an ordinance establishing or changing any Height District so that a building or structure may: 1) be built to a specific maximum height or floor area ratio less than that ordinarily permitted in the particular height district classification, 2) cover only a fixed percentage of the area of the lot, 3) be set back in addition to setbacks otherwise required by the Code. For more information, see Section 12.32 G.4 of the LAMC.


DRB soup initialDesign Review Board

A citizen committee  with the role of evaluating the placement of mass, form, spatial elements and overall quality of the design of proposed projects based on defined objectives established in specific plans. A DRB should assist the City decision-makers, the community, private developers, property owners, and design professionals in implementing the design goals of communities contained within specific plan boundaries. For more information, see Section 16.50 of the LAMC.


FARFloor Area Ratio

FAR establishes a relationship between the land area of a property and the amount of development permitted for that property, and is usually expressed as a percentage or a ratio of the buildable area or lot size. For example, “three times the Buildable Area” or “3:1” or 50% of the Lot Size. For more information see Section 12.03 of the LAMC.


GPAGeneral Plan Amendment

An amendment to the City’s General Plan, a document which serves as the foundation for all land use decisions. An amendment can be initiated by the City Council, City Planning Commission, or the Director of Planning. For more information, see Section 555 of the City’s Charter.


HDHeight District

Each lot in the City has a corresponding Height District designation that regulates and restricts the height and floor area of buildings and structures. It is usually the number following the zone of the property; example: C2-1. For more information, see Section 12.21.1 of the LAMC.


HPOZHistoric Preservation Overlay Zone

An overlay zone with the purpose of protecting and enhancing the use of buildings, structures, natural features, and areas that are reminders of the City's history, are unique and irreplaceable assets to the City and its neighborhoods, or are worthy examples of past architectural styles. For more information, see Section 12.20.3 of the LAMC.


LAMCLos Angeles Municipal Code

The First Edition of the Municipal Code of the City of Los Angeles, which became effective in 1936, codified the regulatory and penal ordinances of the City. The City currently uses the Sixth Edition, which was published in 2002 and has been maintained up-to-date by the incorporation of subsequently published revision packages. The LAMC assists City offices, departments and other governmental agencies in their functions, and is the public’s official source of information regarding regulations enacted by the City of Los Angeles for the preservation of public peace, health and safety. Chapter 1 contains the City’s Zoning Code. For more information, see the Foreword to the LAMC.


PLUMPlanning and Land Use Management Committee

PLUM serves as the City Council’s preliminary forum for a variety of planning related issues. Members are appointed by the President of City Council, with one Council member assigned as Chair of the Committee and another designated as Vice Chair. 


PODPedestrian Oriented District

Districts in commercially zoned areas aiming to preserve and enhance existing areas or create new areas where pedestrian activities are common, to encourage people to walk and shop in areas near their workplaces and/or residences. This reduces multiple automobile trips, reinforces and stimulates high quality future development compatible with pedestrian uses, and reflects the characteristics of a particular area. For more information, see Section 13.07 of the LAMC.


QQualified Conditions

In certain zone or height district change cases, Q Conditions may be made in a zoning ordinance that the property not be utilized for all the uses ordinarily permitted in a particular zone classification and/or that the development of the site shall conform to certain specified standards. Qs are established if the limitations are deemed necessary to protect the best interests of and to assure a development more compatible with the surrounding property or neighborhood, to secure an appropriate development in harmony with the objectives of the General Plan, or to prevent or mitigate potential adverse environmental effects of the zone change. These Qs are normally temporary, but can be made permanent if the Council so determines. For more information, see Sections 12.32 G.3 and G.4 of the LAMC.


TODTransit Oriented Development 

Development with the goal of supporting compact, walkable communities that are centered around transit stations.


TNPTransit Neighborhood Plan

A plan that incorporates design and development standards for both the public (i.e. streetscape, right-of-way) and private (i.e. building design, parking) realms with the intent of facilitating increased transit ridership, encouraging pedestrian-friendly features, and supporting vibrant neighborhoods around transit stations.


ZAZoning Administrator

The Zoning Administrator, or Office of Zoning Administration, is a quasi-judicial agency authorized by the City Charter and is responsible for investigating and making determinations on all applications for variances from zoning ordinances, many conditional uses, and other special zoning permits.


ZADZoning Administrator Determination

A discretionary action to permit specified uses in specified zones with conditions. It is similar to a CUP, except only adjacent owners get notified (as opposed to a 500-foot radius for CUPs) and the public hearing can be waived with neighbor approval (hearings are mandatory for CUPs and projects in the Single-Family Zones in Hillside Areas). For more information, see Section 12.24 of the LAMC.


ZAIZoning Administrator Interpretation

A formal interpretation of the Zoning Code by the Zoning Administrator intended to clarify existing regulations for either a particular piece of property (site specific) or the City as a whole (citywide). These are usually requested because of unforeseen circumstances.


ZIMASZone Information and Map Access System

ZIMAS, is an online system that displays the zoning information of parcels within the City of Los Angeles.