Planning Approvals

City Planning is responsible for managing specific development review functions, including the acceptance, review, and processing of project applications. Applications can vary in scale and complexity, depending on the location, scope, and requested entitlements. Project applications typically fall in one of three categories: 1) by-right, 2) ministerial or administrative, or 3) discretionary. Below is a description of each category and the steps applicants generally have to follow during the review process.

By-Right Approvals

If a project meets the standards and zoning regulations in the Zoning Code and does not require additional geographically specific or formal planning approvals, such as Site Plan Review, it is a by-right project. Applicants for by-right projects may proceed directly to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) to request building permits.

Review Process:
  1. Submit building application to LADBS
  2. Receive clearance sign-offs from all relevant City departments
  3. File for building permits from LADBS

Ministerial or Administrative Approvals

Occasionally, a by-right project may require a form of administrative approval from City Planning to demonstrate compliance with certain regulations and/or guidelines. Applicants for these projects will need to file for administrative review at the public counter.

Review Process:
  1. Meet with LADBS to identify relevant zoning regulations
  2. Consult with relevant project planners in City Planning
  3. Obtain sign-off from City Planning for compliance review
  4. File for building permits from LADBS

Discretionary Projects

If a development project is determined not to be in compliance with the Zoning Code, or if its proposed size or use triggers additional review from City Planning, a discretionary entitlement must be filed and approved before the applicant can obtain a building permit.

Before filing, applicants may consult with planners at one of City Planning’s Development Services Centers. Based on the project description, applicants may qualify for the services offered by the Expedited Processing Section.

Review Process:
  1. Schedule a pre-meeting with City Planning's Development Services Centers (optional)
  2. File project application with City Planning for formal review
  3. Obtain a Letter of Determination from City Planning that specifies the outcome of the review process and whether any project entitlements were granted
  4. Obtain condition clearances from City Planning and any other relevant City departments
  5. File for building permits from LADBS

Notice to Land Use Industry Professionals

If you are compensated to interact with the Department of Planning, City law may require you to register as a lobbyist and report your activity. Any individual may qualify as a lobbyist, regardless of occupation, education, training, or professional title. A lobbyist may hold a position that includes but is not limited to attorney, CEO, consultant, architect, engineer, government liaison, business owner, permit applicant, urban planner, expediter, land developer, various real estate specialists, and others.

More information is available on the Ethics Commission’s lobbying page and Influencing Land Use Decisions brochure. For assistance, please contact the Ethics Commission at (213) 978-1960 or


Project Planning Bureau

The Project Planning Bureau is one of the Department's four independent bureaus. It oversees the review of project applications in Los Angeles to ensure that development considerations align with the City’s land use policies. Each division within the Project Planning Bureau contributes to addressing the City’s housing and economic development needs, as well as other land use issues related to residents’s health and well-being, through the review of applications.

Development Services Centers (DSCs)

The public counter at a Development Services Center (DSC) is the first point of consultation for most project applications. In addition to traditional counter functions, such as receiving applications and clearing conditions, City Planning offers specialized services to assist applicants in navigating the entitlement process.


The three GeoTeams are responsible for managing project applications in their assigned geographies. Each GeoTeam is staffed by planners knowledgeable about their assigned neighborhoods and local zoning regulations.

Expedited Processing Section (EPS)

The Expedited Processing Section provides a faster track for qualifying planning applications, reducing the time they take to advance to an initial hearing or decision maker.

Major Projects

Major Projects is responsible for reviewing project-related Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), processing complex land use entitlements, and coordinating public benefits through development agreements for some of the City's most complex planning applications.

Office of Zoning Administration (OZA)

The Office of Zoning Administration (OZA) investigates and reviews quasi-judicial land use entitlement requests. The OZA is responsible for special zoning permits, issuing determinations for zoning variances, many conditional use permits, nuisance abatement, and revocation of planning entitlements, among other items.

Planning 101: Project Planning

"Planning 101: Project Planning" is a webinar for prospective applicants and City residents who want to learn more about the entitlement review process, from the initial filing to the issuance of a building permit.