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Community Planning – Zoning Community Planning, Zoning Ordinances and State Law

Community Planning – Zoning Community Planning, Zoning Ordinances and State Law

There is a Riverside City zoning ordinance that prohibits medical marijuana dispensary/nurseries on city land. This zoning ordinance appears to be in conflict with two state statutes, the 1966 California Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program. These statutes should protect qualified individuals from prosecution for cultivating medical marijuana and, in theory, protect the owners of the dispensaries from the zoning ban. However, this past May, the California Supreme Court upheld the ban on the dispensaries, declaring that the state statutes do not preempt local bans. Indeed, local zoning classifications, while not completely immutable, are difficult to change. A California land use law firm can help you navigate the complexities of zoning regulations.

Community planning overview

The responsibility of designing a city lies with the city and county. State law provides the broad outlines of that city design, mandating the basic seven considerations that must be incorporated — and the rest is left up to the local planners. Those seven considerations are:

  • “Land use” specifies the density and location of housing, industry, schools, public buildings and waste facilities, among other uses.
  • “Circulation” involves the positioning of public and private transportation facilities, as coordinated with land use.
  • “Housing” assesses the housing needs of all parts of the community, and recites underlying  policies and supporting programs.
  • “Conservation” considers measures to conserve, develop and use local natural resources.
  • “Open-space” seeks to ensure that sufficient space is provided for natural resources, recreation, and health and safety, and identifies agricultural land.
  • “Noise” identifies noise problems and the means to address them.
  • “Safety” provides the means to protect the community from naturally occurring hazards.

This list is not exhaustive — each city or county may include provision for other resources and facilities and emphasize aspects that are important to it, thereby creating a unique local plan.


Zoning essentially divides the locality into usage areas, determining the parameters of the areas designated for industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential uses. Typically, there may be some 20 different zones in a zoning ordinance. The zone describes the use for the particular parcel of land and provides standards relating to the size of the lot, the height of the building and other relevant qualities.  

While it is possible to apply to have a particular parcel rezoned, that procedure can be daunting, requiring a public hearing that is advertised in advance, with due notice given to surrounding property owners. Rezoning requests do not have to be granted. Occasionally, a parcel is subject to two zoning requirements, the primary zoning and additional regulations aimed at meeting the particular circumstances of the area or terrain. If you have a zoning issue, real estate lawyers in Riverside County, CA can assist you.

The firm of Schlecht, Shevlin & Shoenberger, A Law Corporation, has extensive experience handling land use issues and understands local land use laws. The firm is familiar with the officials who administer these laws and has successfully represented clients in many cities and counties in California. Work with a firm that can provide the expertise and assistance you need — work with Schlecht, Shevlin & Shoenberger.

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