What is a Zoning Ordinance?

A zoning ordinance, usually part of a city’s municipal code, is a set of regulations that prescribes or restricts what landowners can do with their property.  Zoning is adopted by ordinance and carries the weight of local law (Govt. Code §65850.)  General Law cities, like Temple City, have the constitutional authority to adopt and enforce laws and regulations to promote and support the public health, safety, morals and general welfare (this is known as a city’s “police power”). Zoning provides direction regarding both land use and development standards:


A major component of a zoning ordinance is that it restricts the type of development that may be built.  Examples of uses include single-family residential, multifamily residential, neighborhood commercial, regional commercial, agriculture, mixed use, business park, etc.   Uses are typically either “permitted” in a zone district, which in most cases allows for administrative approval (Community Development Director or designee has approval authority; no hearing required), “conditionally permitted”, (requires a hearing at Planning Commission), or “not permitted”, which prohibits a use in a zone district.

Development Standards

Zoning ordinances identify building setbacks within which any building must fit; this area is commonly referred to as the “building envelope.” The zoning envelope (which may vary from use to use) specifies setbacks, height limits, and sometimes limits on the percentage of a site that may be covered by buildings, other structures, and paving (otherwise known as “Floor Area Ratio” or “FAR”.) Development standards also regulate how a building will perform in the context of its neighborhood, and are designed to ensure the compatibility of new development with adjacent uses.

Relationship to the General Plan

The distribution of residential, commercial, industrial, and other zones in the zoning ordinance is based on the pattern of land uses established by the community’s general plan (because the zoning ordinance implements the goals and policies of the general plan, the two plans must be consistent).  For example: if a general plan designates the land adjacent to a major freeway as Commercial Retail, the zoning ordinance must support this vision by zoning the land for commercial uses, not residential, or agriculture, or any other use that is inconsistent with commercial uses.  One general plan designation may be supported by multiple zone classifications, and even though each zone classification specifies different use and development standard parameters, they all meet the intent of the goals and policies developed for the corresponding land use in the general plan.

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