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What should foreign investors know about planning and zoning for commercial mixed-use real estate development and use in the United States?

Seeking particular information for a Chinese-owned development company that plans to open a subsidiary in the United States. We plan to develop a commercial mixed-use property in Southern California.

  • Greenberg Traurig, LLP
    February 09, 2018

    Understanding “as of right” development rights and possible variances or zoning changes to allow increased density or changes in permitted uses are critical to successful development in the US as well as avoiding costly and embarrassing mistakes. The difficulty is that zoning and land use requirements can vary dramatically by jurisdiction and often, only local land use experts in the applicable jurisdiction can advise on what can be developed “as of right” or what variances may be obtained and what the timing and process for that would be. For a ground-up development project in SoCal, the first thing you should do is obtain high-quality land use expertise to inform what the rights and options are. Our firm does have that expertise in Southern California, should that be required.

  • Managing Director, Regent Park Advisors
    February 15, 2018

    We advise people on this on a project by project basis because zoning is location specific in the US.

  • Checkmate Capital
    February 10, 2018

    Zoning rules and restrictions in the U.S. for commercial mixed-use are local matters best handled by a real estate attorney qualified in zoning matters. While I know generally about these matters, it is an essential part of commercial real estate due diligence but without knowing what state and city/municipality the property is located there is not a lot I can speculate about.

  • February 12, 2018

    Planning and zoning involve a lengthy process in the US and each state has its own rules and regulations. California is said to have the most stringent and complicated process in terms of planning and zoning so we normally would suggest Chinese investors as a newcomer shall take on developments that have already entitlement in place in order to avoid potential risks associated with the planning process.

  • SPC Advisors, LLC
    February 13, 2018

    You need to have competent help, both nationally and locally. In addition to any federal issues (possibly environmental or CIFIUS), and state, each locality has specific rules. You need to determine whether the project you want to develop is of right; if not you need advice as to how to best proceed. There are specific requirements regarding landmarks, land near the coast and specific issues for different types of real estate. Development of new projects may require work regarding transportation, access, parking, for example. You need to understand how the new tax rules can be used for your benefit; the specifics of each locality and how to best set up your subsidiary. That will require bringing on qualified advisors.

  • Seyfarth Shaw LLP Real Estate Group
    February 13, 2018

    The first thing to know is that land use rules are both state and local specific. Although there are some common patterns of rules and procedures, they vary in important details depending on the location of the project. Also, there may be a standard set of rules and then an overlay of different procedures and rules depending on some characteristic of the project, for example, its proximity to a lake or ocean or its size. Also, the developer may want to opt into some overlay regulations due to their flexibility or some benefits which may only be available thus. Although less common, federal regulations may also apply. It all depends on the nature of the project and its location.

  • Seyfarth Shaw LLP
    February 16, 2018

    Planning and Zoning is governed by local law and different for each town/city. Zoning regulations address the use of your property, size of the lots, heights of the buildings, etc. A zoning ordinance consists of a map (in which each parcel of land in the town/city is assigned a zoning district) and the zoning regulations (what's allowed in each zoning district and sets forth the requirements for the use, physical layout of buildings, parking and other physical structures and elements on your parcel). Some of these items are permitted "as of right" (the zoning districts allows certain land uses but you still would be required to comply with other codes, such as Building Codes), or "conditional" or "special uses". These last two are generally that the governing body has the discretion to approve them or not. Planning and zoning is a rather lengthy process, involving community hearings, zoning hearings, preparation (and revisions) to site plans, etc. One of the first issues, I recommend to my clients is to discuss the proposed use with the community as it's more streamlined if you have the community's input before you get too far down the road and incur a lot of expense. Your architect should be able to assist you with this process as will your attorney. Good luck with your development.

  • SVN (Sperry Van Ness) - Rich Investment Real Estate Partners
    February 09, 2018

    This is a very general question that has too many answers to it. However, some of the answers that I can quickly share are the following: (1) be very familiar with the planning departments and their respective zoning codes of the cities you're interested in; (2) speak to local brokers about what type of opportunities are in the area, for instance, as there are not many land sites left in Los Angeles, many developers have begun looking at the redevelopment of adjacent parcels with old improvements; (3) have a realistic timeline of what it will take to prepare designs and drawings, obtain permits, construction, etc; (4) start small if time allows. The experience of going through a small development better prepares you for larger projects. Some companies partner with developers as LP’s to gain experience.