Abandonment. A cessation of the use of the
property by the owner without intent to transfer the property to
another or resume the use of the property.
Abatement. Reducing or eliminating the degree or
intensity of a nuisance or other property-related problem,
usually used in connection with zoning code or environmental
Abutting. Having property or zone district
boundaries in common; for example, two lots are abutting if they
have property lines in common.
Acceptable Risk. A hazard that is deemed to be a
tolerable exposure to danger given the expected benefits to be
obtained. Different levels of acceptable risk may be assigned
according to the potential danger and the criticalness of the
threatened structure. The levels may range from “near zero” for
nuclear plants and natural gas transmission lines to “moderate”
for open-space, ranches and low intensity warehouse uses.
Access. A way of approaching or entering a
property. Access includes ingress, the right to enter, and
egress, the right to leave. In zoning and subdivision
regulations, recorded lots are required to have direct access to
a public street or highway or to a private street meeting public
standards. This guarantees entry by owners and emergency
Accessibility/Accessible. A term that describes
the usability of a product or service by people with
Accessory Building or Use. An activity or
structure on a property that is incidental and subordinate to the
main use of a site.
Accessory Dwelling Unit. A unit with complete
independent living facilities for one or more persons with one of
the following variations: (1) Detached: The unit is separated
from the primary structure. (2) Attached: The unit is attached to
the primary structure. (3) Converted Existing Space: Space (e.g.,
master bedroom, attached garage, storage area, or similar use, or
an accessory structure) on the lot of the primary residence that
is converted into an independent living unit. See also JUNIOR
ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT.
Accessory Use. An activity or structure that is
incidental to the main use of a site. For example, a small
business office within a store might be considered an accessory
use, and might not be counted in the calculation of the size of
the store for zoning purposes.
Acre Foot. A volume of water one foot deep
covering one acre; approximately 326,000 gallons. One acre-foot
of water is enough to meet the needs of two typical families for
Acres, Gross. The entire acreage of a site. Most
communities calculate gross acreage to the centerline of proposed
bounding streets and to the edge of the right-of-way of existing
or dedicated streets.
Acres, Net. The portion of a site that can
actually be built upon. The following generally are not included
in the net acreage of a site: public or private road
rights-of-way, public open-space and flood ways.
Active Living Community. A community designed to
provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to
incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. By
encouraging people to be more active, active living communities
may improve health by lowering people’s risk for health
conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Ad Valorem Tax. A tax assessed based on the
dollar value of an item or activity. Typical examples are
property and sales taxes. Ad valorem taxes contrast with per-unit
taxes, such as alcoholic beverage and cigarette taxes, which are
assessed at a fixed dollar per unit purchased. See EXCISE TAX,
PARCEL TAX, TAX.
Adaptation. See CLIMATE ADAPTATION.
Adaptive Reuse. Converting obsolete or historic
buildings from their original or most recent use to a new use.
For example, the conversion of former hospital or school
buildings to residential use, or the conversion of an historic
single-family home to office use.
Administrative Decision. See QUASI-JUDICIAL
Adverse Impact. A negative consequence for the
physical, social or economic environment resulting from an action
Aerosol. Particulate matter, solid or
liquid, larger than a molecule but small enough to remain
suspended in the atmosphere. Natural sources include salt
particles from sea spray, dust and clay particles as a result of
weathering of rocks, both of which are carried upward by the
wind. Aerosols can also originate as a result of human activities
and are often considered pollutants.
Afforestation. Planting of new forests on lands
that historically have not contained forests, or have not been
Affordable Housing. Housing capable of being
purchased or rented by persons whose income level is categorized
as very low, low, or moderate within standards set by the
California Department of Housing and Community Development or the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). A
legal requirement that federal agencies and federal grantees
actively address and work to eliminate housing discrimination and
Agenda. A document that specifies what will be
discussed at a local agency meeting. Agendas contain a brief,
general description of each item the governing body will be
addressing. Members of the public may request that an agenda be
mailed to them. Local agencies generally cannot discuss and make
decisions on items that are not on the agenda. See California
Government Code section 54950.
Aging in Place. The ability to live in one’s own
home and community safely, independently and comfortably,
regardless of age, income or ability level.
Agricultural Preserve. Land designated for
agricultural use. See WILLIAMSON ACT.
Agricultural Urbanism. An approach to
integrating growth and development with preserving agricultural
resources and enhancing elements of the food system.
Agriculture. Use of land for the production of
food and fiber, including the growing of crops and/or the grazing
of animals on natural prime or improved pasture land.
Air Pollution. One or more chemicals, substances
or physical conditions (such as excess heat or noise) in high
enough concentrations in the air to harm humans, other animals,
vegetation or materials.
Air Rights. The right granted by a property
owner to a buyer to use space above an existing right-of-way or
other site, usually for development.
Airport-Related Use. A use that supports airport
operations including, but not limited to, aircraft repair and
maintenance, flight instruction and aircraft chartering.
Albedo. The fraction of solar radiation
reflected by a surface or object, often expressed as a
percentage. Snow covered surfaces have a high albedo; the albedo
of soils ranges from high to low; vegetation covered surfaces and
oceans have a low albedo.
Alternative Fuels. Fuels such as methanol,
ethanol, natural gas and liquid petroleum gas that are cleaner
burning and help to meet the California Air Resources Board’s
mobile and stationary emission standards. These fuels may be
used in place of less clean fuels for powering motor vehicles.
Ambient. Surrounding on all sides; used to
describe measurements of existing conditions with respect to
traffic, noise, air and other environments.
Ambient Air. Air occurring at a particular time
and place outside of structures. Often used interchangeably with
Ambient Air Quality Standards (AAQS). Health-
and welfare-based standards for outdoor air which identify the
maximum acceptable average concentrations of air pollutants
during a specified period of time. See NAAQS.
Amortization. The process by which nonconforming
uses and structures must be discontinued or made to conform to
requirements of the current zoning ordinance at the end of a
specified period of time.
Anchor Tenant. The major store or stores within
a shopping center.
Ancillary Benefits. Complementary benefits
of a given policy. For example, ancillary benefits of a climate
policy could include improvements in local air quality and
reduced reliance of imported fossil fuels. See CO-BENEFITS.
Annex/Annexation. To incorporate a land area
into an existing district or municipality, with a resulting
change in the boundaries of the annexing jurisdiction. See
Anthropogenic. Made by people or resulting from
human activities. Usually used in the context of emissions that
are produced as a result of human activities.
Appeal. When a person believes a decision was
made in error, an appeal may be filed so that a higher
decision-making body can review the case.
Approach Zone. The air space at each end of a
landing strip that defines the glide path or approach path of
aircraft as they land. The approach zone should be free from
obstruction. See CLEAR ZONE, OUTER APPROACH ZONE, TRANSITION
Appropriation. A legal authorization granted by
the governing body to expend monies and incur obligations for
specific purposes. See EXPENDITURE.
Aquifer. An underground, water-bearing layer of
earth, porous rock, sand or gravel, through which water can
seep or be held in natural storage. Aquifers generally hold
sufficient water to be used as a water supply. See GROUNDWATER.
Arable. Land capable of being cultivated for
Architectural Control; Architectural Review.
Regulations and procedures requiring the exterior design of
structures to be suitable, harmonious, and in keeping with the
general appearance, historic character and/or style of
surrounding areas. A process used to exercise control over the
design of buildings and their settings. See DESIGN REVIEW.
Arterial. A roadway that provides
intra-community travel and access to the countywide highway
system, characterized by medium-speed (30-40 mph) and
medium-capacity (10,000-35,000 average daily trips). Access to
community arterials should be provided at collector roads and
local streets, but direct access from parcels to existing
arterials is common. See COLLECTOR, STREETS, TRIP.
Articulation. Variation in the depth of the
building plane, roof line or height of a structure that breaks up
plain, monotonous areas and creates patterns of light and shadow.
Assessed Valuation. The value at which property
is appraised for tax purposes. See PROPERTY TAX.
Assessment District. See BENEFIT ASSESSMENT
Assisted Housing. Generally multifamily rental
housing, but sometimes single-family ownership units, whose
construction, financing, sales prices or rents have been
subsidized by federal, state or local housing programs.
Atmosphere. The mixture of gases surrounding the
Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere consists of about 79.1 percent
nitrogen (by volume), 20.9 percent oxygen, 0.93 percent argon,
0.036 percent carbon dioxide and trace amounts of other
gases. In addition the atmosphere contains water vapor,
whose amount is highly variable but typically 1%.
Attainment. Compliance with state and federal
ambient air quality standards within an air basin. See
Automobile-Intensive Use. A use of a retail area
that depends on exposure to continuous auto traffic.
BANANA. (See also nimby, niaby, and nimtoo)
Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.
Base Flood. In any given year, a 100-year flood
that has a one percent likelihood of occurring, and is recognized
as a standard for acceptable risk. See FLOOD, 100-YEAR.
Below-Market Rate (BMR). (1) Any housing unit
specifically priced to be sold or rented to low-or
moderate-income households for an amount less than the
fair-market value of the unit. Both the State of California and
the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development set
standards for determining which households qualify as
“low-income” or “moderate-income.” (2) The financing of housing
at less than prevailing interest rates.
Benefit Assessment Bonds. Bonds levied by
cities, counties and special districts to acquire or construct
public improvements that convey a special benefit to a defined
group of properties.
Benefit Assessment District. A defined area that
receives a special benefit from the construction of one or more
public facilities. A Benefit Assessment District is a financing
mechanism for providing public infrastructure as allowed under
various statutes. Bonds may be issued to finance the
improvements, subject to repayment by assessments charged against
the benefiting properties. Creation of a Benefit Assessment
District enables property owners in a specific area to cause the
construction of public facilities or to maintain them (for
example, a downtown, or the grounds and landscaping of a specific
area) by contributing their fair share of the construction or
installation and operating costs.
Benefit Assessment. Charges levied on parcels to
pay for public improvements or services provided within a
pre-determined district or area according to the benefit the
parcel receives from the improvement or services.
Berm. A mound of earth usually two to six feet
high designed to shield and buffer uses like parking areas. Also
used to minimize water run-off.
Bicycle Friendly. Possessing urban design
factors that help make an area that caters to the needs of
bicyclists. Factors include public facilities such as bicycle
racks on streets or by public buildings. Regulations that allow
riders to take bicycles on board buses, trains, etc.
Accessibility such as the position of bicycle paths relative to
roads, quality of the terrain, presence of curb cuts, etc. Safety
features such as lighting, security measures and protection
from on-road vehicles.
Bicycle Paths, Lanes and Routes. A path is a
paved route not on a street or roadway and expressly reserved for
bicycles traversing an otherwise unpaved area. Bicycle paths may
parallel roads but typically are separated from them by
landscaping. A bicycle lane is a corridor expressly reserved for
bicycles, existing on a street or roadway in addition to any
lanes for use by motorized vehicles. A bicycle route is a
facility shared with motorists and identified only by signs; it
has no pavement markings or lane stripes. See BIKEWAYS
Bikeways. The term bikeways encompasses bicycle
lanes, bicycle paths, and bicycle routes. Bikeways are divided
into three classes. Class I bikeways are paved routes, not on a
street or roadway, expressly reserved for bicycles traversing an
otherwise unpaved area. Class II bikeways are corridors expressly
reserved for bicycles, existing on a street or roadway in
addition to any lanes for use by motorized vehicles. Class III
bikeways are shared with motorists and identified only by signs.
See BICYCLE PATHS, LANES AND ROUTES
Biological Productivity. The amount of plants
and animals that grow and thrive in a defined region.
Biosphere. The part of the Earth system
comprising all ecosystems and living organisms, in the
atmosphere, on land (terrestrial biosphere) or in the oceans
(marine biosphere), including derived dead organic matter, such
as litter, soil organic matter and oceanic detritus
Biotic Community. A group of living organisms
characterized by a distinctive combination of both animal and
plant species in a particular habitat.
Black Carbon Aerosols. Particles of carbon
in the atmosphere produced by inefficient combustion of fossil
fuels or biomass. Black carbon aerosols absorb light from the
sun, shading and cooling the Earth’s surface, but contribute to
significant warming of the atmosphere.
Blight. A condition of a site, structure or area
that may cause nearby buildings and/or areas to decline in
attractiveness and/or utility. The Community Redevelopment Law
contains a definition of blight used to determine eligibility of
proposed redevelopment project areas. See California Health and
Safety Code sections 33031 and 33032.
Blueline Stream. A watercourse shown as a blue
line on a U.S. Geological Service topographic quadrangle map.
Board of Appeals. An appointed board that hears
appeals on variances and exceptions.
Board of Supervisors. A county’s legislative
body. Board members are elected by popular vote and are
responsible for enacting ordinances, imposing taxes, making
appropriations and establishing county policy. The board adopts
the general plan, zoning and subdivision regulations that apply
to unincorporated areas. The board also adopts a budget that
guides and directs regional services provided to incorporated and
unincorporated areas such as public health and human services.
Bond. A certificate of debt issued by an entity,
guaranteeing payment of the original investment, plus interest,
by a specified future date. Funds raised through the sale of
bonds can be used for various public purposes.
Brown Act. The California’s open meeting law for
local agencies. The Brown Act imposes certain requirements for
agendas, public comments and other aspects of public meetings.
See California Government Code sections 54950.
Brownfield. An area with abandoned, idle or
under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion,
redevelopment or reuse is complicated by real or perceived
Buffer Zone. An area of land separating two
distinct land uses that acts to soften or mitigate the effects of
one land use on the other. Where a commercial district abuts a
residential district, for example, additional use, yard or height
restrictions may be imposed to protect residential properties.
The term may also be used to describe any zone that separates two
unlike zones like a multifamily housing zone between
single-family housing and commercial uses.
Building Code. Standards adopted by the state
governing the construction, alteration, demolition,
occupancy or other use of buildings used for human
habitation. The state regulations are substantially the same as
those contained in the most recent editions of the Uniform
Building Code, Uniform Housing Code, Uniform Plumbing Code,
Uniform Mechanical Code and the National Electric Code. Local
governments may have stricter standards under certain
circumstances. See California Health and Safety Code sections
17921-17922. See also UNIFORM BUILDING CODE, UNIFORM HOUSING
Building Coverage. The amount of a lot that is
covered by buildings, usually expressed as a percentage.
Building Envelope. The space remaining on a site
for structures after all building setback, height limit and bulk
requirements have been met.
Building Official. The person responsible for
the administration and enforcement of the building, housing,
plumbing, electrical and related codes.
Build-Out. Development of land to its full
potential (100 percent build-out) or as permitted under current
or proposed planning or zoning designations. See CARRYING
CAPACITY. For a general plan or specific plan, the term may also
refer to a figure that is less than the absolute maximum (100
percent) and is instead a projected level of total residential
units and/or nonresidential development envisioned to exist after
20 or 30 years of growth.
Built Environment. All aspects of our
surroundings that are constructed by people. buildings, roads,
parks and all other improvements that form the physical character
of a community.
Bulk Regulations. Zoning or other regulations
that control the height, mass, density and location of buildings.
The purpose of bulk regulations is to provide proper light, air
and open space. Some bulk regulations also are intended to
reflect context-sensitive design.
Business Improvement Districts. Public-private
partnerships among property owners and commercial tenants who
collectively contribute to the maintenance, development and
promotion of their commercial district.
Busway. A vehicular right-of-way reserved
exclusively for buses. Getting public transit out of traffic
speeds it up, making it a more attractive option.
By-Right. A use of land that is permitted as a
principal use in a zoning district.
California Ambient Air Quality Standard (CAAQS).
Legal limit that specifies the maximum level and time of exposure
in the outdoor air for a given air pollutant and which is
protective of human health and public welfare. CAAQSs are
recommended by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard
Assessment (OEHHA) and adopted into regulation by the California
Air Resources Board. CAAQSs are the standards which must be met
per the requirements of the California Clean Air Act (CCAA).
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A
state law requiring state and local agencies to regulate
activities with consideration for environmental protection. If a
proposed activity has the potential for a significant adverse
environmental impact, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) must
be prepared and certified as to its adequacy before taking action
on the proposed project. See ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT.
California Housing Finance Agency (CHFA). A
state agency established by the Housing and Home Finance Act of
1975 that is authorized to sell revenue bonds and generate funds
for the development, rehabilitation and conservation of low- and
Caltrans. California Department of
Capital Improvements Program (CIP). A program
established by a city or county government and reviewed by its
planning commission, which schedules permanent improvements,
usually for a minimum of five years in the future, to fit the
projected fiscal capability of the local jurisdiction. The
program generally is reviewed annually, for conformance to and
consistency with the general plan.
Capital Outlay. Expenditures which result in the
acquisition of or addition to fixed assets. See DEBT FINANCING,
PAY AS YOU GO, PAY AS YOU USE.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2). A naturally occurring gas,
and also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass, as
well as land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is
the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are
measured and therefore has a Global Warming Potential of 1.
Carbon dioxide represents about three quarters of total U.S.
greenhouse gas emissions. See GLOBAL WARMING POTENTIAL.
Carbon Sequestration. The process of removing
carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in a “carbon
sink,” a fixed molecule in soil, oceans or plants. Because
of the amounts of carbon that are stored in soils, small changes
in soil carbon content can have major impacts on carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere. Soils contain inorganic carbon (calcium
carbonate) and organic carbon (humus), and can be either a source
or a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide depending on how
landscapes are managed. See CARBON SINK.
Carbon Sink. Carbon reservoirs and conditions
that take-in and store more carbon (i.e., carbon sequestration)
than they release. Carbon sinks can serve to partially offset
greenhouse gas emissions. Forests and oceans are large carbon
sinks. See CARBON SEQUESTRATION.
Carrying Capacity. Used in determining the
potential of an area to absorb development. (1) The level of land
use, human activity or development for a specific area that can
be accommodated permanently without an irreversible change in the
quality of air, water, land or plant and animal habitats. (2) The
upper limits of development beyond which the quality of human
life, health, welfare, safety or community character within an
area will be impaired. (3) The maximum level of development
allowable under current zoning. See BUILD-OUT.
Census Tract. Small portions of populated areas
in which data is collected for statistical purposes during a
Census. The nationwide population count
conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Central Business District (CBD). The major
commercial downtown center of a community. General guidelines for
delineating a downtown area are defined by the U.S. Census of
Retail Trade, with specific boundaries being set by the local
Certificate of Compliance. (1) Sometimes used
synonymously with Certificate of Occupancy. (2) Also refers to a
certificate issued under the Subdivision Map Act when a division
of property is in compliance with the Map Act and local
subdivision ordinances. (3) Less commonly, may also refer to an
enforcement device used to inform others (like a potential
purchaser) that a property does not comply with local codes and
details what must be changed to bring the property back into
Certificate of Occupancy. An official
certification that a building or place conforms to the provisions
of the zoning and building codes, and therefore may be used or
occupied. Permits are necessary for new construction and
alterations to existing structures. A structure cannot be
occupied without a certificate of occupancy.
Channelization. (1) The straightening and/or
deepening of a watercourse for purposes of storm-runoff control
or ease of navigation. Channelization often includes lining of
stream banks with a retaining material like concrete. (2) At the
intersection of roadways, the directional separation of traffic
lanes through the use of curbs or raised islands that limit the
paths that vehicles may take through the intersection.
Charrette. An intensive planning session where
citizens, designers, and others collaborate on a vision for
development. The charrette workshop is designed to stimulate
ideas and involve the public in the community planning/design
Charter City. A city that is incorporated under
its own charter rather than the general laws of the state.
Charter cities have broader powers than do general law cities in
matters that are “municipal affairs” (as opposed to matters of
Circulation Element. One of the eight
state-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains
adopted goals, policies and implementation programs for the
planning and management of existing and proposed thoroughfares,
transportation routes and terminals, as well as local public
utilities and facilities, all correlated with the land use
element of the general plan.
City Council. A city’s legislative body. The
popularly elected city council is responsible for enacting
ordinances, imposing taxes, making appropriations, establishing
city policy and hiring some city officials. The council adopts
the general plan, zoning and subdivision ordinance.
Clear Zone. That section of an approach zone of
an airport where the plane defining the glide path is 50 feet or
less above the centerline of the runway. The clear zone ends
where the height of the glide path above ground level is above 50
feet. Land use under the clear zone is restricted. See APPROACH
ZONE, OUTER APPROACH ZONE, TRANSITION ZONE.
Climate. Climate is generally defined as the
“average weather” over a period of time ranging from months to
thousands of years. The classical period is three decades, as
defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Statistical measurements of climate most often focus on surface
variables such as temperature, precipitation and wind. See
Climate Adaptation. Adjustment in natural or
human systems to a new or changing environment. Adaptation to
climate change refers to adjustment in natural or human systems
in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their
effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial
opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished,
including anticipatory and reactive adaptation, private and
public adaptation and autonomous and planned adaptation.
Climate Change. Climate change refers to any
significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature,
precipitation or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or
longer). Climate change may result from natural factors, such as
changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the Earth’s
orbit around the sun; natural processes within the climate system
(e.g. changes in ocean circulation); human activities that change
the atmosphere’s composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels);
and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation,
urbanization, desertification, etc.).
Climate Mitigation. A human intervention to
reduce the human impact on the climate system; it includes
strategies to reduce greenhouse gas sources and emissions and
enhancing greenhouse gas sinks.
Climate Resilience. The ability of a social or
ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same
basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for
self-organization and the capacity to adapt to stress and change.
Clustered Development. Development in which a
number of dwelling units are placed closer together than usual,
or are attached, with the purpose of retaining an open-space
Co-Benefit. The benefits of policies that are
implemented for various reasons at the same time acknowledging
that most policies designed to address one issue also have other,
often at least equally important, rationales (e.g., related to
objectives of development, sustainability, and equity). The term
co-impact is also used in a more generic sense to cover both the
positive and negative side of the benefits. See ANCILLARY
Collector. A street that provides circulation
within and between neighborhoods, characterized by relatively low
speed (25-30 mph) and low volume (5,000-20,000 average daily
trips). Collectors usually serve short trips and are intended for
collecting trips from local streets and distributing them to the
arterial network. See ARTERIAL.
Commercial. A land use classification that
permits facilities for the buying and selling of commodities and
Common Open Space. Land within or related to a
development, not individually owned or dedicated for public use,
that is designed and intended for the common use of the residents
of the development.
Community. A specific group of people, often
living in a defined geographic area, who share a common culture,
values and norms and who are arranged in a social structure
according to relationships the community has developed over a
period of time. The term “community” encompasses worksites,
schools and health care sites.
Community Benefits. In planning and land use,
this refers to developer exactions that are required as a
condition of development. The benefits contained in a community
benefits agreement (CBA) may be provided by the developer or by
other parties benefiting from the development subsidies, such as
the stores that rent space in a subsidized retail development.
Some benefits can be built into the project itself, such as the
inclusion of a childcare center in the project or the use of
environmentally sensitive design elements, such as white roofs
that help avoid the “heat island” effect. Some benefits will
affect project operations, such as wage requirements or traffic
management rules. Other benefits will be completely separate from
the project, such as money devoted to a public art fund or
support for existing job-training centers.
Community Care Facility. Housing for the elderly
licensed by the California Department of Social Services,
typically for residents who are frail and need supervision.
Services normally include three meals daily, housekeeping,
security and emergency response, a full activities program,
supervision in the dispensing of medicine, personal services like
assistance in grooming and bathing, but no nursing care.
Sometimes referred to as residential care or personal care.
Community Character. The image of a community or
area as defined by such factors as its built environment, natural
features and open space elements, type of housing, architectural
style, infrastructure and the type and quality of public
facilities and services.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). A
grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development on a formula basis for entitlement communities
and by the California Department of Housing and Community
Development for non-entitlement jurisdictions. This grant allots
money to cities and counties for housing rehabilitation and
community development, including public facilities and economic
Community Facilities District. Under the
Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 (California
Government Code sections 53311 and following), a legislative body
may create within its jurisdiction a special tax district that
can finance tax-exempt bonds for the planning, design,
acquisition, construction and/or operation of public facilities,
as well as public services for district residents. Special taxes
levied solely within the district are used to repay the bonds.
See MELLO-ROOS BONDS.
Community Food System. A community food system,
also known as a local food system, is a collaborative effort to
integrate agricultural production with food distribution to
enhance the economic, environmental and social well-being of a
particular place. Foods produced, processed and distributed as
locally as possible supports a food system that preserves local
farmland and fosters community economic viability, requires less
energy for transportation and offers consumers the freshest
Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL). A
24-hour energy equivalent level derived from a variety of
single-noise events, with weighting factors of 5 and 10 dBA
applied to the evening (7 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and nighttime (10 p.m.
to 7 a.m.) periods to allow for greater sensitivity to noise
during these hours. See DAY-NIGHT AVERAGE SOUND LEVEL, DBA,
Community Park. Land with full public access
intended to provide recreation opportunities beyond those
supplied by neighborhood parks. Community parks are larger in
scale than neighborhood parks but smaller than regional parks.
See NEIGHBORHOOD PARK, REGIONAL PARK.
Community Plan. A planning document that focuses
on a particular area or community within the city or county. A
community plan can also serve as an extension of a general plan
or as a separate document that supplements a general plan.
Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). A local
agency that was created under California Redevelopment Law
(California Health and Safety Code sections 33000 and following),
or a local legislative body that was elected to exercise the
powers granted to such an agency, for the purpose of planning,
developing, re-planning, redesigning, clearing, reconstructing,
and/or rehabilitating all or part of a specified area with
residential, commercial, industrial, and/or public (including
recreational) structures and facilities. On June 28, 2011,
Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that effectively
dissolved all California Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs). As a
result, effective February 1, 2012, all RDAs and community
development agencies were dissolved, and successor agencies, as
defined by the law, were required to be appointed to oversee the
distribution of tax proceeds that would have been paid to the
Community Service Area. A geographic sub-area of
a city or county used for the planning and delivery of parks,
recreation and other human services based on an assessment of the
service needs of the population in that sub-area.
Community Service District (CSD). A geographic
sub-area of a city or county used for the planning and delivery
of parks, recreation, and other human services based on an
assessment of the service needs of the population in that
sub-area. A CSD is a taxation district with independent
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). A
community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation
so that the farmland becomes the community’s farm, with the
growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the
risks and benefits of food production. Share-holders pledge in
advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and
farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s
bounty throughout the growing season.
Commute Shed. The area from which people do or
might commute from their homes to a specific workplace
destination, given specific assumptions about maximum travel time
Compatibility. The characteristics of different
uses or activities that permit them to be located near each other
in harmony and without conflict. The designation of permitted and
conditionally permitted uses in a zoning district is intended to
achieve compatibility. Some elements affecting compatibility
include intensity of occupancy as measured by dwelling units per
acre; pedestrian or vehicular traffic generated; volume of goods
handled; and environmental effects like noise, vibration, glare,
air pollution or radiation.
Complete Streets. An approach that enhances
mobility through a comprehensive transportation network
consisting of streets and off-street pathways designed to
accommodate all modes of travel and enable safe access for all
users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and bus riders of all
ages and abilities are able to safely move within and through a
jurisdiction or place, particularly to key public assets, job
centers and shopping areas. Individual streets can also be
complete streets, though every street need not accommodate every
user for a jurisdiction to implement a complete streets system.
Concurrency. Installation and operation of
facilities and services needed to meet the demands of new
development simultaneous with the development.
Condemnation. The exercise by a public agency of
the right of eminent domain. See EMINENT DOMAIN, TAKING.
Conditional Use Permit (CUP). A discretionary
permit issued by a hearing body to allow a conditional use that
may or may not be allowable under the zoning code. If approval is
granted, the developer must meet certain conditions to harmonize
the project with its surroundings. Each application is considered
on its individual merits. CUPs require a public hearing and, if
approval is granted, are usually subject to the fulfillment of
certain conditions by the developer. Approval of a CUP is not a
change in zoning.
Conditional Use. A use that may locate within a
zone only upon taking measures to address issues that may make
the use detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare and
will not impair the integrity and character of the zoned
district. See CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT, PERMITTED USE.
Condominium. A structure of two or more units,
the interior spaces of which are individually owned; the balance
of the property (both land and building) is owned in common by
the owners of the individual units.
Congestion Management Plan (CMP). A mechanism
employing growth management techniques, including traffic level
of service (LOS) requirements, standards for public transit, trip
reduction programs and capital improvement programs for the
purpose of controlling and/or reducing the cumulative regional
traffic impacts of development. See CONCURRENCY, GROWTH
MANAGEMENT, LEVEL OF SERVICE (TRAFFIC).
Connectivity. The ease of travel between two
points. The degree to which streets or areas are interconnected
and easily accessible to one another. An example of high
connectivity would be a dense grid pattern in a downtown
Conservation Easement. A partial interest in
land that severs the right to develop the land from its basic
use, like low-density uses, open space or agriculture. The right
to develop the land is usually held by a land trust or other
entity that monitors the land and enforces the terms of the
easement. The underlying owner of the land can continue to use
the land according to the terms of the easement. See EASEMENT.
Conservation Element. One of the eight
state-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains
adopted goals, policies and implementation programs for the
conservation, development and use of natural resources, including
water and its hydraulic force, forests, soils, rivers and other
waters, harbors, fisheries, wildlife, minerals and other natural
Consistency; Consistent with. Free from
significant variation or contradiction. The various diagrams,
text, goals, policies, and programs in the general plan must be
consistent with each other, not contradictory or preferential.
The term “consistent with” is used interchangeably with
Consumer Price Index (CPI). A statistical
description of price levels provided by the U. S. Department of
Labor. The change in this index from year to year is used to
measure the cost of living and economic inflation.
Cooperative. A group of dwellings or an
apartment building that is jointly owned by the residents, the
common ownership including the open space and all other parts of
the property. The purchase of stock entitles the buyer to sole
occupancy but not the individual ownership of a specified unit.
Cordon Count. A measurement of all travel
(usually vehicle trips, but sometimes person trips) in and out of
a defined area (around which a cordon is drawn).
Council of Governments (COG). California’s 25
Councils of Governments are regional planning agencies concerned
primarily with transportation planning and housing; they do not
directly regulate land use. Elected officials from each of the
cities and counties belonging to the Council of Governments make
up its governing board.
County. A political subdivision of the state.
Covenant. A private legal restriction that
places a burden on a parcel of land in favor of another parcel.
The restriction is recorded in the deed. Covenants are most
commonly used in the establishment of a subdivision to restrict
the use of all individual lots in the development to a certain
type of use (like single-family units), but may also be used to
guarantee views and solar access.
Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions
(CC&Rs). A term used to describe restrictive
limitations—usually recorded as covenants—that may be placed on
property and its use, and which usually are made a condition of
holding title or lease. They are intended to preserve the
physical nature and character of the development.
Criterion. A standard upon which a judgment or
decision may be based. See STANDARDS.
Critical Facility. Facilities housing or serving
many people, that are necessary in the event of an earthquake or
flood, like hospitals, fire, police and emergency service
facilities, utility “lifeline” facilities, like water,
electricity and gas supply, sewage disposal and communications
and transportation facilities.
Cross-Acceptance. The review by two or more
jurisdictions of each other’s plans. Each jurisdiction determines
whether the plans submitted are consistent or can be made
compatible with its own. The process provides for communication
and negotiation between the affected jurisdictions.
Cul-De-Sac. A short street or alley with only a
single means of ingress and egress at one end and with a large
turnaround at its other end.
Cumulative Impact. As used in the California
Environmental Quality Act, the total impact resulting from the
accumulated impacts of individual projects or programs over time.
See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT.
Curb Cut. A ramp opening in a curb where
vehicles or wheelchairs may enter or leave the roadway.
Day-Night Average Sound Level (Ldn). The
A-weighted average sound level for a given area (measured in
decibels) during a 24-hour period with a 10 dB weighting applied
to night-time sound levels. The Ldn is approximately numerically
equal to the Community Noise Equivalent Level for most
environmental settings. See COMMUNITY NOISE EQUIVALENT LEVEL.
dBA. The “A-weighted” scale for measuring sound
in decibels; weighs or reduces the effects of low and high
frequencies in order to simulate human hearing. Every increase of
10 dBA doubles the perceived loudness though the noise is
actually ten times more intense.
Debt Financing. Issuance of bonds and other debt
instruments to finance municipal improvements and services.
Debt Instrument. Written pledge to repay debt
such as bills, notes and bonds. See BOND.
Debt Service. Payment of principal and interest
on long-term indebtedness.
Decibel (dB). A unit of sound pressure
(abbreviated as dB) that is used to express noise level. The
reference level is a sound pressure of 20 micro newtons per
square meter. Zero decibels, the starting point of the scale, is
about the level of the weakest sound that can be heard by someone
with very good hearing in an extremely quiet location. Typical
examples of noise levels would be 50 decibels in an average
residence; 90 decibels for someone standing 20 feet from a subway
train; and 120 decibels if standing 200 feet from a jet.
Dedication, In Lieu Of. Cash payments that may
be required of an owner or developer as a substitute for a
dedication of land, usually calculated in dollars per lot, and
referred to as in lieu fees or in lieu contributions.
Dedication. A grant of private land to a public
agency for public use. Dedications are often used to obtain roads
and parkland needed to serve a project. Dedication requirements
are often imposed as a condition of a tentative map, parcel map
or as a condition of development. See CONDITIONAL USE, IN-LIEU
FEE, PARCEL MAP, TENTATIVE SUBDIVISION MAP.
Deed Restriction. A private legal restriction on
the use of land recorded in the deed. The restriction burdens or
limits the use of the property in some way. See COVENANT,
Defensible Space. (1) In firefighting and
prevention, an area of non-combustible surfaces separating urban
and wild land areas. (2) In urban areas, open-spaces, entry
points and pathways configured to provide maximum opportunities
to rightful users and/or residents to defend themselves against
intruders and criminal activity.
Deficiency Plan. An action program for improving
or preventing the deterioration of level of service on the
Congestion Management Agency street and highway network. See
CONGESTION MANAGEMENT PLAN, LEVEL OF SERVICE (TRAFFIC).
Deforestation. Those practices or processes that
result in the conversion of forested lands for non-forest uses.
Density Bonus. An increase in the allowable
number of residences granted by the city or county in return for
the project’s providing low- or moderate-income housing. A
housing development that provides 20 percent of its units for
lower-income households, ten percent of its units for very-low
income households, or 50 percent of its units for seniors is
entitled to a density bonus and other concessions. See California
Government Code section 65915. The density bonus is the most
common form of incentive used by inclusionary housing programs. A
density bonus provides an increase in allowed dwelling units per
acre (DU/A), Floor Area Ratio (FAR) or height which generally
means that more housing units can be built on any given site.
Density. The amount of development per acre
permitted on a parcel under the applicable zoning. Common
measures of density include population per acre or square mile
and dwelling units per acre. Gross density includes the area
necessary for streets, schools and parks. Net density does not
include land area for public facilities.
Density Transfer. A way of retaining open space
by concentrating densities—usually in compact areas adjacent to
existing urbanization and utilities—while leaving unchanged
historic, sensitive, or hazardous areas. In some jurisdictions,
for example, developers can buy development rights of properties
targeted for public open space and transfer the additional
density to the base number of units permitted in the zone in
which they propose to develop. See TRANSFER OF DEVELOPMENT
Density, Employment. A measure of the number of
employed persons per specific area (for example, employees per
Density, Residential. The number of permanent
residential dwelling units per acre of land. Densities specified
in the general plan may be expressed in units per gross acre or
per net developable acre. See ACRES, GROSS and DEVELOPABLE ACRES,
Design Review; Design Control. The comprehensive
evaluation of a development and its impact on neighboring
properties and the community as a whole, from the standpoint of
site and landscape design, architecture, materials, colors,
lighting and signs, in accordance with a set of adopted criteria
and standards. “Design Control” requires that certain specific
things be done and that other things not be done. Design Control
language is most often found within a zoning ordinance. “Design
Review” usually refers to a system set up outside of the zoning
ordinance, whereby projects are reviewed against certain
standards and criteria by a specially established design review
board or committee. See ARCHITECTURAL CONTROL.
Design Review Board. A group appointed by the
governing body to consider the design and aesthetics of
development within all or a portion of the community.
Detachment. Withdrawal of territory from a
special district or city; the reverse of annexation. See
Detention Dam. Detention dams are constructed to
retard flood runoff and minimize the effect of sudden floods.
Detention dams fall into two main types. In one type, the water
is temporarily stored and released through an outlet structure at
a rate that will not exceed the carrying capacity of the channel
downstream. Often, the basins are planted with grass and used for
open space or recreation in periods of dry weather. The other
type, most often called a retention pond, allows for water to be
held as long as possible and may or may not allow for the
controlled release of water. In some cases, the water is allowed
to seep into the permeable banks or gravel strata in the
foundation. This latter type is sometimes called a
water-spreading dam or dike because its main purpose is to
recharge the underground water supply. Detention dams are also
constructed to trap sediment. These are often called debris dams.
See STORMWATER DETENTION.
Developable Acres, Net. The portion of a site
that can be used for density calculations. Some communities
calculate density based on gross acreage. Public or private road
rights-of-way are not included in the net developable acreage of
Developable Land. Land that is suitable as a
location for structures and that can be developed free of
significant impact on natural resource areas.
Development Agreement. A legislatively approved
contract between a jurisdiction and a person having legal or
equitable interest in real property within the jurisdiction that
“freezes” certain rules, regulations and policies applicable to
development of a property for a specified period of time, usually
in exchange for certain concessions by the owner. See California
Government Code section 65865.
Development Fees. This is a fee or charge
imposed on developers to pay for the costs to the community of
providing services to a new development. It is a means of
providing a fund for financing new public improvements without
resorting to deficit financing.
Development Rights. The right to develop land by
a landowner who maintains fee-simple ownership over the land or
by a party other than the owner who has obtained the rights to
develop. Such rights usually are expressed in terms of density
allowed under existing zoning. See INTEREST, FEE; INTEREST, LESS
THAN-FEE AND DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS, TRANSFER OF (TDR).
Development Rights, Transfer of (TDR). A program
that can relocate potential development from areas where proposed
land use or environmental impacts are considered undesirable (the
“donor” site) to another (“receiver”) site chosen on the basis of
its ability to accommodate additional units of development beyond
that for which it was zoned, with minimal environmental, social
and aesthetic impacts. Also known as transfer of development
credits. See DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS.
Disadvantaged Communities. Communities
designated by the California Environmental Protection
Agency to be over-burdened by pollution, socio-economic and
health impacts. Disadvantaged communities are specifically
targeted for investment of proceeds from the state’s
cap-and-trade program. These investments are aimed at improving
public health, quality of life and economic opportunity in
California’s most burdened communities at the same time reducing
pollution that causes climate change.
Discretionary Decision. As used in CEQA, an
action taken by a governmental agency that calls for the exercise
of judgment in deciding whether to approve and/or how to carry
out a project.
Discretionary Project. Under the California
Environmental Quality Act and generally, an activity which
requires the public agency to exercise judgment in deciding
whether or not to approve or deny a project, as opposed to an
administrative action. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT.
Discretionary Review. A special power of a
planning commission, outside the normal building permit
application approval process, through which the commission can
modify or disallow a proposed, zoning-compliant project when
exceptional and extraordinary circumstances associated with a
proposed project exist. These exceptional and extraordinary
circumstances often involve conflicts with a jurisdiction’s
general plan or other policies. For example, if zoning permits a
four-story building on a parcel but every building in the
neighborhood is two stories tall, the planning commission may
exercise its power and deny a permit for a larger building
because of general plan language requiring that new buildings
reflect the existing character of a neighborhood.
Displacement. Occurs when residents can no
longer afford to remain in their homes due to rising housing
costs. Residents may also be forced out by lease non-renewals,
evictions, eminent domain or physical conditions that render
homes uninhabitable as investors await redevelopment
opportunities. Indirect displacement refers to changes in
who is moving into a neighborhood as low-income residents move
out. In a gentrifying neighborhood, when homes are vacated by
low-income residents, other low-income residents cannot afford to
move in because rents and sales prices have increased. Low-income
residents can also be excluded as a result of discriminatory
policies or changes in land use or zoning that foster a change in
the character of residential development.
District. (1) An area of a city or county that
has a unique character identifiable as different from surrounding
areas because of distinctive architecture, streets, geographic
features, culture, landmarks, activities or land uses. (2) A
portion of the territory of a city or county within which uniform
zoning regulations and requirements apply; a zone. See also
Documentary Transfer Tax. Also called Real
Property Transfer Tax, this tax is imposed on the transfer of
ownership in real estate at a rate of $0.55 per $500.00 of
Down-Zoning. A change in the zoning
classifications of land to a classification permitting
development that is less intensive or dense, like from
multifamily residential to single-family residential or from
commercial to residential. A change of zoning in the opposite
direction is referred to as up-zoning. See ZONING.
Due Process (of Law). A requirement that legal
proceedings be conducted fairly. Such protections may include,
depending on the proceeding, the right to be heard, the right to
rebut evidence, that sufficient evidence is presented to reach an
informed option and that conflicts of interest have been avoided.
Dwelling Unit. A room or group of rooms
(including sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation facilities,
but not more than one kitchen), which constitutes an independent
housekeeping unit, occupied or intended for occupancy by one
household on a long-term basis.
Earmarked Funds. Funds that have been tagged or
“earmarked” for a specific purpose. See GENERAL FUND.
Easement, Conservation. A tool for acquiring
open space with less than full-fee purchase, whereby a public
agency buys only certain specific rights from the landowner.
These may be positive rights (providing the public with the
opportunity to hunt, fish, hike or ride over the land) or they
may be restrictive rights (limiting the uses to which the land
owner may devote the land in the future.)
Easement, Scenic. A tool that allows a public
agency to use an owner’s land for scenic enhancement such as
roadside landscaping or vista preservation.
Easement. The right to use property owned by
another for specific purposes or to gain access to another
property. For example, utility companies often have easements on
the private property of individuals to be able to install and
maintain utility facilities.
Economic Development Commission (EDC). An agency
charged with seeking economic development projects and economic
expansion at higher employment densities. A possible ally for
bringing in businesses such as grocery stores to underserved
Ecosystem. The complex system of plant, animal,
fungal and microorganism communities and their associated
non-living environment interacting as an ecological unit.
Ecosystems have no fixed boundaries; instead their parameters are
set to the scientific, management or policy question being
examined. Depending upon the purpose of analysis, a single lake,
a watershed or an entire region could be considered an ecosystem.
Effluent. A discharge of pollutants, with or
without treatment, into the environment.
EIR. Environmental Impact Report. A detailed
review of a proposed project, its potential adverse impacts upon
the environment, measures that may avoid or reduce those impacts,
and alternatives to the project.
Elderly Housing. See SENIOR HOUSING.
Elderly. See SENIORS.
Electric Vehicle (EV). A motor vehicle that uses
an electric motor as the basis of its operation. Such vehicles do
not directly emit air pollutants and generate a lower impact on
the environment throughout the lifecycle of the vehicle compared
to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.
Embodied Energy. How much energy was required to
extract, process, package, transport, install and recycle or
dispose of materials that make up a building’s construction.
Emergency Shelter. A facility that provides
immediate short-term housing and supplemental services for the
homeless. Shelters come in many sizes, but an optimum size is
considered to be 20 to 40 beds. Supplemental services may include
food, counseling and access to other social programs. See LOW
BARRIER NAVIGATION CENTER, TRANSITIONAL HOUSING.
Eminent Domain. The right of a public entity to
acquire private property for public use upon the payment of just
compensation. See TAKING.
Emissions. The release of a substance into the
atmosphere, including particulate matter and gasses.
Emission Factor. For stationary sources,
the relationship between the amount of pollution produced and the
amount of raw material processed or burned. For mobile
sources, the relationship between the amount of pollution
produced and the number of vehicle miles traveled. By using the
emission factor of a pollutant and specific data regarding
quantities of materials used by a given source, it is possible to
compute emissions for the source.
Emission Inventory. An estimate of the amount of
pollutants emitted into the atmosphere from major
mobile, stationary, area-wide and natural source categories over
a specific period of time such as a day or a year.
Emission Standard. The maximum amount of
pollutant that can legally discharged from a single source,
either mobile or stationary.
Empowerment Zones. U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development designations for urban communities.
Businesses that locate in these areas are eligible for tax
credits and other financial incentives for hiring local
Encroachment. Any obstruction or protrusion into
a right of way or adjacent property, whether on the land or above
Encumbrance. An anticipated expenditure
committed for the payment of goods and services not yet received
or paid for.
Endangered Species. Animal or plant species
designated as endangered under federal or state law, whose
prospects for survival and reproduction are in immediate jeopardy
from one or more causes. See HABITAT CONSERVATION PLAN.
Energy Intensity. The ratio of energy
consumption to a measure of the demand for services (e.g., number
of buildings, total floorspace, floorspace-hours, number of
employees or constant dollar value of Gross Domestic Product for
Energy-efficiency. The ratio of the useful
output of services from an article of industrial equipment to the
energy use by such an article; for example, vehicle miles
traveled per gallon of fuel (mpg).
Energy Smart. Meeting your energy needs cost
effectively and with the least impact on the environment.
Envelope. The skin of a building-including the
windows, doors, walls, foundation, basement slab, ceilings, roof
and insulation – that separates the interior of a building from
the outdoor environment.
Environment. Under the California Environmental
Quality Act, “the physical conditions which exist within the area
which will be affected by a proposed project, including land,
air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, noise, objects of historic or
aesthetic significance.” See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
Environmental Impact Report (EIR). A report
required pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act
that assesses all the environmental characteristics of an area,
determines what effects or impacts will result if the area is
altered or disturbed by a proposed action, and identifies
alternatives or other measures to avoid or reduce those impacts.
See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT, INITIAL STUDY.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Under the
National Environmental Policy Act, a statement on the effect of
development proposals and other major actions that significantly
affect the environment. See NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT.
Environmental Justice. The fair treatment of
people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the
development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of
environmental laws, regulations and policies. See California
Government Code section 65040.12.
Environmental Justice Element. One of the eight
state-mandated elements of a local general plan. Only
jurisdictions with disadvantaged communities are required to
incorporate environmental goals, policies and programs to promote
equity and protect human health from environmental hazards.
Equity. The state, quality or ideal of being
just, impartial and fair; creating a situation where all groups
have access to the resources and opportunities necessary to
improve the quality of their lives and differences in life
outcomes cannot be predicted on the basis of race, class or other
dimensions of identity.
Erosion. (1) The loosening and transportation of
rock and soil debris by wind, rain, or running water. (2) The
gradual wearing away of the upper layers of earth.
Exaction. A contribution or payment required as
an authorized precondition for receiving a development permit;
usually refers to mandatory dedication (or fee in lieu of
dedication) requirements found in many subdivision regulations.
Excise Tax. Tax placed on a person for a
voluntary act, making the tax avoidable. Includes sales and use
tax, business license tax, transient occupancy tax, utility user
tax, etc. Phrase “excise tax” is most commonly used to refer to a
parcel tax. See AD VALOREM TAX, PARCEL TAX, TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY
TAX, UTILITY USERS TAX.
Expansive Soils. Soils that swell when they
absorb water and shrink as they dry. Expenditure. The actual
payment for goods and services. See APPROPRIATION.
Expressway. A divided multi-lane major arterial
street for through traffic with partial control of access and
with grade separations at major intersections. See ARTERIAL,
Extreme Weather Event. In most cases, extreme
weather events are defined as lying in the outermost (“most
unusual”) ten percent of a place’s history.
Exurban Area. The region that lies beyond a city
and its suburbs.
Fair Market Rent. Amount of rent, including
utility allowances, determined by the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development for purposes of administering the Section 8
Existing Housing Program. See SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE
Family. (1) Two or more persons related by
birth, marriage or adoption (U.S. Bureau of the Census). (2) An
individual or a group of persons living together who constitute a
bona fide single-family housekeeping unit in a dwelling unit, not
including a fraternity, sorority, club or other group of persons
occupying a hotel, lodging house or institution of any kind
(California). See HOUSEHOLD.
Farmers Home Administration (FmHA). A federal
agency that provides loans and grants for improvement projects
and low-income housing.
Fast Food Restaurant. Any retail establishment
intended primarily to provide short-order food services for
on-site dining and/or take-out, including self-serve restaurants
(excluding cafeterias where food is consumed on the premises),
drive-in restaurants and formula restaurants required by contract
or other arrangement to offer standardized menus, ingredients and
fast food preparation.
Fault. A fracture in the Earth’s crust forming a
boundary between rock masses that have shifted.
Feasible. Capable of being accomplished in a
successful manner within a reasonable time taking into account
economic, environmental, social and technological factors.
Fee Interest. Entitles a landowner to exercise
complete control over use of land, subject only to government
land use regulations.
Feeder Roads. Smaller roadways that “feed” or
connect traffic to larger roadways.
Fees. Also known as monetary exactions, fees
require project proponents to pay certain amounts in order to
have their applications processed (the fees reimburse the agency
for the expenses of processing the application). Fees also may be
assessed to mitigate the impact of a proposed development on the
community (for example, school facilities fees to help expand the
schools to assure they have enough capacity for the demand
created by a new housing development). State law closely
regulates the adoption, levy, collection and challenge to
development fees imposed by a local public agency. It applies to
both fees imposed on a broad class of projects by legislation of
general applicability and fees imposed on a project-specific
basis. See EXACTION, IMPACT FEE.
Field Act. Legislation passed after a 1933 Long
Beach earthquake that collapsed a school, that established more
stringent structural requirements and standards for construction
of schools than for other buildings. See California Education
Code sections 17280; 81130 and following.
Final Subdivision Map. A map of an approved
subdivision filed in the county recorder’s office. It usually
shows surveyed lot lines, street right-of-ways, easements,
monuments, distances, angles and bearings, pertaining to
the exact dimensions of all parcels, street lines and so forth.
See TENTATIVE SUBDIVISION MAP, PARCEL MAP.
Finding. A determination or conclusion based on
the evidence presented to a hearing body in support of its
decision. When it presents its decision, the body is often
required to demonstrate in writing that the facts presented in
evidence support its decision in conformance with the law.
Fire Hazard Zone. An area where, due to slope,
fuel, weather or other fire-related conditions, the potential
loss of life and property from a fire necessitates special fire
protection measures and planning before development occurs.
Fiscal Impact Analysis. A projection of the
direct public costs and revenues resulting from population or
employment change to the local jurisdiction(s) in which the
change is taking place. Enables local governments to evaluate
relative fiscal merits of general plans, specific plans or
projects. See GENERAL PLAN, SPECIFIC PLAN.
Fiscal Impact Report (FIR). A report projecting
the public costs and revenues that will result from a proposed
program or development. See FISCAL IMPACT ANALYSIS.
Fiscal Year. The period designated for the
beginning and ending of financial transactions. Nearly all agency
fiscal years begin on July 1 and end June 30 of the following
Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). For each
community, the official map on which the Federal Insurance
Administration has delineated areas of special flood hazard and
the risk premium zones applicable to that community.
Flood, 100-Year. The magnitude of a flood
expected to occur on the average every 100 years, based on
historical data. The 100-year flood has a one percent chance of
occurring in any given year. See BASE FLOOD.
Floodplain Fringe. All land between the floodway
and the upper elevation of the 100-year flood. See FLOOD,
Floodplain. The relatively level land area on
either side of the banks of a stream regularly subject to
flooding. That part of the floodplain subject to a one percent
chance of flooding in any given year is designated as an “area of
special flood hazard” by the Federal Insurance Administration.
Floodway. The channel of a river or other
watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in
order to discharge the “base flood” without cumulatively
increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot. No
development is allowed in floodways. See BASE FLOOD.
Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The gross floor area
permitted on a site divided by the total net area of the site,
expressed in decimals to one or two places. For example, on a
site with 10,000 net square feet of land area, a floor area ratio
of 1.0 will allow a maximum of 10,000 gross square feet of
building floor area to be built. On the same site, an FAR of 1.5
would allow 15,000 square feet of floor area; an FAR of 2.0 would
allow 20,000 square feet; and an FAR of 0.5 would allow only
5,000 square feet. Also commonly used in zoning, FARs typically
are applied on a parcel-by-parcel basis as opposed to an average
FAR for an entire land use or zoning district. See ZONING.
Floor Area, Gross. The sum of the horizontal
areas of the several floors of a building measured from the
exterior face of exterior walls, or from the centerline of a wall
separating two buildings, but not including any space where the
floor-to-ceiling height is less than six feet. Some agencies
exclude specific kinds of space (for example, elevator shafts,
parking decks) from the calculation of gross floor area.
Food Desert. Areas characterized by poor access
to healthy and affordable food that may contribute to social and
spatial disparities in diet and diet-related health outcomes. The
term “food desert” can mean a literal absence of retail food in a
defined area, with studies of food deserts more commonly
assessing differential accessibility to healthy and affordable
food between socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged
Food Insecurity. Limited or uncertain
availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited
or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially
Food Miles. The distance food travels from where
it is grown or raised to where it is ultimately purchased by the
consumer or end-user.
Food Security. Access by all people at all times
to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security
includes at a minimum the ready availability of
nutritionally adequate and safe foods and an assured ability to
acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.
Footcandle. The unit of illumination when the
foot is the unit of length.
Footprint. Land area taken up by a building.
Footprint; Building Footprint. The outline of a
building at all of the points where it meets the ground.
Form-Based Codes. A method of regulating
development to achieve a specific urban form by controlling
physical form primarily, with a lesser focus on land use, through
city or county regulations. Form-based codes address the
relationship between building facades and the public realm, the
form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the
scale and types of streets and blocks.
Fossil Fuels. Fuels such as coal, oil and
natural gas; so-called because they are the remains of ancient
plant and animal life.
Franchise. Fee paid to a municipality from a
franchisee for “rental” or “toll” for the use of streets and
Freeway. A high-speed, high-capacity,
limited-access road serving regional and countywide travel. Such
roads are free of tolls, as contrasted with turnpikes or other
toll roads. Freeways generally are used for long trips between
major land use generators. At Level of Service E, they carry
approximately 1,875 vehicles per lane per hour in both
directions. Major streets cross at a different grade level. See
EXPRESSWAY, LEVEL OF SERVICE (TRAFFIC).
Friction Factor. Constraint applied in a traffic
model to introduce an approximation of conditions that exist on
streets in a city or county. These conditions reduce the speed of
traffic and the desirability of specific links in the network
upon which the traffic model distributes trips. Examples are
frequency of low-speed curves, frequency of driveways, narrowness
of lanes and lack of turning lanes at intersections.
Frontage. The frontage, or front, of a lot is
usually defined as the side nearest the street.
Fund Balance. Difference between the assets
(revenues and other resources) and liabilities (expenditures
incurred or committed to) of a particular fund.
Fund. Accounting entity with a set of
self-balancing revenue and expenditure accounts used to record
the financial affairs of a governmental organization. See
Gann Initiative. See PROPOSITION 4.
Gateway. A point along a roadway entering a city
or county at which a motorist gains a sense of having left the
environs and of having entered the city or county.
General Fund. Fund used to account for all
financial resources except those required to be accounted for in
another fund (like enterprise or grant funds). Usually, the
General Fund is the largest fund in an agency. See EARMARKED
General Law City. A city incorporated under and
subject to the general laws of the state.
General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds. Bonds issued
through a governmental entity which have the legal authority to
levy a tax on real and personal property located within the
governmental boundaries at any rate necessary to collect enough
money each year to pay for principal and interest due. See BOND,
LIMITED OBLIGATION BONDS.
General Plan. The general plan is the foundation
for local land use planning. The plan provides a vision for the
foreseeable planning horizon—usually 10 to 20 years—and
translates it into goals and policies for the physical
development of the community. All other land use ordinances and
policies flow from the general plan. The general plan covers all
of the land within the jurisdiction and any additional land that,
in the agency’s judgment, bears relation to its planning. See
California Government Code section 65300. See also SPECIFIC PLAN.
General Revenue. Those revenues that cannot be
associated with a specific expenditure, such as property taxes
(other than voter-approved indebtedness), sales tax and business
license tax. See EARMARKED FUNDS, EXPENDITURE.
General Tax. Tax used for general agency
purposes which is deposited into the general fund. See GENERAL
FUND. G.O. Bonds. See GENERAL OBLIGATION (G.O.) BONDS.
Gentrification. A process of neighborhood change
where higher-income residents move into a historically
marginalized neighborhood, housing costs rise and the
neighborhood is physically transformed through new higher-end
construction and building upgrades, resulting in the displacement
of vulnerable residents and changes to the neighborhood’s
Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Computer-based systems capable of integrating and displaying
different types of geological and demographic information. By
creating maps, one may depict an area’s natural and human-made
resources, including soil types, population densities, land uses,
transportation corridors, waterways, street patterns,
mass-transit patterns, sewer lines, water sources and utility
Geothermal Energy. Heat that comes from the
Global Warming. An increase in the temperature
of the Earth’s atmosphere. Global warming has occurred in
the past as a result of natural influences, but the term is most
often used to refer to the warming predicted by computer models
to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse
Goal. A statement of desired future conditions
regarding a particular topic; a goal paints a picture of how
something will be in the future. A goal in and of itself is not
sufficient to understand its intent, extent, or context. A goal
itself should be kept simple, with policies, objectives and
implementation actions providing further definition.
Grade. (1) Leveling or smoothing the contours of
a property. (2) The rate of rise or descent of a sloping surface,
usually expressed in degrees or a percentage calculated by the
number of feet of rise per 100 feet of horizontal distance. (A 10
percent grade would mean a 10-foot vertical rise over 100 feet of
Granny Flat. An accessory dwelling for one or
more elderly persons that is attached to or separate from a main
residence. Cities and counties may approve such units in
single-family neighborhoods. See Government Code section 65852.
See ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT.
Grants. Contributions of cash or other assets
from another governmental agency to be used or expended for a
specified purpose, activity or facility. See EARMARKED FUNDS.
Green Design. Using natural products and safer
procedures to protect people’s health and well-being.
Green Infrastructure. The range of measures that
use plant or soil systems, permeable pavement or other permeable
surfaces or substrates, stormwater harvest and reuse, or
landscaping to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater
and reduce flows to sewer systems or to surface waters.
Green Space. Open, undeveloped land with natural
Greenbelt. A band of countryside surrounding a
city or urbanized area on which building is generally prohibited.
Greenfield. Farmland and open areas where there
has been no prior industrial or commercial activity, and
therefore where the threat of contamination is lower than in
urbanized areas. See BROWNFIELD.
Greenhouse Effect. The warming effect of the
Earth’s atmosphere. Light energy from the sun which passes
through the Earth’s atmosphere is absorbed by the Earth’s surface
and re-radiated into the atmosphere as heat energy. The heat
energy is then trapped by the atmosphere, creating a situation
similar to that which occurs in a car with its windows rolled up.
A number of scientists believe that the emission
of CO2 and other gases into the atmosphere may increase
the greenhouse effect and contribute to global warming.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG). Any gas that absorbs
infrared radiation (i.e. heat) in the atmosphere. Greenhouse
gases include, but are not limited to, water vapor, carbon
dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O),
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs),
ozone (O3 ), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons
(PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Atmospheric
gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide
(N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons
(HCFCs), ozone (O3), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons
(PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and water vapor that
slow the passage of re-radiated heat through the
Greenways. Linear open spaces that link parks
and communities, such as paths or trails. They provide public
access to green spaces and opportunities for residents of all
ages and abilities to be physically active.
Greyfield. A blighted area, often a failed
shopping center, that is ripe for redevelopment.
Gross Acreage. The entire acreage of a site.
Most communities calculate gross acreage to the centerline of
proposed bounding streets and to the edge of the right-of-way of
existing or dedicated streets. See NET ACREAGE.
Ground Failure. Ground movement or rupture
caused by strong shaking during an earthquake. Includes
landslide, lateral spreading, liquefaction and subsidence.
Ground Shaking. Ground movement resulting from
the transmission of seismic waves during an earthquake.
Groundwater Recharge. The natural process of
infiltration and percolation of rainwater from land areas or
streams through permeable soils into water-holding rocks that
provide underground storage (aquifers). See AQUIFER.
Groundwater. Water under the earth’s surface,
often confined to aquifers capable of supplying wells and
springs. See AQUIFER.
Group Home; Group Care Facility. Any facility
used to provide non-medical residential care, day treatment,
adult day care or foster family agency services. Typically used
to assist abused or neglected children or people who are
physically disabled or mentally impaired.
Growth Management Plan. A plan for a given
geographical region containing demographic projections (i.e.,
housing units, employment and population) through some specified
point in time and which provides recommendations for local
governments to better manage growth and reduce projected
environmental impacts. See CONCURRENCY, CONGESTION MANAGEMENT
Guidelines. General statements of policy or
design direction. Guidelines established by a jurisdiction do not
contain absolutes or standards, but may be presented alongside
Guideway. A roadway system that guides the
vehicles using it as well as supporting them. Examples include a
streetcar and monorail system, with the railroad being the most
familiar and common guideway. Most guideway transit systems make
use of wayside electrical power for propulsion.
Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). A process
established under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act which
allows the incidental taking of a listed, threatened, or
endangered species upon the approval of a “single” or “multi”
species plan. The development of such plans requires extensive
studies, research and coordination between federal,
state and local agencies and with citizen groups. The HCP
must show how the impacts of the taking have been minimized and
mitigated to the maximum extent practicable, that adequate
funding for the plan will be provided, and that the taking will
not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and
recovery of the species in the wild.
Habitat. The physical location or type of
environment in which an organism or biological population lives
Hazard Mitigation. Sustained action taken to
reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and their property
from hazards and their effects.
Hazardous Material. Any substance that, because
of its quantity, concentration, or physical or chemical
characteristics, poses a significant present or potential hazard
to human health and safety or to the environment if released into
the workplace or the environment. The term includes, but is not
limited to, hazardous substances and hazardous wastes.
Health. A state of physical, mental and
social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and
Health Impact Assessment (HIA). A combination of
procedures, methods and tools by which a policy,
program or project may be judged as to its potential effects
on the health of a population, and the distribution of those
effects within the population. HIAs can be used to evaluate the
potential health effects of a project or policy before it is
built or implemented. It can provide recommendations to increase
positive health outcomes and minimize adverse health outcomes.
The HIA process brings public health issues to the attention of
persons who make decisions about areas that fall outside of
traditional public health arenas, such as transportation or land
Healthy Community/Healthy Places. Communities
that are developed, designed and built to promote good health.
Highest and Best Use. The use of a property that
will bring the greatest profit to its owners. In theory, the
economics of the real estate market establish a maximum value for
each parcel of land at any given time. However, owners are not
necessarily entitled to that use, particularly when that use may
have negative effects on the use and enjoyment of neighboring
High-Occupancy Structure. All pre-1935 buildings
with over 25 occupants and all pre-1976 buildings with over 100
High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV). Any vehicle other
than a driver-only automobile (for example, a vanpool, a
bus or a car carrying two or more persons).
Highway. High-speed, high-capacity,
limited-access transportation facility serving regional and
county-wide travel. Highways may cross at a different grade
Historic Preservation. The preservation of
historically significant structures and neighborhoods in order to
facilitate restoration and rehabilitation of the building(s) to a
Home Owner’s Association (HOA). A non-profit
organization operating under recorded legal agreements running
with the land. Generally, each lot owner in a condominium or
similar planned development becomes a member upon purchase and
each lot is subject to a charge for a proportionate share of the
expenses for the organization’s activities, like maintaining
common areas, landscaping, recreation facilities and parking
Household. All those persons, related or
unrelated, who occupy a single housing unit. The concept of
household is important because the formation of new households
generates the demand for housing. Each new household formed
creates the need for one additional housing unit or requires that
one existing housing unit be shared by two households. Thus,
household formation can continue to take place even without an
increase in population, thereby increasing the demand for
housing. See FAMILY.
Housing and Community Development, Department of
(HCD). The state agency responsible for assessing,
planning for, and assisting communities to meet the needs of low-
and moderate-income households. HCD also certifies housing
elements of general plans for local jurisdictions.
Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of
(HUD). A cabinet-level department of the federal
government that administers housing and community development
Housing Authority, Local (LHA). A local housing
agency established in state law, subject to local activation and
operation. Originally intended to manage certain federal
subsidies, but vested with broad powers to develop and manage
other forms of affordable housing.
Housing Element. One of the eight state-mandated
elements of a local general plan, it assesses the existing and
projected housing needs of all economic segments of the
community; identifies potential sites adequate to provide the
amount and kind of housing needed; and contains adopted goals,
policies, and implementation programs for the preservation,
improvement and development of housing. Under state law,
housing elements must be updated periodically, usually every five
to eight years (typically in connection with transportation
Housing Unit. A house, an apartment, a mobile
home or trailer, a group of rooms or a single room that is
occupied as a separate living quarters, or, if vacant, is
intended for occupancy as a separate living quarters (U.S. Census
Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV). A vehicle that
combines an internal combustion engine with a battery and
electric motor. This combination offers the range and refueling
capabilities of a conventional vehicle, while providing improved
fuel economy and lower emissions.
Impact Fee. A fee, also called a development
fee, levied on the developer of a project by a city,
county or other public agency as compensation for
otherwise-unmitigated impacts the project will produce.
Development fees must not exceed the estimated reasonable cost of
providing the service for which the fee is charged. The most
common are (1) impact fees (such as parkland acquisition
fees, school facilities fees or street construction fees)
related to funding public improvements which are necessitated in
part or in whole by the development; (2) connection fees (such as
water line fees) to cover the cost of installing public services
to the development; (3) permit fees (such as building permits,
grading permits, sign permits) for the administrative costs of
processing development plans; and (4) application fees (rezoning,
CUP variance, etc.) for the administrative costs of reviewing and
hearing development proposals. See California Government Code
sections 66000 and following. See DEVELOPMENT FEES.
Impact. The effect of any direct human actions
or the indirect repercussions of human actions on existing
physical, social or economic conditions.
Impacted Areas. Census tracts where more than 50
percent of the dwelling units house low- and very low-income
households. Often correlated to food and park deserts, so can be
helpful for researching food and park access.
Impacted Areas. Census tracts where more than 50
percent of the dwelling units house low- and very low-income
Impermeable. Incapable of permeating, absorbing,
or diffusing water, thereby creating runoff.
Impervious Surface. A surface through which
water cannot penetrate, like a roof, road, sidewalk or paved
parking lot. The amount of impervious surface increases with
development and establishes the need for drainage facilities to
carry the increased runoff.
Improved Land. Raw land to which has been added
basic utilities such as roads, sewers, water lines and other
public infrastructure facilities. Can also mean
structures/buildings have been erected on the land.
In Lieu Fee. See DEDICATION, IN LIEU OF.
Inclusionary Zoning. Provisions established by a
public agency to require that a specific percentage of housing
units in a project or development remain affordable to very low-
and low-income households for a specified period. Often such
regulations require a minimum percentage of housing for low-and
moderate-income households in new housing developments and in
conversions of apartments to condominiums.
Incorporation. Creation of a new city.
Incubator Space. Retail or industrial space that
is affordable to new, low-margin businesses.
Indoor Air Pollution. Air pollutants that occur
within buildings or other enclosed spaces, as opposed to those
occurring in outdoor, or ambient air. Some examples of indoor air
pollutants are nitrogen oxides, smoke, asbestos, formaldehyde and
Industrial. A land use classification often
divided into “heavy industrial” uses, like construction yards,
quarrying and factories; and “light industrial” uses, like
research and development and less intensive warehousing and
Infill Development. Development of vacant or
underutilized land (usually individual lots or leftover
properties) within areas that are already largely developed and
are served by an established system of roads and infrastructure.
Infrastructure. Public services and facilities
like sewage-disposal systems, water-supply systems, other utility
systems, schools and roads.
Initial Study. Under the California
Environmental Quality Act, a preliminary analysis of the
potential environmental impacts of a proposed project prepared by
the lead agency. This process is used to determine whether an
Environmental Impact Report must be prepared, or a Negative
Declaration will be sufficient. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL
Initiative. A ballot measure used to enact new
legislation. In California, city and county initiative measures
may be placed on the ballot by petition of the voters or action
of the governing body.
In-Lieu Fee. Cash payments that may be required
of an owner or developer as a substitute for a dedication of
land, usually calculated in dollars per lot, and referred to as
in lieu fees or in lieu contributions. See DEDICATION, EXACTION.
Institutional Uses. (1) Publicly or privately
owned and operated activities like hospitals, convalescent
hospitals, intermediate care facilities, nursing homes, museums,
schools and colleges; (2) churches and other religious
organizations; and (3) other non-profit activities of a welfare,
educational, or philanthropic nature that cannot be considered
residential, commercial or industrial.
Intensity, Building. For residential uses, the
actual number or the allowable range of dwelling units per net or
gross acre. For non-residential uses, the actual or the maximum
permitted floor area ratios (FARs). See FLOOR AREA RATIO.
Interagency. Indicates cooperation between or
among two or more discrete agencies in regard to a specific
Interest, Fee. Entitles a landowner to exercise
complete control over use of land, subject only to government
land use regulations.
Interest, Less-Than-Fee. The purchase of
interest in land rather than outright ownership; includes the
purchase of development rights via conservation,
open-space or scenic easements. See EASEMENT CONSERVATION,
EASEMENT SCENIC, LEASE and LEASEHOLD INTEREST.
Interim Zoning. See MORATORIUM.
Intermittent Stream. A stream that normally
flows for at least 30 days after the last major rain of the
season and is dry a large part of the year.
Inverse Condemnation. The illegal removal of
property value through excessive government regulation. Legal
advice should be sought before proceeding in cases of potential
inverse condemnation. As a result, the owner claims entitlement
to payment for the property loss under the constitutional right
to compensation for property that was condemned under the
government’s right of eminent domain. For example, a city widens
a street, taking the entire parking lot of a local store. The
city offers to pay for the lot, but the store claims the market
has lost all its business since no one can park, and wants the
value of the entire parcel, including the market building.
Investment Earnings. Revenue earned from the
investment of idle public funds.
Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs). Private
companies that provide a utility, such as water, natural gas or
electricity, to a specific service area.
Issues. Important unsettled community matters or
problems that are identified in a community’s general plan and
dealt with by the plan’s objectives, policies, plan
proposals and implementation programs.
Jobs to Housing Balance/Fit/Ratio. One of many
measures or variables used by planners to examine the proportions
of residents, jobs, and services in urban areas and to guide
development planning for efficient city land use and
transportation networks. A jobs to housing ratio in the range of
0.75 to 1.5 is considered beneficial for reducing vehicle miles
traveled, traffic congestion and air pollution. Ratios
higher than 1.5 (jobs rich) indicate that there may be more
workers commuting into the area because of a surplus of jobs,
while ratios below 0.75 (housing rich) indicate that an area
primarily serves to provide lower cost or exclusive housing. A
jobs to housing ratio is most appropriately applied at
sub-regional and regional levels in urbanized areas.
Joint Powers Authority (JPA). A legal
arrangement that enables two or more units of government to share
authority in order to plan and carry out a specific program or
set of programs that serves both units.
Joint-Use Agreements. are agreements between a
school district and another entity, such as a city, county,
nonprofit or private organization, regarding the sharing of
capital, operating costs and responsibilities for a facility.
Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). A
specific type of conversion of existing space that is contained
entirely within an existing or proposed single-family residence.
See ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT.
L10. A statistical descriptor indicating peak
noise levels—the sound level exceeded ten percent of the time. It
is a commonly used descriptor of community noise and has been
used in Federal Highway Administration standards and the
standards of some cities and counties.
Land Banking. The purchase of land by a local
government for use or resale at a later date. Banked lands have
been used for development of low- and moderate-income housing,
expansion of parks, and development of industrial and commercial
centers. Federal rail-banking law allows railroads to bank unused
rail corridors for future rail use while allowing interim use as
Land Use Classification. A system for
classifying and designating the appropriate use of
Land Use Element. A required element of the
general plan that uses text and maps to designate the future use
or reuse of land within a given jurisdiction’s planning area. The
land use element serves as a guide to the structuring of zoning
and subdivision controls, urban renewal and capital improvements
programs, and official decisions regarding the distribution and
intensity of development and the location of public facilities
and open space. See MANDATORY ELEMENT.
Land Use Regulation. A term encompassing the
regulation of land in general and often used to mean those
regulations incorporated in the general plan, as distinct from
zoning regulations (which are more specific).
Land Use. The occupation or utilization of land
or water area for any human activity or any purpose defined in
the general plan.
Landmark. (1) A building, site, object,
structure, or significant tree having historical, architectural,
social or cultural significance and marked for preservation
by the local, state or federal government. (2) A visually
prominent or outstanding structure or natural feature that
functions as a point of orientation or identification.
Landscaping and Lighting Act of 1972. The 1972
Act lets cities, counties and special districts levy assessments
for land purchase and the construction, operation and
maintenance of parks, landscaping, lighting, traffic signals and
Landslide. Downslope movement of soil and/or
rock, which typically occurs during an earthquake or following
Lateral Spreading. Lateral movement of soil,
often as a result of liquefaction during an earthquake. See
Leapfrog Development. New development separated
from existing development by substantial vacant land.
Lease. A contractual agreement by which an owner
of real property (the lessor) gives the right of possession to
another (a lessee) for a specified period of time (term) and for
a specified consideration (rent).
Leasehold Interest. (1) The interest that the
lessee has in the value of the lease itself in condemnation award
determination. (2) The difference between the total remaining
rent under the lease and the rent the lessee would currently pay
for similar space for the same time period.
LEED. An acronym for Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design. LEED is a voluntary, consensus-based green
building rating system developed and maintained by the U.S. Green
Building Council to support and certify successful green building
design, construction and operations.
Leq. The energy equivalent level, defined as the
average sound level on the basis of sound energy (or sound
pressure squared). The Leq is a “dosage” type measure and is the
basis for the descriptors used in current standards, such as the
24-hour CNEL used by the State of California.
Level of Service (LOS) Standard. A standard used
by government agencies to measure the quality or effectiveness of
a municipal service like police, fire or library, or the
performance of a facility, like a street or highway.
Level of Service (Traffic). A scale that
measures the amount of traffic that a roadway or intersection can
accommodate, based on such factors as maneuverability, driver
dissatisfaction and delay.
Level of Service A. Indicates a relatively free
flow of traffic, with little or no limitation on vehicle movement
Level of Service B. Describes a steady flow of
traffic, with only slight delays in vehicle movement and speed.
All queues clear in a single signal cycle.
Level of Service C. Denotes a reasonably steady,
high volume flow of traffic, with some limitations on movement
and speed, and occasional backups on critical approaches.
Level of Service D. Designates the level where
traffic nears an unstable flow. Intersections still function, but
short queues develop and cars may have to wait through one cycle
during short peaks.
Level of Service E. Represents traffic
characterized by slow movement and frequent (although momentary)
stoppages. This type of congestion is considered severe but is
not uncommon at peak traffic hours, with frequent stopping,
long-standing queues and blocked intersections.
Level of Service F. Describes unsatisfactory
stop-and go traffic characterized by traffic jams and stoppages
of long duration. Vehicles at signalized intersections usually
have to wait through one or more signal change and “upstream”
intersections may be blocked by the long queues.
Levy. To impose taxes, special assessments or
service charges for the support of governmental
activities; the total amount of taxes, special assessments
or service charges imposed by a governmental agency. See SERVICE
Licenses and Permits. Charge designed to
reimburse agency for costs of regulating activities being
licensed, like the licensing of animals, bicycles, etc.
Lien. A claim on assets, especially property,
for the payment of taxes or utility service charges. See SERVICE
Life-Cycle Costing. A method of evaluating a
capital investment that takes into account the sum total of all
costs associated with the investment over the lifetime of the
Light-Duty Rail Transit (LRT). Streetcars or
trolley cars that typically operate entirely or substantially in
mixed traffic and in non-exclusive, at-grade rights-of-way.
Passengers typically board vehicles from the street level (as
opposed to a platform that is level with the train) and the
driver may collect fares. Vehicles are each electrically
self-propelled and usually operate in one or two-car trains.
Limited Obligation Bonds. Similar to general
obligation bonds except that security for the issuance is limited
exactly to the revenues pledged in the bond statement and not to
the full faith and credit of the jurisdiction. See BOND, GENERAL
Linkage. With respect to jobs/housing balance, a
program designed to offset the impact of employment on housing
need within a community, whereby project approval is conditioned
on the provision of housing units or the payment of an equivalent
in-lieu fee. The linkage program must establish the
cause-and-effect relationship between a new commercial or
industrial development and the increased demand for housing.
Liquefaction. The transformation of loose, wet
soil from a solid to a liquid state, often as a result of ground
shaking during an earthquake.
Liquidity. The ability to convert a security
into cash promptly with minimum risk of principal.
Live-Work Quarters. Buildings or spaces within
buildings that are used jointly for commercial and residential
purposes where the residential use of the space is secondary or
accessory to the primary use as a place of work.
Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). The
Cortese/Knox Act (see Government Code section 56000) establishes
a Local Agency Formation Commission in each county. Commissions
within each county that review and evaluate all proposals for
formation of special districts, incorporation of cities,
annexation to special districts or cities, consolidation of
districts and merger of districts with cities. The LAFCO
members generally include two county supervisors, two city
council members, and one member representing the general public.
Some LAFCOs include two representatives of special
Local Coastal Program (LCP). A combination of a
local government’s land use plans, zoning ordinances, zoning
district maps and (within sensitive coastal resources areas)
other implementing actions that together meet the local
requirements of, and implement the provisions and policies of,
the California Coastal Act of 1976.
Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan. The
relevant portion of a local government general plan or coastal
element that details type, location and intensity of land
use, applicable resource protection and development policies,
and, where necessary, implementation actions.
Location-Efficient Mortgages. Competitive rates
and low down payments to those who want to live in
“location-efficient communities” that are convenient to resources
and reduce the need to drive.
Lot. The basic development unit – an area with
fixed boundaries, used or intended to be used by one or more uses
within one building and its accessory building(s). A lot must
meet the requirements of the zoning district in which it is
located and must front on a public street or an approved private
Lot Line Adjustment. The adjustment of a lot
line between two or more existing parcels where land taken from
one parcel is added to an adjacent parcel and where a greater
number of parcels than originally existed are not thereby
Lot of Record. A lot that is part of a recorded
subdivision or a parcel of land that has been recorded at the
county recorder’s office containing property tax records.
Low Barrier Navigation Center. A
service-enriched shelter focused on moving people into permanent
housing. A low barrier navigation center provides temporary
living facilities while case managers connect residents to
supportive services, such as employment training, public
benefits, health services, substance abuse and mental health
services and connections to permanent housing opportunities.
Traditional shelters often have rules requiring people to show up
at a certain time and leave at a certain time the next day; they
prohibit pets, separate by sex, and limit the items people can
bring in. All these barriers keep some homeless people from going
to traditional shelters.
Low-Income Household. A household with an annual
income usually no greater than 80 percent of the area median
family income adjusted by household size, as determined by a
survey of incomes conducted by a city or a county, or in the
absence of such a survey, based on the latest available
eligibility limits established by the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development for the Section 8 housing program. See
SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Tax reductions
provided by the federal and state governments for investors in
housing for low-income households.
Maladaptation. Any changes in natural or human
systems that inadvertently increase vulnerability to climatic
stimuli; an adaptation that does not succeed in reducing
vulnerability but increases it instead.
Mandatory Element. A component of the general
plan mandated by state law. California state law requires that a
general plan include elements dealing with eight subjects –
circulation, conservation, housing, land use, noise, open space,
safety and environmental justice – and specifies to various
degrees the information to be incorporated in each element.
Manufactured Housing. Residential structures
that are constructed entirely in a factory and that, since June
15, 1976, have been regulated by the federal Manufactured Home
Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 under the
administration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development. See MOBILE HOME, MODULAR UNIT.
Marks-Roos Bonds. Bonds authorized by the
Marks-Roos Local Bond Pooling Act of 1985 which provide local
agencies with extremely flexible financing powers through
participation in joint powers authorities. See BOND, JOINT POWERS
Master EIR (MEIR). Section 21156 et seq. of the
Public Resources Code authorizes preparation of a “master
environmental impact report” for specific kinds of projects
involving broad policy decisions, specifically including general
plans. The MEIR is designed to allow an agency to eliminate or
reduce the scope of the environmental review of subsequent
discretionary activities or projects that follow the expected
course of action whose environmental effects are addressed in the
MEIR. A MEIR can streamline development in the short term but
have a shorter shelf-life compared to a program environmental
impact report or PEIR.
Master Environmental Assessment. An inventory or
database for use with later environmental impact reports, a
master environmental assessment (MEA) can assist a city or county
in formulating a general plan or any element thereof by
identifying environmental characteristics and constraints
required to be addressed in the general plan. Relevant portions
of the MEA can be referenced and summarized in preparing later
EIRs and negative declarations.
Mean. The average of a number of figures
computed by adding up all the figures and dividing by the number
of figures. Compare MEDIAN and MODE.
Mean High Tide Line. The average high tide line
in coastal zones. The state of California owns all lands located
below the mean high tide line.
Mean Sea Level. The average altitude of the sea
surface for all tidal stages.
Median. The middle number in a series of items
in which fifty percent of all figures are above and fifty percent
are below. Compare with MEAN and MODE.
Median Strip. The dividing area, either paved or
landscaped, between opposing lanes of traffic on a roadway.
Mello-Roos Bonds. Locally issued bonds that are
repaid by a special tax imposed on property owners within a
community facilities district established by a governmental
entity. The bond proceeds can be used for public improvements and
for a limited number of services. Named after the program’s
Mello-Roos Community Facilities Tax. Special non
ad valorem tax imposed to finance public capital facilities and
services in connection with new development.
Mello-Roos District. A distinct entity of
government for the purpose of imposing and collecting the
Mello-Roos Community Facilities Tax.
Mercalli Intensity Scale. A subjective measure
of the observed effects (human reactions, structural damage,
geologic effects) of an earthquake. Expressed in Roman numerals
from I to XII.
Metes and Bounds. A system of describing or
identifying land using measures (metes) and direction (bounds)
from an identifiable point of reference like a monument or other
marker, the corner of intersecting streets or some other
Microclimate. The climate of a small, distinct
area, such as a city street or a building’s courtyard; can be
favorably altered through functional landscaping,
architecture or other design features.
Mineral Resource. Land on which known deposits
of commercially viable mineral or aggregate deposits exist. This
designation is applied to sites determined by the California
Geological Survey as being a resource of regional significance
and is intended to help maintain the quarrying operations and
protect them from encroachment of incompatible land uses.
Minipark. A small neighborhood park of
approximately one acre or less. See NEIGHBORHOOD PARK.
Ministerial Decision. These actions are
mandatory, nondiscretionary activities that must be approved so
long as certain standards are met. A final subdivision map, for
example, must be granted when all of the conditions of the
tentative map are met. Likewise, certain applications for second
unit or “granny flat” approvals in single-family neighborhoods
Minor Land Division. Contiguous property which
is partitioned into four or fewer lots usually qualifies as a
minor land division.
Mitigated Negative Declaration. A written
statement by the lead agency that revisions to a project, agreed
to by the applicant, would avoid potential significant adverse
impacts, and there is no substantial evidence that the project,
as revised, will have a significant effect on the environment.
See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT, NEGATIVE DECLARATION.
Mitigation Measures. In the context of the
California Environmental Quality Act, measures that modify a
project to reduce or eliminate a significant environmental
impact. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT.
Mitigation Monitoring Program. A program which
is adopted as part of the Mitigated Negative Declaration or
Environmental Impact Report process that establishes a reporting
system designed to ensure compliance to and implementation of the
adopted mitigation measures. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
ACT, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT, MITIGATED NEGATIVE DECLARATION.
Mixed-Use. Properties on which various uses like
office, commercial, institutional and residential are
combined in a single building or on a single site in an
integrated development project with significant functional
interrelationships and a coherent physical design. A “single
site” may include contiguous properties.
Mobile home. A structure, transportable in one
or more sections, built on a permanent chassis and designed for
use as a single-family dwelling unit that (1) has a minimum of
400 square feet of living space; (2) has a minimum width in
excess of 102 inches; (3) is connected to all available permanent
utilities; and (4) is tied down (a) to a permanent foundation on
a lot either owned or leased by the homeowner or (b) is set on
piers, with wheels removed and skirted, in a mobile home park.
See MANUFACTURED HOUSING, MODULAR UNIT.
Modal Choices. Transportation options; one’s
preferred method of transportation, such as walking, bicycling,
using an automobile, riding a bus or rail, etc.
Mode. (1) In statistics, the number that occurs
most frequently in a given series. Compare with MEAN, MEDIAN. (2)
A method of transportation.
Moderate-Income Household. A household with an
annual income between the lower income eligibility limits and 120
percent of the area median family income adjusted by household
size, usually as established by the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development for the Section 8 housing program. See
LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLD, SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
Modular Unit. A factory-fabricated,
transportable building or major component designed for use by
itself or for incorporation with similar units on site into a
structure for residential, commercial, educational or
industrial use. Differs from mobile homes and manufactured
housing by (in addition to lacking an integral chassis or
permanent hitch to allow future movement) being subject to
California housing law design standards. California standards are
more restrictive than federal standards in some respects (for
example, plumbing and energy conservation). Also called
factory-built housing and regulated by state law of that title.
See MOBILE HOME, MANUFACTURED HOUSING.
Moratorium. A zoning designation that
temporarily reduces or freezes allowable development in an area
until a permanent classification can be fixed; generally assigned
during general plan preparation to provide a basis for permanent
zoning. See Government Code section 65858.
Motor Vehicle License Fee (VLF). VLF is fee for
privilege of operating vehicle on public streets. VLF is levied
annually at two percent of the market value of motor vehicles and
is imposed by the state “in lieu” of local property taxes. VLF is
also called Motor Vehicle in-Lieu Tax.
Multi-Family Units. Freestanding buildings
composed of two or more separate living units, with each unit
having its own bedroom, kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Multiple Family Residential. A type of housing
that has several residential units on a parcel or parcels of
land. Examples of multiple family residential housing include
condominiums and apartments.
Multiplier Effect. Refers to the impact the
recirculation of money through the economy has on job and wealth
creation. For example, money paid as salaries to industrial and
office workers is spent on housing, food, clothing, and other
locally available goods and services. This spending creates jobs
in housing construction, retail stores and professional
offices. The wages paid to workers in those industries is again
re-spent, creating still more jobs. Overall, one job in basic
industry is estimated to create approximately one more job in
Municipal Improvement Act of 1913. Legislation
allowing cities, counties and special districts to fund
everything included in the 1911 Act plus power and public transit
facilities; assessments can be levied before construction begins.
Municipal Services. Services traditionally
provided by local government, including water and sewer, roads,
parks, schools, police and fire protection.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
The prescribed level of pollutants in the outside air that cannot
be exceeded legally during a specified time in a specified
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). An act
passed in 1974 establishing federal legislation for national
environmental policy, a council on environmental quality, and the
requirements for environmental impact statements.
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). A
federal program that authorizes the sale of federally subsidized
flood insurance in communities where such flood insurance is not
National Historic Preservation Act. A 1966
federal law that established a National Register of Historic
Places and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and
that authorized grants-in-aid for preserving historic properties.
National Register of Historic Places. The
official list, established by the National Historic Preservation
Act, of sites, districts, buildings, structures and objects
significant in the nation’s history or whose artistic or
architectural value is unique.
Natural Infrastructure. The preservation or
restoration of ecological systems, or utilization of engineered
systems that use ecological processes, to increase resiliency to
climate change, manage other environmental hazards, or both. This
may include, but is not limited to, floodplain and wetlands
restoration or preservation, combining levees with restored
natural systems to reduce flood risk, and urban tree planting to
mitigate high heat days.
Natural State. The condition existing prior to
Need. A condition requiring supply or relief.
The city or county may act upon findings of need within or on
behalf of the community. A lack of access to healthy food could
be identified as a need.
Negative Declaration. In the context of the
California Environmental Quality Act, a written statement briefly
describing the reasons why a proposed project will not have a
significant effect on the environment and does not require an
Environmental Impact Report. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
ACT, MITIGATED NEGATIVE DECLARATION.
Neighborhood Completeness. A land use indicator
that attempts to define how well a neighborhood is served by
specific land uses (e.g., affordable housing, fire/police
station, grocery store, parks, library, school, post office).
Neighborhood Park. City- or county-owned land
intended to serve the recreation needs of people living or
working within one-half mile radius of the park.
Neighborhood Unit. According to one widely
accepted concept of planning, the neighborhood unit should be the
basic building block of the city. It is based on the elementary
school, with other community facilities located at its center and
arterial streets at its perimeter. The distance from the school
to the perimeter should be a comfortable walking distance for a
school-age child; there would be no through traffic uses. Limited
industrial or commercial would occur on the perimeter where
arterials intersect. This was a model for American suburban
development after World War II.
Neighborhood. A planning area commonly
identified as such in a community’s planning documents, and by
the individuals residing and working within the neighborhood.
Documentation may include a map prepared for planning purposes
showing the names and boundaries neighborhoods. Though
neighborhoods are not legal designations, they are among the most
commonly recognized and understood land use designations.
Neotraditional Development. Typical of pre-World
War II communities, neotraditional development is characterized
by urban regions comprising many cohesive neighborhoods, each
with their own commercial core and linked to one another by some
form of transit. While a metropolitan area has a central
downtown, the many neighborhood centers provide a secondary
service area that can be reached on foot from people’s homes. The
neighborhood centers may include retail establishments, offices,
service providers, cinemas, health clubs, dense housing and
a transit hub.
Net Acreage. The portion of a site that can
actually be built upon. The following generally are not included
in the net acreage of a site: public or private road
rights-of-way, public open-space and flood ways. See GROSS
New Urbanism. A design philosophy intended to
create a strong sense of community by incorporating features of
traditional small towns. Compact, walkable neighborhoods with
active streets, housing and shopping in close proximity and
accessible public spaces are a few of the hallmarks of new
Nexus. In general, a minimum threshold of
connection necessary within a taxing jurisdiction to allow taxing
authority over out-of-state individuals or businesses. There must
be a reasonable connection “nexus” between required
development impact fees and a development project subject to the
fees. See California Government Code sections 66000 and
NIABY. (See also banana, nimby, and nimtoo) Not
In Anyone’s Back Yard.
NIMBY. An acronym for “Not-In-My-Backyard.” This
is a somewhat unflattering characterization for opponents of
development projects, with the implication being that the
opponents are advocating strictly based on personal self-interest
as opposed to the larger community interests. Local agencies’
alleged responsiveness to “NIMBY-ism” is one of the reasons some
advocate that state law preempt local agencies’ authority over
certain kinds of land use decisions (see for example, AFFORDABLE
NIMTOO. (See also banana, nimby and niaby) Not
In My Term Of Office.
Noise Attenuation. Reduction of the level of a
noise source using a substance, material, or surface, like earth
berms and/or solid concrete walls.
Noise Contour. A line connecting points of equal
noise level as measured on the same scale. Noise levels greater
than the 60 Ldn contour (measured in dBA) require noise
attenuation in residential development. See DAY-NIGHT AVERAGE
SOUND LEVEL, DBA.
Noise Element. One of the eight state-mandated
elements of a local general plan, it assesses noise levels of
highways and freeways, local arterials, railroads, airports,
local industrial plants and other ground stationary sources,
and adopts goals, policies and implementation programs to
reduce the community’s exposure to noise.
Noise. Any sound that is undesirable because it
interferes with speech and hearing, or is intense enough to
damage hearing, or is otherwise annoying. Noise, simply, is
Non-Attainment. The condition of not achieving a
desired or required level of performance. Frequently used in
reference to air quality.
Nonconforming Use. A use that was valid when
brought into existence, but by subsequent regulation becomes no
longer conforming. “Non-conforming use” is a generic term and
includes (1) non-conforming structures (by virtue of size, type
of construction, location on land or proximity to other
structures), (2) non-conforming use of a conforming building, (3)
non-conforming use of a non-conforming building and (4)
non-conforming use of land. Thus, any use lawfully existing on
any piece of property that is inconsistent with a new or amended
general plan, and that in turn is a violation of a zoning
ordinance amendment subsequently adopted in conformance with the
general plan, will be a non-conforming use. Typically,
non-conforming uses are permitted to continue for a designated
period of time, subject to certain restrictions.
Nonpoint Source Pollution. Sources for pollution
that are less definable and usually cover broad areas of land,
like agricultural land with fertilizers that are carried from the
land by runoff or automobiles. See POINT SOURCE POLLUTION.
Notice (of Hearing). A legal document announcing
the opportunity for the public to present their views to an
official representative or board of a public agency concerning an
official action pending before the agency.
Notice of Completion (NOC). Under the California
Environmental Quality Act, a notice issued and properly filed by
the lead agency upon completion of the Draft Environmental Impact
Report. The NOC contains a description of the proposed project.
See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT.
Notice of Determination (NOD). Under the
California Environmental Quality Act, a notice issued and
properly filed by the lead agency upon its approval of a project
subject to the California Environmental Quality Act, and stating
whether or not the project will have a significant effect on the
environment. The notice must be filed within five working days of
the action approving a project. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL
Notice of Preparation (NOP). Under the
California Environmental Quality Act, a brief notice issued by
the lead agency stating it plans to prepare an Environmental
Impact Report for a proposed project. The notice is sent to
responsible and trustee agencies and other interested agencies.
These parties are asked to comment on the scope of the
Environmental Impact Report and potential impacts of the proposed
project. These comments are then use to further define the scope
of the Environmental Impact Report. See CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL
QUALITY ACT, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT.
Objective. A specific statement of desired
future condition toward which the city or county will expend
effort in the context of striving to achieve a broader goal. An
objective should be achievable and, where possible, should be
measurable and time-specific. The State Government Code section
65302 requires that general plans spell out the “objectives,”
principles, standards and proposals of the general plan.
“The addition of 100 units of affordable housing by 1995” is an
example of an objective.
Off-Gassing. The release of gas into the air
from products treated with chemicals during their manufacture.
Official County Scenic Highway. A segment of
state highway identified in the Master Plan of State Highways
Eligible for Official Scenic Highway Designation and designated
by the Director of the Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
Off-Site Improvements. Conditions that can be
required of a project that involves the installation of streets,
curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street trees and other improvements
that are located adjacent to the project on publicly owned
Off-The-Grid. A term used to describe a system
that runs on renewable energy sources independent of a
conventional public utility grid.
Open Space Element. One of the eight
state-mandated elements of a local general plan, it contains an
inventory of privately and publicly owned open-space lands, and
adopted goals, policies, and implementation programs for the
preservation, protection and management of open space lands.
Open-Space Land. Any parcel or area of land or
water that is essentially unimproved and devoted to an open-space
use for the purposes of (1) the preservation of natural
resources, (2) the managed production of resources, (3) outdoor
recreation or (4) public health and safety.
Ordinance. A law or regulation adopted by a
governmental authority, usually a city or county.
Outdoor Advertising Structure. Any device used
or intended to direct attention to a business, profession,
commodity, service or entertainment conducted, sold or
offered elsewhere than upon the lot where such device is located.
Outdoor Recreation Use. A privately or publicly
owned or operated use providing facilities for outdoor recreation
Outer Approach Zone. Airspace in which an
air-traffic controller initiates radar monitoring for incoming
flights approaching an airport. See APPROACH ZONE, CLEAR ZONE,
Overlay. A land use designation on the general
plan land use map, or a zoning designation on a zoning map, that
modifies the basic underlying designation in some specific
manner. For example, overlay zones are often used to deal with
areas with special characteristics, like flood zones or
historical areas. Development of land subject to an overlay must
comply with the regulations of both zones. See GENERAL PLAN,
Overlay Zoning. Additional or stricter standards
to existing zoning that can be used to protect particular natural
or cultural features.
Ozone Layer. The protective layer of the Earth’s
atmosphere, about 15 miles above the ground, that absorbs some of
the sun’s ultraviolet rays, thereby reducing the amount of
potentially harmful radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface.
It may be contrasted with the ozone component of
photochemical smog near the Earth’s surface, which is
Parcel Map (lot split). A subdivision map that
divides a parcel up into four or fewer lots. The city or county
can place conditions on the approval of parcel maps. See FINAL
SUBDIVISION MAP, SUBDIVISION MAP ACT, TENTATIVE SUBDIVISION MAP.
Parcel Tax. Special non-ad valorem tax on
parcels of property generally based on either a flat per-parcel
rate or a variable rate depending on the size, use or number of
units on the parcel. See AD VALOREM TAX, EXCISE TAX.
Parcel. A lot in single ownership or under
single control, usually considered a unit for purposes of
Park Land; Parkland. Land that is publicly owned
or controlled for the purpose of providing parks,
recreation or open-space for public use. See COMMUNITY PARK,
NEIGHBORHOOD PARK, REGIONAL PARK.
Parking Area, Public. An open area, excluding a
street or other public way, used for the parking of automobiles
and available to the public, whether for free or for
Parking Management. An evolving Transportation
Demand Management technique designed to obtain maximum use from
limited parking spaces. Can involve pricing and preferential
treatment for High-Occupancy Vehicles, non-peak period
users and short-term users. See HIGH-OCCUPANCY VEHICLE,
TRANSPORTATION DEMAND MANAGEMENT.
Parking Ratio. The number of parking spaces
provided per 1,000 square feet of floor area, for example, 2.1 or
“two per thousand.”
Parking Space, Compact. A parking space (usually
7.5 feet wide by 16 feet long when perpendicular to a driveway or
aisle) permitted in some localities on the assumption that many
modern cars are significantly smaller, and require less room,
than a standard automobile. A standard parking space, when
perpendicular to a driveway or aisle, is usually 8.5 feet wide by
18 feet long.
Parking, Shared. A public or private parking
area used jointly by two or more uses.
Parks. Open space lands whose primary purpose is
recreation. See OPEN-SPACE LAND, COMMUNITY PARK, NEIGHBORHOOD
PARK, REGIONAL PARK.
Parkway Strip. A piece of land located between
the rear of a curb and the front of a sidewalk, usually used for
planting low ground cover and/or street trees, also known as
“planter strip.” See STREET TREE PLAN.
Parkway. An expressway or freeway designed for
non-commercial traffic only; usually located within a strip of
landscaped park or natural vegetation. See EXPRESSWAY,
Particulate Matter (PM). Very small pieces of
solid or liquid matter such as particles of soot, dust, fumes,
mists or aerosols. The physical characteristics of particles, and
how they combine with other particles, are part of the feedback
mechanisms of the atmosphere. See AEROSOL.
Pay As You Go. Concept of paying for capital
projects when the initial cost is incurred, rather than over time
through the use of debt financing. See CAPITAL OUTLAY, DEBT
Pay As You Use. Concept that debt financing
enables the public entity to spread the cost of a capital project
over time, as the project is being used. See CAPITAL OUTLAY, DEBT
Peak Hour/Peak Period. For any given roadway, a
daily period during which traffic volume is highest, usually
occurring in the morning and evening commute periods. Where “F”
levels of service are encountered, the “peak hour” may stretch
into a “peak period” of several hours’ duration.
Pedestrian Friendly. In basic terms, a street or
area that has sidewalks on both sides of the roadway and safe
street crossings. In broader terms, it denotes a street,
neighborhood, or city that supports, through planning and zoning,
the location of stores, offices, residences, schools,
recreational areas and other public facilities within
walking distance of each other. Such areas also often feature
narrow streets, street trees, awnings, covered transit shelters,
benches, brick paving or other less conventional paving types,
among other elements.
Performance Standards. Zoning regulations that
permit uses based on a particular set of standards of operation
rather than on particular type of use. Performance standards
provide specific criteria limiting noise, air pollution,
emissions, odors, vibration, dust, dirt, glare, heat, fire
hazards, wastes, traffic impacts and visual impact of a use.
Permeable. Description of any surface that
allows another substance (for example, water) to pass through it.
Permit. A specific authorization from a planning
body to engage in a particular type of development or activity.
Permitted Use. An authorized use within a zoning district. See
Pervious. Permeable; allows something to pass
Photovoltaic Cell. A device that converts
sunlight into electricity.
Physical Diversity. A quality of a site,
city or region in which a variety of architectural styles,
natural landscapes and/or land uses are found.
Plan Line. A precise line that establishes
future rights-of-way along any portion of an existing or proposed
street or highway and which is depicted on a map showing the
streets and lot line or lines and the proposed right-of-way
lines, and the distance thereof from the established centerline
of the street or highway, or from existing or established
Planned Community. A large-scale development
whose essential features are a definable boundary; a consistent,
but not necessarily uniform, character; overall control during
the development process by a single development entity; private
ownership of recreation amenities; and enforcement of covenants,
conditions and restrictions by a master community
association. See COVENANTS, CONDITIONS, AND RESTRICTIONS.
Planned Unit Development (PUD). Land use zoning
which allows the adoption of a set of development standards that
are specific to a particular project. PUD zones usually do not
contain detailed development standards; those are established
during the process of considering proposals and adopted by
ordinance upon project approval.
Planning and Research, Office of (OPR). A
governmental division of the state of California that has among
its responsibilities the preparation of a set of guidelines for
use by local jurisdictions in drafting general plans.
Planning Area. The area directly addressed by
the general plan. A city’s planning area typically encompasses
the city limits and potentially annexable land within its sphere
Planning Commission. A body, usually having five
or seven members, created by a city or county in compliance with
California law which requires the assignment of the planning
functions of the city or county to a planning department,
planning commission, hearing officers, and/or the legislative
body itself, as deemed appropriate by the legislative body. See
California Government Code section 65100.
Plat Map. A map of a lot, parcel,
subdivision or development area where the lines of each land
division are shown by accurate distances and bearings.
Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). A
vehicle that is similar to traditional hybrids but is also
equipped with a larger, more advanced battery that allows the
vehicle to be plugged in and recharged in addition to refueling
with gasoline. This larger battery allows you to drive on a
combination of electric and gasoline fuels.
Point Source. A single identifiable source that
discharges pollutants into the environment. Examples are
smokestacks, sewers, ditches or pipes. Any pollution with a
definable, specific source of origin is referred to as
Police and Fire Special Tax. Special tax on
parcels of property in support of police, fire protection or
Police Power. Broad power held by government to
legislate for the purpose of preserving the public’s health,
safety, morals and general welfare. The authority that
localities have to adopt zoning and land use regulations and
general plans is derived from the police power.
Policy. A statement of a public body that forms
the basis for enacting legislation, making decisions and
achieving stated objectives and goals. The policies under which
zoning ordinances are enacted and administered should be found in
a community’s general plan.
Pollution. A change in the physical,
chemical or biologic characteristics of the air,
water or soil that can affect the health, survival or
activities of all forms of life in an unwanted way.
Pollution, Non-Point. Sources for pollution that
are less definable and usually cover broad areas of land, such as
agricultural land with fertilizers that are carried from the land
by runoff, or automobiles.
Pollution, Point. In reference to water quality,
a discrete source from which pollution is generated before it
enters receiving waters, such as a sewer outfall, a
smokestack or an industrial waste pipe.
Poverty Level. As used by the U.S. Census,
families and unrelated individuals are classified as being above
or below the poverty level based on a poverty index that provides
a range of income cutoffs or “poverty thresholds” varying by size
of family, number of children and age of householder. The
income cutoffs are updated each year to reflect the change in the
Consumer Price Index.
Preemption. The principle of law through which
federal or state regulations supersede those of a city or county.
A local agency may not take actions that conflict with state or
Prefabricated. Standardized building sections
that are created in a factory to be shipped and assembled in
Prime Agricultural Land. (1) Land used actively
in the production of food, fiber or livestock. (2) All land
that qualifies for rating as Class I or Class II in the Natural
Resources Conservation Service land use compatibility
classifications. (3) Land that qualifies for rating 80 through
100 in the Storie Index Rating. See STORIE INDEX.
Prime Farmland. Land which has the best
combination of physical and chemical characteristics for the
production of crops. Prime Farmland must have been used for the
production of irrigated crops within the last three years. Prime
Farmland does not include publicly owned lands for which there is
an adopted policy preventing agricultural use.
Principal. “Face” or “par value” of an
instrument. It does not include accrued interest.
Principle. An assumption, fundamental
rule or doctrine that guides policies, proposals, standards
and implementation measures.
Private Road/Private Street. Privately owned
(and usually privately maintained) motor vehicle access that is
not dedicated as a public street. Typically the owner posts a
sign indicating that the street is private property and limits
traffic in some fashion. For density calculation purposes, some
jurisdictions exclude private roads when establishing the total
acreage of the site; however, aisles within and driveways serving
private parking lots are not considered private roads.
Pro Rata. Refers to the proportionate
distribution of something to something else or to some group,
like the cost of infrastructure improvements associated with new
development apportioned to the users of the infrastructure on the
basis of projected use.
Prohousing Designation. The Prohousing
Designation Program was authorized by the 2019-20 Budget Act and
tasks the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)
with designating jurisdictions as “Prohousing,” when they
demonstrate policies and strategies to accelerate housing
production. Prohousing jurisdictions will then be awarded
additional points or preference funding and grant programs.
Program. An action, activity or strategy
carried out in response to adopted policy to achieve a specific
goal or objective. Policies and programs establish the who,
how and when for carrying out the what and where of goals
Property Tax. An ad valorem tax imposed on real
property (land and permanently attached improvements) and
tangible personal property (movable property). See AD VALOREM
TAX, ASSESSED VALUATION, GENERAL REVENUE, MOTOR VEHICLE LICENSE
Proposition 4. Also called the Gann Initiative,
this initiative, now Article XIIIB of the state constitution was
drafted to be a companion measure to Proposition 13, Article
XIIIA of the constitution. Article XIIIB limits growth in
government spending to changes in population and inflation.
Proposition 13. Article XIIIA of the California
Constitution, commonly known as Proposition 13, which limits the
maximum annual increase of any ad valorem tax on real property to
1 percent of the full cash value of such property.
Proposition 62. A 1986 proposition that, among
other things, implemented a majority vote requirement for general
taxes. This portion of Proposition 62 was later ruled
Proposition 98. Passed in 1988, this measure
establishes a minimum level of funding for public schools and
community colleges. This measure also provides that any state
revenues in excess of the appropriations limit be spent on
Proposition 172. A 1993 measure which places a
one-half cent sales tax for local public safety in the
constitution. The tax is imposed by the state and distributed to
cities and counties.
Proximity. The distance between different land
uses such as residential and commercial.
Public Owned Utilities (POUs). Non-profit
utility providers owned by a community and operated by
municipalities, counties, states, public power districts or other
public organizations. Within POUs, residents have a say in
decisions and policies about rates, services, generating fuels
and the environment.
Public and Quasi-Public Facilities.
Institutional, academic, governmental and community service uses,
either owned publicly or operated by non-profit organizations,
including private hospitals and cemeteries.
Public Records. Most public agency documents are
public records that must be made available for public inspection
upon request. For example, agendas and other documents
distributed by any person to a majority of the legislative body
in connection with any matter subject to discussion at a public
meeting item are public records, which must be made available to
the public “without delay.” If the agency distributes material
prepared by it (including consultants) or a member of the
legislative body during a meeting, copies of the material must be
available for public inspection at the meeting. Materials
prepared by some other person and distributed during a meeting
must be made available after the meeting. See California
Government Code sections 54957.5 and 6250 (open meetings law
materials availability requirements). See also BROWN ACT.
Public Services. See MUNICIPAL SERVICES.
Quality of Life. The degree to which individuals
perceive themselves as able to function physically, emotionally
and socially. On a larger scale, quality of life can be viewed as
including all aspects of community life that have a direct and
quantifiable influence on the physical and mental health of its
Quasi-Judicial Decisions. Involve individual
projects that are being considered for approval, conditional
approval or denial based on criteria previously established by
some legislative action. Examples include zoning permits or other
entitlements, such as variances.
Radiant Heating. An efficient heating system
that warms cold objects, which then radiate heat into the
surrounding space evenly.
Rail Banking. The practice of leaving the
tracks, bridges and other infrastructure intact for
potential use as trails or to preserve railroad rights-of-way.
Ranchette. A single dwelling unit occupied by a
non-farming household on a parcel of 2.5 to 20 acres that has
been subdivided from agricultural land.
Reach Code. A local ordinance that “reaches”
beyond the state minimum requirements, intended to support
meeting local and/or statewide energy and greenhouse gas
Real Property Transfer Tax. See DOCUMENTARY
Reclamation. The reuse of resources, usually
those present in solid wastes or sewage.
Reconstruction. As used in historic
preservation, the process of reproducing by new construction the
exact form and detail of a vanished structure as it appeared
during a specific period of time. Reconstruction is often
undertaken when the property to be reconstructed is essential for
understanding and interpreting the value of a historic district
and sufficient documentation exists to insure an exact
reproduction of the original.
Recreation, Active. A type of recreation or
activity that requires the use of organized play areas including,
but not limited to, softball, baseball, football and soccer
fields, tennis and basketball courts and various forms of
children’s play equipment.
Recreation, Passive. Type of recreation or
activity that does not require the use of organized play areas.
Examples include open fields, trails and camping areas.
Redevelop. To demolish existing buildings; or to
increase the overall floor area existing on a property; or both;
irrespective of whether a change occurs in land use.
Referendum. A voter challenge to legislative
action taken by a city council or county board of supervisors. If
enough signatures are filed, the governing body must either
rescind its decision or place the issue on the ballot for a vote.
Reforestation. Planting of forests on lands that
have previously contained forests but that have been converted to
some other use.
Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).
Mandated by the state as part of the periodic process of updating
local housing elements of the general plan. RHNA quantifies the
need for housing, by household income group, within each region
during specified planning periods. Communities use RHNA in land
use planning, prioritizing local resource allocation, and in
deciding how to address identified existing and future housing
needs resulting from population, employment and household
growth. See COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS, HOUSING AND COMMUNITY
Regional Park. A park typically 150-500 acres in
size focusing on activities and natural features not included in
most other types of parks and often based on a specific scenic or
recreational opportunity. See COMMUNITY PARK, NEIGHBORHOOD PARK,
Regional. Pertaining to activities or economies
at a scale greater than that of a single jurisdiction and
affecting a broad geographic area.
Regulation. A rule or order prescribed for
Regulatory Taking. A taking of private property
for a public purpose that results from extensive regulation of
Rehabilitation. The repair,
preservation and/or improvement of substandard housing.
Reimbursement for State Mandated Costs.
Requirement that the state must reimburse local agencies for the
cost of state-imposed programs. Process is commonly called “SB
90” after its original 1972 legislation. See California
Constitution article XIIIB, section 6.
Relocation Permit. Needed if a building is to be
moved to a lot within the city and if the building is to cross a
public street, alley or easement.
Renewability. Natural materials that are rapidly
renewable, such as fast-growing trees and agricultural products.
Renewable Energy. Energy derived from sources
that do not deplete natural resources. Examples include solar,
wind and geothermal energy from the Earth’s core.
Rents. Revenues received through the rental of
public properties to private parties like convention space and
Residential. Land designated in the city or
county general plan and zoning ordinance for buildings consisting
only of dwelling units. May be improved, vacant or
unimproved. See DWELLING UNIT.
Responsible Agency. In the California
Environmental Quality Act, all public agencies other than the
lead agency that have discretionary approval over a project.
Responsible agencies send comments to the lead agency regarding
the environmental impacts about which they have expertise. See
CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT.
Retrofit. To add materials and/or devices to an
existing building or system to improve its operation,
safety or efficiency. Buildings have been retrofitted to use
solar energy and to strengthen their ability to withstand
earthquakes, for example.
Reusability. Products that are long-lasting and
require little maintenance.
Rezoning. An amendment to the map and/or text of
a zoning ordinance to effect a change in the nature,
density or intensity of uses allowed in a zoning district
and/or on a designated parcel or land area. See ZONING.
Richter Scale. A measure of the size or energy
release of an earthquake at its source. The scale is logarithmic;
the wave amplitude of each number on the scale is 10 times
greater than that of the previous whole number.
Ridgeline. A line connecting the highest points
along a ridge and separating drainage basins or small-scale
drainage systems from one another.
Right-Of-Way. A strip of land occupied or
intended to be occupied by certain transportation and public use
facilities, like roads, railroads and utility lines.
Riparian Lands. Plant and wildlife areas
adjacent to perennial and intermittent streams. Riparian areas
are delineated by the existence of plant species normally found
Riparian Rights. The right of a landowner to
make use of the water in a river or stream on or bordering a
Runoff. Water from rain or snow that is not
absorbed into the ground but instead flows over less permeable
surfaces into streams and rivers.
Safety Element. One of the eight state-mandated
elements of a local general plan, it contains adopted goals,
policies and implementation programs for the protection of
the community from any unreasonable risks associated with seismic
and geologic hazards, flooding, and wildland and urban fires.
Many safety elements also incorporate a review of police needs,
objectives, facilities and services.
Sales Tax. The sales tax is imposed on retailers
for the privilege of selling tangible personal property in
California. Tax base is the total retail price. See TAX BASE.
Sanitary Landfill. The controlled placement of
refuse within a limited area, followed by compaction and covering
with a suitable thickness of earth and other containment
Sanitary Sewer. A system of subterranean
conduits that carries refuse liquids or waste matter to a plant
where the sewage is treated, as contrasted with storm drainage
systems (that carry surface water) and septic tanks or leech
fields (that hold refuse liquids and waste matter on-site). See
Scenic Highway Corridor. The area outside a
highway right-of-way that is generally visible to persons
traveling on the highway.
Scenic Highway/Scenic Route. A highway, road,
drive or street that, in addition to its transportation
function, provides opportunities for the enjoyment of natural and
man-made scenic resources and access or direct views to areas or
scenes of exceptional beauty or historic or cultural interest.
The aesthetic values of scenic routes often are protected and
enhanced by regulations governing the development of property or
the placement of outdoor advertising. Until the
mid-1980’s general plans in California were required to
include a scenic highways element.
School Impact Fees. Fees imposed on new
developments to offset their impacts on area schools.
Second Unit. A self-contained living unit,
either attached to or detached from, and in addition to, the
primary residential unit on a single lot. See ACCESORY DWELLING
UNIT, GRANNY FLAT.
Section 8 Rental Assistance Program. A federal
(U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) rent-subsidy
program that is one of the main sources of federal housing
assistance for low-income households. The program operates by
providing “housing assistance payments” to owners,
developers and public housing agencies to make up the
difference between the “Fair Market Rent” of a unit (set by the
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) and the
household’s contribution toward the rent, which is calculated at
30 percent of the household’s adjusted gross monthly income
(GMI). “Section 8” includes programs for new construction,
existing housing and substantial or moderate housing
Seiche. A standing wave in an enclosed or
partially enclosed body of water such as a lake,
reservoir or bay. Seiches may be caused by wind, seismic
activity or tsunamis and are often imperceptible to the
Seismic. Caused by or subject to earthquakes or
Senior Housing. A broad term that is used to
describe any type of living facilities that are maintained for
the use of people who have reached the age of retirement. There
are different types of senior housing designed to meet the needs
of seniors in various states of health and with different levels
Seniors. Persons age 62 and older.
Septic System. A sewage-treatment system that
includes a settling tank through which liquid sewage flows and in
which solid sewage settles and is decomposed by bacteria in the
absence of oxygen. Septic systems are often used for
individual-home waste disposal where an urban sewer system is not
available. See SANITARY SEWER.
Service Charges. Charges imposed to support
services to individuals or to cover the cost of providing such
services. The fees charged are limited to the cost of providing
the service or regulation required (plus overhead).
Setback Regulations. The requirements that a
building be set back a certain distance from the street (front),
side or rear lot line. The frontage or front of a lot is usually
defined as the side nearest the street. On a corner lot, the
narrowest side is usually determined to be the front lot line. In
triangular or other odd-shaped lots, rear lot lines may need to
be defined more precisely in the code or judged by the planning
commission or other hearing body with appropriate jurisdiction on
a case-by-case basis.
Setback. The minimum distance required by zoning
to be maintained between two structures or between a structure
and a property line.
Settlement. (1) The drop in elevation of a
ground surface caused by settling or compacting. (2) The gradual
downward movement of an engineered structure due to compaction.
Differential settlement is uneven settlement, where one part of a
structure settles more or at a different rate than another part.
Short-Term Financing Methods. Techniques used
for many purposes, such as meeting anticipated cash flow
deficits, interim financing of a project and project
implementation. Using these techniques involves issuance of
short-term notes. Voter approval is not required.
Sign Permit. This permit allows for a sign to be
erected in compliance with stated policies or conditions.
Sign. Any outdoor or indoor object, device,
display or structure that is used to advertise, identify,
display, direct or attract attention to a person, organization,
business, product, service, event or location by any means,
including words, letters, figures, design, symbols, fixtures,
colors, illumination or projected images. See OUTDOOR ADVERTISING
Significant Effect. A beneficial or detrimental
impact on the environment. May include but is not limited to
significant changes in an area’s air, water and land
Siltation. (1) The accumulating deposition of
eroded material. (2) The gradual filling in of streams and other
bodies of water with sand, silt and clay.
Single Room Occupancy (SRO). A single room,
typically 80-250 square feet, with a sink and closet, but which
requires the occupant to share a communal bathroom,
shower and kitchen. See AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
Site. A parcel of land used or intended for one
use or a group of uses and having frontage on a public or an
approved private street. See LOT.
Site Plan Review. The process whereby local
officials, usually the planning commission and staff, review the
site plans of a developer to assure that they meet the purposes
and standards of the zone, provide for necessary public
facilities like streets, parks and schools, and protect
adjacent properties through appropriate siting of structures and
Site Plan. A plan, to scale, showing uses and
structures proposed for a parcel of land. It includes lot lines,
streets, building sites, public open space, buildings, major
landscape features – both natural and man-made – and, depending
on requirements, the locations of proposed utility lines.
Smart Growth. A broad concept that describes a
series of principles that encourage development that better
serves the economic, environmental and social needs of
communities than do many of the principles that have guided
development in the post-World War II period. The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency identified the following ten
principles of smart growth. (1) Mix land uses (2) Take
advantage of compact building design (3) Create a range of
housing opportunities and choices (4) Create walkable
neighborhoods (5) Foster distinctive, attractive communities
with a strong sense of place (6) Preserve open space,
farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
(7) Strengthen and direct development toward existing
communities (8) Provide a variety of transportation choices
(9) Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost
effective (10) Encourage community and stakeholder
collaboration in development decisions.
Smart Code. A comprehensive form-based zoning
and planning approach that incorporates smart growth and New
Urbanism principles to help organize the human habitat. It is
based on the idea of the Transect, which defines a continuum of
urbanized conditions ranging from the permanently rural and
undeveloped, to the dense, intensely urbanized city centers.
Social Capital. The individual and communal time
and energy that is available for such things as community
improvement, social networking, civic engagement, personal
recreation and other activities that create social bonds
between individuals and groups. Circumstances that prevent or
limit the availability of social capital for a community and its
members can have a negative effect on the health and well-being
of the members of that community. These negative effects on
health and well-being can in turn have negative effects on the
community as a whole.
Solar Access. The provision of direct sunlight
to an area specified for solar energy collection when the sun’s
azimuth is within 45 degrees of true south.
Solar System, Active. A system using a
mechanical device, like a pump or a fan, and energy in addition
to solar energy to transport a conductive medium (air or water)
between a solar collector and the interior of a building for the
purpose of heating or cooling.
Solar System, Passive. A system that uses direct
heat transfer from thermal mass instead of mechanical power to
distribute collected heat. Passive systems rely on building
design and materials to collect and store heat and to create
natural ventilation for cooling.
Solid Waste. Any unwanted or discarded material
that is not a liquid or gas. Includes organic wastes, paper
products, metals, glass, plastics, cloth, brick, rock, soil,
leather, rubber, yard wastes and wood, but does not include
sewage and hazardous materials. Organic wastes and paper products
comprise about 75 percent of typical urban solid waste.
Special District. A governmental entity formed
to deliver a specific service, like fire protection, water
service or the maintenance of open space.
Special Populations. Certain classifications
used to identify target groups including the poor, women,
children, the elderly and members of racial/ethnic minority
Special Tax. Tax earmarked for a specific
purpose or governmental program. Special taxes require a
two-thirds vote of the electorate voting in an election in order
to be implemented. See COMMUNITY FACILITIES DISTRICT, EARMARKED
FUNDS, MELLO-ROOS BONDS, MELLO-ROOS COMMUNITY FACILITIES TAX,
POLICE AND FIRE SPECIAL TAX, TAX.
Specific Plan. A plan that an agency may adopt
to implement the general plan in all or part of the area covered
by the general plan. See California Government Code section
65450. A specific plan must specify in detail the land uses,
public and private facilities needed to support the land uses,
phasing of development, standards for the conservation,
development and use of natural resources, and a program of
implementation measures, including financing measures. A specific
plan is most often adopted by ordinance, but can also be adopted
by resolution. See GENERAL PLAN.
Speed, Average. The sum of the speeds of the
cars observed divided by the number of cars observed.
Speed, Critical. The speed that is not exceeded
by 85 percent of the cars observed.
Sphere of Influence. The probable physical
boundaries and service area of a local agency, as determined by
the Local Agency Formation Commission of the county. See LOCAL
AGENCY FORMATION COMMISSION.
Spot Zoning. The awarding of a use
classification to an isolated parcel of land that is detrimental
or incompatible with the uses of the surrounding area,
particularly when such an act favors a particular owner. A
special circumstance like historical value, environmental
importance, or scenic value would justify special zoning for a
small area. The application of a use classification to an
isolated parcel, when done in the context of a comprehensive
zoning or general plan update, is not necessarily considered spot
zoning. See ZONING.
Sprawl. The process in which the spread of
development across the landscape far outpaces population growth.
The landscape sprawl creates has four characteristics. a
population that is widely dispersed in low-density development;
rigid separation of uses, so that homes, commerce and workplaces
are segregated from one another; a network of roads laid out to
separate land into huge blocks and offering poor access; and a
lack of well-defined, thriving activity centers, such as
downtowns and town centers. Most of the other features usually
associated with sprawl – a lack of transportation choices,
relative uniformity of housing options and difficulty
walking from place to place – result from these conditions.
Standards. (1) A rule or measure establishing a
level of quality or quantity that must be complied with or
satisfied. Government Code §65302 requires that general plans
spell out the objectives, principles, “standards,” and proposals
of the general plan. Examples of standards might include the
number of acres of park land per 1,000 population that the
community will attempt to acquire and improve, or the “traffic
Level of Service” (LOS) that the plan hopes to attain. (2)
Requirements in a zoning ordinance that govern building and
development as distinguished from use restrictions. For example,
site-design regulations such as lot area, height limit, frontage,
landscaping, and floor area ratio.
State Clearinghouse. In California, the State
Clearinghouse is part of the Governor’s Office of Planning and
Research and is responsible for distributing environmental
documents to state agencies. Lead agencies are required to submit
their draft Environmental Impact Reports or negative declarations
if a state agency is the lead agency, a state agency is a
responsible agency or trustee agency or the project is of
statewide, regional or area importance. See CALIFORNIA
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT, NEGATIVE
State Responsibility Areas. Areas of the state
in which the financial responsibility for preventing and
suppressing fires has been determined by the State Board of
Forestry (pursuant to Public Resources Code 4125) to be primarily
the responsibility of the state.
Stock Cooperative Housing. Multiple-family
ownership housing in which the occupant of a unit holds a share
of stock in a corporation that owns the structure in which the
unit is located.
Storie Index. A numerical system (0-100) rating
the degree to which a particular soil can grow plants or produce
crops, based on four factors. soil profile, surface texture,
slope and soil limitations. See PRIME AGRICULTURAL LAND.
Storm Surge. An abnormal rise of water generated
by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides.
Stormwater Detention. Any storm drainage
technique that retards or detains runoff, like detention or
retention basins, parking lot storage, rooftop storage, porous
pavement or dry wells. See DETENTION DAM.
Street Furniture. Features associated with a
street that are intended to enhance its physical character and
use by pedestrians, such as benches, trash receptacles, kiosks,
lights and newspaper racks.
Street Network or Grid. The patterns formed by
roadways and the extent to which they are connected to each other
(i.e., “connectivity”). For example, the traditional urban
block-like grid involves a dense matrix of interconnected streets
typically seen in older urban areas. The hierarchical grid,
common in most suburban areas, consists of sets of dead-end
streets and cul-de-sacs that feed into secondary roadways that
ultimately feed into major roadways; traffic collects on main
Street Tree Plan. A comprehensive plan for all
trees on public streets that sets goals for solar access, and
standards for species selection, maintenance and replacement
criteria, and for planting trees in patterns that will define
neighborhood character while avoiding monotony or maintenance
Street-Right-Of-Way. is publicly owned land that
contains both the street and a strip of land on either side of
the street that holds appurtenant facilities (i.e., sidewalks,
sewers and storm drains).
Streets, Local. See STREETS, MINOR.
Streets, Major. The transportation network that
includes a hierarchy of freeways, arterials, and collectors to
service through traffic. See ARTERIAL, COLLECTOR, EXPRESSWAY,
Streets, Minor. Local streets not shown on the
circulation plan, map, or diagram, whose primary intended purpose
is to provide access to fronting properties.
Streets, Through. Streets that extend
continuously between other major streets in the community.
Streetscaping. Includes improving traffic
management, adding landscaping, sidewalks, building fronts and
street amenities, such as garbage cans and benches.
Strip Development. Commercial and high-density
residential development located adjacent to major streets. This
type of development is characterized by its shallow depth,
street-oriented layout, lack of unified design theme, and
numerous points of street access. It impedes smooth traffic flow.
Strip Zoning. A zone normally consisting of a
ribbon of uses fronting both sides of a major street and
extending inward for approximately half a block. Strip commercial
development is the most common form. It usually is characterized
by an assortment of gas stations, drive-in and fast-food
restaurants, motels, tourist shops and some automobile sales
and service operations.
Structure. Anything constructed or erected that
requires location on the ground (excluding swimming pools,
fences and walls used as fences).
Subdivision Map Act. California law that this
act vests in local legislative bodies the regulation and control
of the design and improvement of subdivisions, including the
requirement for tentative and final maps. See California
Government Code sections 66410 and following.
Subdivision. The division of a tract of land
into defined lots, either improved or unimproved, which can be
separately conveyed by sale or lease, and which can be altered or
developed. The process often includes setting aside land for
streets, sidewalks, parks, public areas and other
infrastructure needs—including the designation of the location of
Subregional. Pertaining to a portion of a
Subsidence. The sudden sinking or gradual
downward settling and compaction of soil and other surface
material with little or no horizontal motion. Subsidence may be
caused by a variety of human and natural activity, including
earthquakes. See SETTLEMENT.
Subsidize. To assist by payment of a sum of
money or by the granting of terms or favors that reduce the need
for monetary expenditures. Housing subsidies may take the form of
mortgage interest deductions or tax credits from federal and/or
state income taxes, sale or lease at less than market value of
land to be used for the construction of housing, payments to
supplement a minimum affordable rent, and the like.
Substandard Housing. Residential dwellings that,
because of their physical condition, do not provide safe and
Substantial Evidence. Under some circumstances,
a local agency’s land use decision must be supported by what is
called “substantial evidence” in light of the whole record. The
public can assist the agency in gathering and putting information
into the record that may provide the basis for the agency’s
decision. The agency’s findings must be supported by substantial
evidence and then the findings must support the agency’s
Subvention. Subsidy or financial support
received from county, state or federal government. The state and
counties levy certain taxes that are “subvened” to cities,
including motor vehicle license fees, state mandated costs and
motor vehicle fuel tax. See MOTOR VEHICLE LICENSE FEE,
REIMBURSEMENT FOR STATE MANDATED COSTS.
Supplemental Property Tax. In the event a
property changes ownership, the county collects a supplemental
property tax assessment in the current tax year by determining a
supplemental value. In future tax periods, the property carries
the full cash value. See PROPERTY TAX, PROPOSITION 13.
Sustainability. Community use of natural
resources in a way that does not jeopardize the ability of future
generations to live and prosper. Sustainability presumes that
resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and
wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences of
the ways in which resources are used.
Sustainable Development. Development that
maintains or enhances equity, economic opportunity and
community well-being while protecting and restoring the natural
environment upon which people and economies depend. Sustainable
development meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Taking. The appropriation by government of
private land for which just compensation must be paid. Another
term for Eminent Domain. Often used when the claim is made that a
government regulation is akin to eminent domain, though the legal
standard requires the denial of all economically viable use of
the land. See CONDEMNATION.
Target Areas. Specifically designated sections
of the community where loans and grants are made to bring about a
specific outcome, such as the rehabilitation of housing
affordable by very low-and low-income households.
Tax Allocation Bonds. Former redevelopment
agencies could not receive or spend tax increment funds until
they established debt. For this reason, redevelopment
agencies established debt by issuing Tax Allocation Bonds secured
by the available tax increment that grew since the Redevelopment
Agency was first established. Health and Safety Code (H&SC)
section34171 (d)(1)(A) defines the obligations of bond
documents as enforceable obligations of Successor Agencies
and all payments due are to be included in the Recognized
Obligation Payment Schedule (ROPS). See BLIGHT, BOND, COMMUNITY
Tax Allocation Districts (TAD). Defined areas
where real estate property tax money gathered above a certain
threshold for a certain period of time (typically 25 years) is
used for a specified improvement. The funds raised from a tax
allocation district are placed in a tax-free bond where the money
can continue to grow. These improvements are typically for
revitalization and especially to complete redevelopment efforts.
TAD is a geographic area in which TIF can be used.
Tax Base. The objects or transactions to which a
tax is applied (like parcels of property, retail sales, etc.).
State law or local ordinances define the tax base and the objects
or transactions exempted from taxation.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Tax
increment financing (TIF) tools work by transferring the property
tax revenues that flow from a designated project area to the
city, county and other taxing entities. Additional tax
revenue in future years (the “increment”) is diverted into a
separate pool, which can be used to pay for improvements directly
or to pay back bonds issued against the anticipated TIF revenue.
In California, TIF has historically been used by redevelopment
agencies to raise funding for infrastructure improvements,
housing and other projects in redevelopment areas. However, with
the dissolution of redevelopment agencies as of February 1, 2012,
the traditional form of TIF is not available.
Tax Rate. The amount of tax applied to the tax
base. The rate may flat, incremental or a percentage of the tax
base or any other reasonable method. See TAX, TAX BASE.
Tax. Compulsory charge levied by a government
for the purpose of financing services performed for the common
benefit. See TAX BASE, TAX RATE.
Telecommuting. Working at home or in a location
other than the primary place of work, making use of the internet,
email and telephone.
Temporary Use. A use established for a fixed
period of time with the intent to discontinue such use upon the
expiration of the time period.
Tentative Subdivision Map or Tentative Map. The
map or drawing illustrating a subdivision proposal. The city or
county will conditionally approve or deny the proposed
subdivision based upon the design depicted on the tentative map.
Tentative Subdivision Map. A map showing the
design of a proposed subdivision of five or more lots. It
includes existing conditions in and around the subdivision. This
is the stage when a city or county must place all the
restrictions it deems necessary on the map. The term “tentative”
is misleading, because additional conditions or substantive
design changes cannot be required once a tentative subdivision
map is approved. See FINAL SUBDIVISION MAP, SUBDIVISION MAP ACT.
Tract Map. See FINAL MAP SUBDIVISION.
Traditional Development. Similar to
Traffic Calming. A strategic set of physical
changes to streets to reduce vehicle speeds and volumes. It
refers to the use of street design techniques, such as curb
extensions, traffic circles and speed humps, to slow and control
the flow of automobile traffic.
Traffic Model. A mathematical representation of
traffic movement within an area or region based on observed
relationships between the kind and intensity of development in
specific areas. Many traffic models operate on the theory that
trips are produced by persons living in residential areas who are
attracted by various non-residential land uses. See TRIP.
Traffic Zone. In a mathematical traffic model
the area to be studied is divided into zones, with each zone
treated as producing and attracting trips. The production of
trips by a zone is based on the number of trips to or from work
or shopping or other trips produced per dwelling unit.
Transect. The characteristics of ecosystems and
the transition from one ecosystem to another. Establishes a
hierarchy of places/contexts from the most natural to the most
urban. The Natural-to-Urban Transect is a means for considering
and organizing the human habitat in a continuum of intensity that
ranges from the most rural condition to the most urban.
Transfer of Development Rights. Programs that
use the market to implement and pay for development density and
location decisions by allowing landowners to sever development
rights from properties in government-designated low-density
areas. This makes it possible for development to be sold to
purchasers who want to increase the density of development in
areas that local governments have selected as higher-density
Transient Occupancy Tax. Local tax on persons
staying 30 days or less in a hotel, inn, motel, tourist home,
non-membership campground or other lodging facility. Also called
Transient Lodging Tax or Bed Tax. See AD VALOREM TAX, EXCISE TAX,
Transit, Public. A system of regularly scheduled
buses and/or trains available to the public on a fee-per-ride
basis. Also called mass transit.
Transit. The conveyance of persons or goods from
one place to another by means of a local public transportation
Transit-Dependent. Refers to persons unable to
operate automobiles or other motorized vehicles, or those who do
not own motorized vehicles. Transit-dependent citizens must rely
on transit, paratransit or owners of private vehicles for
transportation. Transit-dependent citizens include the young, the
disabled, the elderly, the poor and those with prior
violations of motor vehicle laws.
Transition Zone. Controlled airspace extending
upward from 700 or more feet above the ground wherein procedures
for aircraft approach have been designated. The transition zone
lies closer to an airport than the outer approach zone and
outside of the inner approach zone. See APPROACH ZONE, CLEAR
ZONE, OUTER APPROACH ZONE.
Transitional Housing. Shelter provided to the
homeless for an extended period, often as long as 18 months, and
generally integrated with other social services and counseling
programs to assist in the transition to self-sufficiency through
the acquisition of a stable income and permanent housing. See
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Moderate- to
higher-density development, located within easy walk of a major
transit stop, generally with a mix of residential,
employment and shopping opportunities designed for
pedestrians without excluding the auto. TOD can be new
construction or redevelopment of one or more buildings whose
design and orientation facilitate transit use.
Transportation Demand Management (TDM). A
strategy for reducing demand on the road system by reducing the
number of vehicles using the roadways and/or increasing the
number of persons per vehicle. TDM attempts to reduce the number
of persons who drive alone during the commute period and to
increase the number in carpools, vanpools, buses or trains, or
walking or biking. TDM can be an element of TSM (see below).
Transportation Systems Management (TSM). A
comprehensive strategy to coordinate many forms of transportation
(like car, bus, carpool, rapid transit, bicycle) to reduce the
impact of additional development on transportation capacity.
Transportation Systems Management focuses on using existing
highway and transit systems more efficiently rather than
expanding them. TSM measures are characterized by their low cost
and quick implementation time frame, like computerized traffic
signals, metered freeway ramps and one-way streets.
Transportation Tax. Special tax imposed by
counties for county transportation needs. Typically collected
with the sales and use tax, some cities receive a portion of the
transportation tax usually in .25 percent tax rate increments.
See AD VALOREM TAX, SPECIAL TAX, TAX.
Trees, Street. Trees strategically
planted-usually in parkway strips, medians, or along streets-to
enhance the visual quality of a street. See MEDIAN STRIP, PARKWAY
STRIP, STREET TREE PLAN.
Trip Generation. The dynamics that account for
people making trips in automobiles or by means of public
transportation. Trip generation is the basis for estimating the
level of use for a transportation system and the impact of
additional development or transportation facilities on an
existing, local transportation system. Trip generations of
households are correlated with destinations that attract
household members for specific purposes.
Trip. A one-way journey that proceeds from an
origin to a destination via a single mode of transportation; the
smallest unit of movement considered in transportation studies.
Each trip has one “production end,” (or origin—often from home,
but not always), and one “attraction end,” (destination). See
Truck Route. A path of circulation required for
all vehicles exceeding set weight or axle limits, a truck route
follows major arterials through commercial or industrial areas
and avoids sensitive areas.
Tsunami. A wave, or series of waves, generated
when a large volume of a body of water, such as an ocean,
bay or lake, is displaced rapidly. Tsunamis may be caused by
earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or other underwater explosions,
landslides or other disturbances.
Turbidity. A thick, hazy condition of air or
water resulting from the presence of suspended particulates or
Underutilized Parcel. A parcel that is not
developed but could be redeveloped in a manner that would yield
substantially more development and/or value based on its current
or zoning. A parcel may also be considered underutilized based on
its potential to be rezoned for the purposes of meeting state
requirements, such as affordable housing in the RHNA context.
Undevelopable. Specific areas where topographic,
geologic and/or surficial soil conditions indicate a
significant danger to future occupants and a liability to the
city or county are designated as “undevelopable” by the city or
Undue. Improper, or more than necessary.
Uniform Building Code (UBC). A national,
standard building code that sets minimum standards for
construction. See BUILDING CODE.
Uniform Housing Code (UHC). State housing
regulations governing the condition of habitable structures with
regard to health and safety standards and providing for the
conservation and rehabilitation of housing in accordance with the
Universal Design. Designing for the entire
lifespan of community residents and creating a community with the
maximum flexibility and usability for the full spectrum of
Upzone. The rezoning of land to a less
restrictive zone (for example, from industrial to residential).
Upzoning generally increases the economic value of land.
Urban. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or
constituting a city. Urban areas are generally characterized by
moderate and higher density residential development, commercial
development and industrial development, and the
availability of public services required for that development,
specifically central water and sewer, an extensive road network,
public transit and other such services (for example, safety
and emergency response). Development not providing such services
may be “non-urban” or “rural.”
Urban Design. The attempt to give form, in terms
of both beauty and function, to selected urban areas or to whole
cities. Urban design is concerned with the location,
mass and design of various urban components and combines
elements of urban planning, architecture and landscape
Urban Growth Boundary. An officially adopted and
mapped line dividing land to be developed from land to be
protected for natural or rural uses. Urban growth boundaries
(also called urban limit lines) are regulatory tools, often
designated for long periods of time (20 or more years) to provide
greater certainty for both development and conservation goals.
Urban Heat Island (UHI). Refers to the
tendency for urban areas to have warmer air temperatures than the
surrounding rural landscape, due to the low albedo of streets,
sidewalks, parking lots, and buildings. These surfaces absorb
solar radiation during the day and release it at night, resulting
in higher night temperatures.
Urban Land Use. Residential, commercial or
industrial land use in areas where urban services are available.
Urban Limit Line. A boundary, sometimes
parcel-specific, located to mark the outer limit beyond which
urban development will not be allowed. It has the aim of
discouraging urban sprawl by containing urban development during
a specified period, and its location may be modified over time.
Urban Reserve. An area outside of an urban
service area but within an urban growth boundary, in which future
development and extension of municipal services are contemplated
but not imminent.
Urban Services Area. (1) An area in which urban
services will be provided and outside of which such services will
not be extended. (2) Developed, undeveloped or agricultural
land, either incorporated or unincorporated, within the sphere of
influence of a city, which is served or will be served during the
first five years of an adopted capital improvement program by
urban facilities, utilities, and services. The boundary around an
urban service area is called the “urban service area boundary”
and is to be developed in cooperation with a city and adopted by
the county’s local agency formation commission. See California
Government Code section 56080.
Urban Services. Utilities (like water, gas,
electricity and sewer) and public services (like police,
fire, schools, parks and recreation) provided to an
urbanized or urbanizing area.
Urban Sprawl. See SPRAWL.
Use Permit. The discretionary and conditional
review of an activity or function or operation on a site or in a
building or facility.
Use Tax. The use tax is imposed on the user of a
product whenever the sales tax does not apply, such as on goods
purchased out-of-state and delivered for use in California and on
long-term leases. Tax base is the total retail price. See AD
VALOREM TAX, TAX, TAX BASE.
Use. The purpose for which a lot or structure is
or may be leased, occupied, maintained, arranged, designed,
intended, constructed, erected, moved, altered and/or
enlarged in accordance with the city or county zoning ordinance
and general plan land use designations.
Use, Nonconforming. See NONCONFORMING USE.
Utility Corridors. Rights-of-way or easements
for utility lines on either publicly or privately owned property.
See EASEMENT, RIGHT-OF-WAY.
Utility Users Tax. Tax imposed on the consumer
(residential and/or commercial) of any combination of electric,
gas, cable television, water, broadband and telephone services.
See EXCISE TAX, TAX.
Vacant. Lands or buildings that are not actively
used for any purpose.
Variance. A device which grants a property owner
relief from certain provisions of a zoning ordinance when,
because of the particular physical surroundings, shape or
topographical condition of the property, compliance would result
in a particular hardship upon the owner, as distinguished from a
mere inconvenience or a desire to make more money. A variance may
be granted, for example, to reduce yard or setback requirements,
or the number of parking or loading spaces.
Variance. A limited waiver from the requirements
of the zoning ordinance. Variance requests are subject to public
hearing and may only be granted under special circumstances.
Vehicle-Miles Traveled (VMT). The miles traveled
by motor vehicles over a specified length of time (e.g., daily,
monthly or yearly) or over a specified road or transportation
corridor. VMT is a key measure of overall street and highway use.
Reducing VMT is often a major objective in efforts to reduce
vehicular congestion and achieve regional air quality goals.
Very-Low Income Household. A household with an
annual income usually no greater than 50 percent of the area
median family income adjusted by household size, as determined by
a survey of incomes conducted by a city or a county, or in the
absence of such a survey, based on the latest available
eligibility limits established by the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development for the Section 8 housing program. See
SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
Vested Right. A right that has become absolute
and fixed and cannot be denied by subsequent conditions or
changes in regulations, unless it is taken and paid for. There is
no vested right to an existing zoning classification. Once
development has been started or completed, there is a right to
maintain that particular use, regardless of the classification
given the property.
View Corridor. The line of sight – identified as
to height, width and distance – of an observer looking
toward an object of significance to the community (like
ridgelines, rivers and historic buildings, for example); the
route that directs the viewer’s attention.
Viewshed. The area within view from a defined
VLF. See MOTOR VEHICLE LICENSE FEE.
Volume-To-Capacity Ratio. A measure of the
operating capacity of a roadway or intersection, in terms of the
number of vehicles passing through, divided by the number of
vehicles that theoretically could pass through when the roadway
or intersection is operating at its designed capacity.
Abbreviated as “V/C.” At a V/C ratio of 1.0, the roadway or
intersection is operating at capacity. If the ratio is less than
1.0, the traffic facility has additional capacity. Although
ratios slightly greater than 1.0 are possible, it is more likely
that the peak hour will elongate into a peak period. See LEVEL OF
Walkability Audit. An unbiased examination/
evaluation to identify concerns for pedestrians related to the
safety, access, comfort and convenience of the walking
environment. The audit also assesses potential policy,
educational or enforcement alternatives or solutions.
Walkable Community. Catering to non-motorized
forms of transportation. Walkable communities make pedestrian
activity possible, thus expanding transportation options, and
creating streetscapes that better serves pedestrians, bicyclists,
transit riders and automobiles. Walkable communities locate
goods and services within an easy and safe walk for community
residents and employees.
Water Table. The upper surface of groundwater,
or that level below which the soil is seasonally saturated with
Watercourse. Natural or once natural flowing
(perennially or intermittently) water including rivers,
streams and creeks. Includes natural waterways that have
been channelized, but does not include manmade channels,
ditches and underground drainage and sewage systems.
Water-Efficient Landscaping. Landscaping
designed to minimize water use and maximize energy efficiency.
Watershed. The total area above a given point on
a watercourse that contributes water to its flow; the entire
region drained by a waterway or watercourse that drains into a
lake, or reservoir.
Waterway. See WATERCOURSE.
Weather. Atmospheric condition at any given time
or place. It is measured in terms of such things as wind,
temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness and
precipitation. See CLIMATE.
Wetlands. Transitional areas between terrestrial
and aquatic systems where the water table is usually at or near
the surface, or the land is covered by shallow water. Under a
“unified” methodology now used by all federal agencies, wetlands
are defined as “those areas meeting certain criteria for
hydrology, vegetation and soils.”
Wildland Fire. A fire occurring in a suburban or
rural area that contains uncultivated lands, timber, range,
watershed, brush or grasslands. This includes areas where there
is a mingling of developed and undeveloped lands.
Wildlife Refuge. An area maintained in a natural
state for the preservation of both animal and plant life.
Williamson Act. Known formally as the California
Land Conservation Act of 1965, it was designed as an incentive to
retain prime agricultural land and open-space in agricultural
use, thereby slowing its conversion to urban and suburban
development. The program entails a ten-year contract between the
city or county and an owner of land whereby the land is taxed on
the basis of its agricultural use rather than its market value.
The land becomes subject to certain enforceable restrictions, and
certain conditions need to be met prior to approval of an
agreement. See Government Code section 51200 and following.
Woodlands. Lands covered with woods or trees.
Yard. The open space between a lot line and the
buildable area within which no structure may be located, except
as provided in the zoning ordinance.
Yield. The total amount of revenue a government
expects to receive from a tax, determined by multiplying the tax
rate by the tax base. Also, the annual rate of return on an
investment, expressed as a percentage of the investment. See TAX,
TAX BASE, TAX RATE.
Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV). Vehicles which
produce no emissions from the on-board source of power (e.g., an
Zero Lot Line. A development approach in which a
building is sited on one or more lot lines. Conceivably, three of
the four sides of the building could be on the lot lines. The
intent is to allow more flexibility in site design and to
increase the amount of usable open space on the lot
Zone, Combining. A special purpose zone that is
superimposed over the regular zoning map. Combining zones are
used for a variety of purposes, such as airport compatibility,
floodplain or wetlands protection, historic designation or
special parking regulations. Also called “overlay zone.”
Zone, Interim. A zoning designation that
temporarily reduces or freezes allowable development in an area
until a permanent classification can be fixed; generally assigned
during general plan preparation to provide a basis for permanent
Zone, Traffic. In a mathematical traffic model
the area to be studied is divided into zones, with each zone
treated as producing and attracting trips. The production of
trips by a zone is based on the number of trips to or from work
or shopping, or other trips produced per dwelling unit. AKA
traffic analysis zone or TAZ.
Zoning. The division of a city or county by
legislative regulations into areas, or zones, that specify
allowable uses for real property and size restrictions for
buildings within these areas; a program that implements policies
of the general plan. See GENERAL PLAN, INCLUSIONARY ZONING,
REZONING, SPECIFIC PLAN, SPOT ZONING.
Zoning Adjustment Board. A body appointed by the
local legislative body to consider minor zoning adjustments such
as conditional use permits and variances. It is empowered to
conduct public hearings and to impose conditions of approval. Its
decision may be appealed to the local legislative body. Not all
jurisdictions utilize this model.
Zoning Administrator. A planning department
staff member responsible for hearing minor zoning permits.
Typically, the zoning administrator considers variances and
conditional use permits and may interpret the provisions of the
zoning ordinance when questions arise. His/her decision may be
appealed to the local legislative body.
Zoning Amendment. An amendment to or a change in
the zoning ordinance. Rezonings can take three forms. (1) a
comprehensive revision or modification of the zoning text and
map (2) a text change in zoning requirements (3) a
change in the zoning designation of a particular parcel or
parcels of land.
Zoning District. A designated section of a city
or county for which prescribed land use requirements and building
and development standards are uniform.
Zoning Map. Government Code section 65851
permits a legislative body to divide a county, a city or
portions thereof into zones of the number, shape, and area it
deems best suited to carry out the purposes of the zoning
ordinance. These zones are delineated on a map or maps called the
Zoning, Exclusionary. Development regulations
that result in the exclusion of low- and moderate-income and/or
minority families from a community.
Zoning, Incentive. The awarding of bonus credits
to a development in the form of allowing more intensive use of
land if public benefits- such as preservation of greater than the
minimum required open-space, provision for low-and
moderate-income housing, or plans for public plazas and courts at
ground level-are included in a project.
Zoning, Inclusionary. Regulations that increase
housing choice by providing the opportunity to construct more
diverse and economical housing to meet the needs of low- and
moderate-income families. Often such regulations require a
minimum percentage of housing for low- and moderate-income
households in new housing developments and in conversions of
apartments to condominiums.