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Land Development and Common Interest Developments

Land development involves land use regulation, subdivisions, dedications, environmental regulation, common interest developments, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions.

The general plan is the most important document when it comes to land use planning and local agency regulation. All future development in a county or city must conform to the general plan. Specific plans are considered the next most important form of land use regulation. They implement the general plan and fill in details for specific areas of the general plan where needed. Zoning is the third most important form of land use regulation.

The Subdivision Map Act and Subdivision Land Act regulate and control the development of land in California to ensure that subdivisions conform to the general plan, specific plan (if there is one) and zoning. The Subdivision Map Act regulates and controls the subdivision, design and improvement of real property, while the Subdivision Land Act regulates and controls the offering and sale or leasing of subdivided interests and parcels of real property.

Dedications involve interests granted to the government in exchange for a project’s approval. There must be a nexus between a project and any dedications required by the government.

The California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) is a regulatory scheme that is designed to protect the environment. It requires that every public agency obtain an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) prior to approving any discretionary project, if it can be “fairly argued”, based on “substantial evidence” in front of the agency, that a project will have a “significant effect” on the environment.

The Davis-Stirling Act regulates developments that have commonly owned areas as well as individually owned areas, such as a condominium projects, planned developments, stock cooperatives or community apartment projects. The Act discusses powers and obligations of associations and how to conduct matters of common interest.

Covenants, conditions and restrictions (“CC&Rs”) that run with the land are promises and restrictions on the use of real property that follow the property from one owner to the next, even though the subsequent transferees do not contractually assume any responsibility for their performance.

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