SERVICES

We assist our clients by processing business and land use applications/permits through government agencies in California. The following is a summary for your reference:

  • All City, County, Special District, and State Application Forms
  • Affordable Housing Agreements
  • Architectural Design
  • Building and Grading Permits
  • Business Licenses
  • CEQA Categorical Exemptions
  • City Council and Management Relations
  • Community Outreach
  • Conditional Use Permits
  • Development Agreements
  • Design Review Applications
  • Development Plans
  • Development Review Applications
  • Dry Utility Designs
  • Environmental Impact Reports
  • Environmental Studies and Assessments
  • Expert Witness
  • Fiscal Impact Analysis
  • General Plan Amendments
  • Government Relations
  • Landscape and Hardscape Design
  • Park Planning
  • Planning Action Applications
  • Processing Schedules and Task Coordination
  • Major Site Plan Reviews
  • Market Studies
  • Master Plans
  • Mitigated Negative Declarations
  • Negative Declarations
  • Public Hearing Notification Addresses
  • Lot Line Adjustments
  • Parcel Maps
  • Planning Commission Relations
  • Pro forma Analysis
  • Project Management
  • Public Presentations
  • Public Workshops
  • Real Estate Acquisition and Disposition
  • Signage Master Plans
  • Sound Studies
  • Specific Plans and Amendments
  • Tax Sharing Agreements
  • Tract Maps
  • Traffic Generation Studies
  • Variances
  • Water Quality Studies
  • Wet Utility Designs
  • Zone Changes
  • Zoning Administrator Permits
  • Zoning Code Amendments 
 
 
LAND USE ENTITLEMENT
 
Land Planning-Master Planning-Urban Design

Our specialty is working with a property owner and their architect to “create” a vision of land use, site planning, and architecture, then preparing master planning documents, and/or urban design guidelines for submission to a city. “Good Planning” is the key to project approvals by city government, and good planning is comprised of; good designs; educating government decision makers about a project; and, implementing city general plans to benefit a community. Good land planning results from consensus building between the project proponent, the community, and regulating government agencies. We prepare and process winning projects which benefit all parties, and to date have not had a single project denied by a city.

 

Specific Plan Preparation

Larger parcels can greatly benefit through preparation of a focused “specific plan” which implements a city’s general plan. The benefits are significant when master planning a property and creating assurance that all components of the project are: architecturally compatible; reciprocal access and parking are efficient and in the right place; amenities are fully defined to benefit the plan area; pedestrian connectivity is identified even when crossing property boundaries; and, overall, a simple document can codify what you are seeking and ensure the city will enforce your plan as parcels change ownership. 

 

Land Subdivision

The Subdivision Map Act is also codified in Section 65,000 et.seq. of the State’s Government Code. We fully understand the statutes and manage preparation of subdivision maps such as parcel maps, tentative and final tract maps, and lot line adjustments. Additionally, the rights for cities to impose many user fees are also codified in this law, and most specifically the parkland dedication requirements. As such, only residential projects with a subdivision map are subject to parkland dedication or the payment of “in-lieu” fees pursuant to the Map Act. However other State laws allow the imposition of “impact fees” based upon a comprehensive user fee analysis that must show a basis for imposition of the fee. For this reason, some California cities have adopted a “user fee” imposed on apartment projects where a subdivision map is not required, but not all cities impose such a fee. 

 

Government Relations

We focus on understanding city staff responsibilities in local government agencies. While it is important for elected and appointed officials to fully understand and support a project, it is even more important for city staff in planning, engineering, and building agencies to participate in the creation of good projects. We only create and process projects supported by city staff who are responsible to implement a city’s general plan. Professional staff fully understand what their community needs and what makes a great project. Therefore, we believe a strong working relationship with all levels of city staff is important to also help them achieve their goals. There are many alternatives and “ways” to design a project, therefore, we do so with city staff support long before a project is suitable for consideration by a planning commission or city council.

 

Development Agreements

Development agreements are purely performance contracts between a property owner and a city or county government. Since mutual consent is required for approval, and that approval is granted by ordinance adopted by the legislative body (aka- city council or board of supervisors), a city/county can grant specific benefits sought by a property owner in exchange for equitable or greater benefits for the community. The most common use of a development agreement is to vest rights to build an approved project beyond the statutory limits of project validity. It is common for most city approved land use permits to expire in one to two years if not diligently pursued and the project construction. Development agreements are typically used to extend vesting to 10-15 years for larger projects needing to be built in phases, due to product absorption, size, or for projects delayed for specific reasons such as soil remediation that may require years to complete before construction can commence. Community benefits typically amount to additional user fees or contributions to construct public parks, libraries, open space areas, enhance public safety, build police or fire stations, and/or a mix of public benefits. All development agreements are different and there are few limitations other than the prohibition to restrict the future legislative rights of a government agency, e.g. mandate a future zone change by a city council that may not be that same council approving the development agreement.

 

Property Disposition

Real estate development is a very expensive venture, and the risks are significant. As such, and primarily due to the recent recession, many “development projects” are created by two parties; 1) the land developer; and, 2) the builder. While many builders of residential, commercial, and industrial properties purchase land and process their own land use entitlement proposals, due to the time required, expense, and potential risk of denial, many builders prefer the certainty of purchasing approved/fully land use entitled projects so they may immediately commence construction. Conversely, the “land developer” has emerged from the recession to bridge the risk gap between property owner and builder, by “developing” the vision, ideas, and plans, then paying for full government processing and approval to a level of “vesting.” Since this is a high risk venture in the “urban infill” areas of Southern California, rarely do land developers also build the final product but leave that to the experts as their “builder partners.”

© 2018 by Diamond Star Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved.