How We Did It: Obtaining a Change-of-Use Agreement for Continental Graphics

February 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

We recently worked to obtain a “change-of-use” agreement for our Continental Graphics project in Los Angeles, and it was a very enlightening and complicated process. “Change-of-use” literally means permission has been given by a local authority for premises to be used for a different purpose. This particular project contained one office and one manufacturing/garage space, both of which have now been officially converted to retail. The project plan-checked through Case Management at LADBS, which is where projects are sent if they are complex in nature and have multiple entitlements.

There are several things to consider when applying for a change-of-use:


ZONING: Any change of use of a building or a portion of a building must conform to the current regulations of the zone and other applicable current land use regulations (LAMC SEC. 12.23 B7a)

PARKING: For the purpose of calculating the parking requirements for a change of use or other alterations, which would require additional parking spaces per this Code… existing parking must be maintained and additional parking spaces shall be provided equal to the difference between the number of required parking spaces for the existing use based on current parking regulations …and the number of required parking spaces for the new use or the new capacity created by the alterations, also based on current parking regulations (LAMC SEC. 12.23 B8b)

Example: There is an existing 3,900 sf office building that will be changed to a retail use.  How much additional parking is required?

  • Existing office use: 2 spaces per 1000 sf
    3,900 sf/1000 X 2 = 7.8 or 8 spaces were required (Parked off-site in a garage)
  • New retail use: 4 spaces per 1000 sf
    3,900 sf/1000 X 4= 15.6 or 16 spaces
  • Total additional spaces required:
    16 spaces required for new retail use – 8 spaces credited from existing office use = 8 additional spaces to be parked in garage.

    – Construction type (CBC Table 503)
    – Fire separations for mixed occupancies (CBC Table 508.3.3)
    – Sprinkler requirement – Area increase (CBC Section 506.3)
    – Rated construction (Walls, roof, structure, etc)

    – Occupant load calculations (CBC Table 1004.1.1)
    – Required number of exits (CBC Table 1015.1 & Table 1019.1)
    – Exit widths for stairs and doors (CBC Table 1005.1)
    – Exit travel distance (CBC Table 1016.1)

    – Accessible Parking Stalls
    – Path of Travel (exterior)/ accessible route (interior)
    – Building Entry (ramps, stairs, thresholds, etc)
    – Restrooms

    – Occupant load factor (CPC Table A)
    – Plumbing fixture counts (CPC Table 4-1)


    Cal Green exempts alterations to existing buildings, but the City of LA has passed an amendment to the LAMC that lists mandatory Cal Green measures for additions or alterations to existing buildings that exceed a valuation of over $200,000 (LA Ordinance Incorporating provisions of Cal Green. Article 9 Division 1, Section


    Site Plan
    Fully dimensioned drawn to scale showing all existing buildings. Indicate the use, type, number of stories, and number of dwelling units for all buildings. Slow lot size, streets, alleys, loading zone, and parking areas.

    Parking Layout (if additional parking is required)
    Fully dimensioned showing stall width, length, and angle of parking. Indicate standard, compact, and handicapped parking spaces. Provide parking analysis.

    Floor Plan
    Floor plan showing existing and proposed area of remodel. Indicate use of all areas and rooms, show all existing and proposed partitions, size and direction of swing of all doors, and specify door type and hardware.

    Equipment and Fixtures
    Show locations of: Plumbing fixtures, shelves, machinery, counters, tables, and fixed seats etc.

    General Notes and Details
    Notes required by Health Department, construction notes, etc.

    Disabled Access Requirements
    Show disabled access parking, access ramps, path of travel, restrooms and phones accessible to the disabled, signs, general notes and details.

    Records of Building
    Copy of “Certificate of Occupancy” and/or previous building permits showing the use of the building and number of parking spaces required and provided and occupancy.

    Construction Details
    Show details for construction of partitions, ceilings, ramps etc. Also detail construction of exterior wall when new occupancy requires increased fire rating.


    1. Building
    2. Planning (Commercial Corner, Recording of Covenants, etc.)
    3. Disabled Access
    4. Fire Department (Access)
    5. Bureau of Engineering (Sewer Availability, Address Approval, etc.)
    6. Health Department (Food Establishments)

    Continental Graphics - Proposed vs. Existing Elevation
    Continental Graphics – Proposed vs. Existing Elevation



    § 2 Responses to How We Did It: Obtaining a Change-of-Use Agreement for Continental Graphics

    • Phil says:

      Hi, I need to have my property changed from retail to office, but it is currently zoned as MR-1 and I don’t know if they will allow change of use for me. The guy at planning said I may have to get a zone variance, but he said it is a lot of paper work and will cost $10,000 and doesn’t even guarantee that I will get approved.

      Is there any way I can get a change of use approved from retail to office just by bringing in the site plan and such?

      • A change of use can be complicated if the zoning of a particular area does not allow the proposed use. However, the MR-1 (Restricted Industrial) use does allow office uses if “used only for offices of industrial firms, industrial engineering firms, and other professional, administrative, and clerical services needed by industries in the area.” Maybe you can try to make the case that a zone variance wouldn’t be required to allow your particular office use. If your use is allowed, you would just need to make sure you meet planning and building code requirements before a permit is issued.

        For reference, see Los Angeles Municipal Code section SEC. 12.17.5. “MR1” RESTRICTED INDUSTRIAL ZONE B3(j). Check this link for the code.

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