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Orange County Zoning Appeals Attorney

Orange County Zoning Appeals Attorney


Zone laws and land use determine how property can be used by land developers and property owners, and may be agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, or another category. Often, land developers or owners request building or zoning alterations, such as land use variances. Sometimes, a developer or builder is not even requesting an alteration but requesting approval for a build. If permission has been granted for a build or development that you believe should not have been given, this decision could also be appealed.

However, these requests to alter regulations are not always approved. This can be especially frustrating when developers and property owners have done their due diligence and are still denied. If the zoning administrator, the city planning commission, or local development agency makes decisions regarding the property and its zoning that developers, builders, or owners dislike and believe was incorrect, those decisions can be appealed to the local Board of Zoning Appeals. It’s important to protect your rights as a property owner. Appealing these decisions can be complex and confusing, and an experienced zoning lawyer is an essential tool in navigating the appeals process in Orange County.


At Blake & Ayaz, our attorneys have over 60 years of collective experience working in business and zoning law. We have helped companies and individuals who need legal assistance in land use variance, zoning violations, and appealing the decisions of administrators and planning commissions. We understand the local zoning codes and requirements and can advise you on the likelihood of an appeal succeeding. That way, you can approach your zoning issue with the information you need.

Whether you are an individual or a business, we understand that you have important things to focus on. We take care of legal deadlines and filings required for zoning appeals so that you don’t have to. Our attorneys know how unique every situation is and take the time to listen to and fully understand the nuances of your zoning request and appeal.


If you believe an error was made in granting or denying a zoning request, you can file a request to appeal the decision. A request to appeal a zoning decision made by an administrator is made with the specific city or country’s Board of Zoning Appeals. This board is able to listen to and make decisions regarding errors for zoning orders, decisions, requirements, or determinations made by officials under the board’s jurisdiction.

California law enables the legislative body of the county or city to create both an office of the zoning administrator and a board of appeals for decisions made by the zoning administrator. The Board of Supervisors is the authority for the zoning code, but not every decision for the zoning code is managed by the board. There are several different authorities within the office that make decisions regarding zoning.

Under the County of Orange Zoning Code, the Board of Appeals handles zoning decisions made by the following authorities, which each handle different areas of zoning and land use law:

  1. The Director of Community Development: Lot line adjustment determinations, interpreting the zoning codes, and certain Coastal Development Permits.
  2. Zoning Administrator: Zoning variances, minor subdivisions, and land use permits.
  3. Planning Commission: Zoning amendments, major subdivisions, and general plan amendments.

Each of these authorities makes these and other decisions regarding zoning law, and any interested party can request an appeal. For decisions made by the Planning Commission, appeals are made to the Board of Supervisors.

For decisions made by the Director or Zoning Administrator, appeals are made to the Board of Appeals in the Planning Commission. In some counties, appeals made to the Planning Commission can then be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. However, in Orange County, Planning Commission appeal decisions are final.

An appeal requires an interested person to pay a filing fee and submit important documents and evidence. The appeal must be made within 15 calendar days of the initial decision being made. If you make an appeal after 15 calendar days, your request will not be accepted or reviewed. If the Appeals Board is not working on the fifteenth day after the decision, the deadline extends to its next working day. It’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible during this limited time to improve your chances of an appeal being approved.

Even if the initial administrative appeal is denied, there are additional levels of appeal that may be available. An attorney can help you navigate these proceedings.


Each county may have differing requirements when filing with the Board of Zoning Appeals. In Orange County, the minimum required documents in an appeal are:

  1. A letter justifying your reason for appealing
  2. A filing fee
  3. Envelopes stamped and addressed for all residents or property owners within 300 feet of the property in question

The letter should include the permit, request, or condition being appealed, the grounds of the appeal, and additional information that helps your claim. If this information is not included in a written appeal, the board may deny or refuse to review your request.

An experienced zoning appellate attorney will know the requirements for your specific county and can help you file your claim correctly and before the legal deadline. Legal counsel during the appeals application process significantly increases the chances of your appeal being approved.


Once the appeal has been made within the deadline and with the essential information, the application is reviewed. Generally, the appeal must be considered within 90 days of the filing. Within the first 30 days after filing, the individual who has filed the appeal will receive written notice. This notice states if the application contains the required information and is considered complete or not. If it does not, they will be provided a deadline to file the additional information.

After receiving a complete appeal, the Board of Appeals has 60 days from the end of the appeal period to review the appeal. Once considered, the board may handle the appeal by:

  1. Taking action on it by denying or approving the appeal,
  2. Continuing or delaying the appeal for a later hearing date, or
  3. Referring the appeal back to the authority who made the original decision with instructions on how to handle the situation.

If the initial decision required a public hearing, an appeal of the decision will also require a public hearing. Both the individual who submitted the initial application and the appellate are expected to appear at the board’s hearing. After considering all relevant information, the Board of Appeals must take action. This action must follow the guidelines that applied to the authority who made the original decision. The Board of Appeals actions are:

  1. Affirm or disprove the appeal
  2. Affirm or disprove the initial application or request
  3. Modify, remove, or add conditions to the initial application
  4. Approve a modified application created by the initial applicant
  5. Provide a recommendation, report, or direction to the initial authority who made the decision

If the appeal does not go in the appellate’s favor, there may be additional levels of authority to appeal to. An attorney can guide you through your unique situation.


Zoning law and regulation is frequently complex and has short deadlines. An attorney with experience in appealing zoning decisions can help you with every step, including determining if you have a valid appeal, filing your request with the correct Zoning Code authority, gathering documentation, and representing you throughout the hearing process. There are several actions and permits by administrators and commissioners that could be appealed. Common zoning actions that are appealed include:

  • General plan amendments
  • Permit revocations
  • Coastal development permit
  • Land use permit
  • Variance permit
  • Zone code amendments
  • Zone changes
  • Specific plan adoption and amendments
  • Changed plan or minor modification

Whether an error was made on decisions for your land or property or other property that impacts you, an appeal can correct this error. A zoning appeals attorney with legal experience in land use has a vast amount of resources and professional contacts to investigate the error and your unique circumstances and improve your appeal’s chances.

If you are a business owner or land developer, you likely have to spend time managing your job and business. An attorney can handle complex legal requirements with ease and enable you to take care of other important facets of your life. Sometimes, a zoning issue is the result of interpersonal issues that are not under the jurisdiction of the Appeals Board. An attorney can help in these situations to mediate an agreement between parties, which is less expensive and more efficient than filing a legal claim. Your attorney can help you protect your property rights and increase the likelihood of a successful appeal.


Decisions made regarding zoning are not always final, but it can be difficult for property owners to know what legal options are available to them. Filing an appeal is a serious decision, and an attorney can help you make an informed choice. At Blake & Ayaz, we want to bring you invaluable legal guidance during the appeals process. Contact our team today to learn how we can make these bureaucratic and legal procedures easier.


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