Zone Change


Base zone districts were established to regulate and control a diversity of land uses. A separate handout is available that describes the various district classifications. The Zoning Ordinance, which contains detailed zoning regulations, can be ordered or purchased at the Planning Department.

Specific uses may be authorized in one (1) district or in several zone districts. For example, a tobacco processing facility is an intensive use that is authorized only in the M-3 District, while the office of a travel agent is authorized throughout the commercial and industrial districts. A single-family residence is authorized “by right” in residential dis-tricts and in commercial and industrial districts, if utilized as a proprietor’s quarters. Approval of a conditional use permit is generally required to authorize a dwelling as the primary use in the commercial or industrial districts.


A property owner may discover that a parcel’s existing zone district prohibits a desired use and will request a change to an accommodating zone district. Occasionally, a zone change is requested by a property owner whose parcel has already been developed, yet the change is necessary to bring the site’s use into conformity with zoning requirements.


Applications can be mailed or obtained directly from the Planning Department. Submittal requirements include the payment of filing fees, authorization of the property owner, a legal description of the site, a scaled plot plan, and a completed “Hazardous Waste Site Verification Statement.”

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that an environmental study be prepared for certain types of discretionary permits. If it is determined that a study will be required, the applicant will be requested to submit a completed Environmental Information Form, which contains specific questions about the project. Technical reports, such as biota studies, traffic studies, archaeological reports, and groundwater reports, may be required to complete the process. The environmental study may take the form of a Negative Declaration, a Mitigated Negative Declaration, or an Environmental Impact Report. The preparation of an environmental study will require additional filing fees and processing time. An applicant may request an appointment to meet with a staff member to determine whether a document is anticipated; otherwise the decision will be made when the preliminary review of the application is completed.


Completed applications will be set for a public hearing before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission meets the second and fourth Thursdays (excluding holidays) of every month, and the meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. When the Planning Commission concludes its hearing, a recommendation is made, and the zone change request is scheduled for a hearing before the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors considers Planning Department items every Tuesday (excluding holidays) at 2:00 p.m., and both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meet in the hearing chambers located on the first floor of the Kern County Administrative Center, 1115 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield.

Property owners within 500 feet of the site are notified of each hearing by mail, and the proposal is advertised in the locally circulated newspaper. -In instances where a majority of parcels abutting the project site are one acre or larger in size, the notification radius is extended to 1,00 feet of the site. Prior to the hearing, a staff report is prepared that contains information regarding any proposed use, an analysis of the project’s potential relationship with surrounding properties and uses, and a recommendation. A planner will contact the applicant to discuss the recommendation. Applicants are strongly encouraged to question anything that is unclear or confusing. Copies of the staff report are normally available one (1) week prior to the public hearing.


Applicants should allow two (2) weeks for a preliminary review. In cases where an environmental study is anticipated, a committee of various staff members from county agencies will perform the review at an informal meeting (Pre-Application Review Committee). Applicants will be contacted and invited to participate.

If the application is determined to be incomplete, the applicant will be notified in writing of what additional information will be required. A typical zone change will require approximately three (3) months to process from the time the application is completed. If a Negative Declaration is required, processing time will be five (5) to six (6) months, and if an Environmental Impact Report is necessary, applicants should allow ten (10) to twelve (12) months.


If the Board of Supervisors approves the zone change, it normally becomes effective in thirty (30) calendar days. Sometimes the Board of Supervisors will approve a zone change where that approval is “held in suspense” pending certain other actions that may be required. For example, a zone change application for R-1 zoning may be “held in suspense” until a subdivision map is recorded for the affected property. In this instance, the approval for the zone change does not become operative until after the subdivision map has been approved by the Board of Supervisors and recorded.


Most completed zone change applications are ultimately approved. By state law, zone districts must be consistent with a jurisdiction’s general plan (or specific plan) designation. Therefore, if the county’s general plan designates property for residential use, a zone change to an industrial district would be prohibited. A request such as this would require a general plan (or specific plan) amendment.

Although a primary issue regarding the decision for zone change requests is consistency with the county’s general plan (or specific plan) designation, other concerns are also considered when staff makes a recommendation. Compatibility of the proposed rezoning with surrounding parcel sizes and land uses is also a factor. Occasionally, the Board of Supervisors may choose to approve a more restrictive district than the one being requested. For example, a zone change request to an R-3 District could ultimately be approved with a more restrictive district, such as the R-2 or R-1 District, if these zone districts were viewed by the board as being more compatible with existing development in a particular area.

Staff is available to answer any questions you may have regarding the zone change process. If further assistance is necessary, feel free to telephone (661) 862-8600 and ask for “zoning information.”

FORM 719 (1/2013)

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