Understanding the Letter of Determination

Sample Letter of Determination for Los Angeles Development Project

What is a Letter of Determination?

After submitting a project proposal to the City Planning Commission, you will receive a Letter of Determination (LOD) if the proposal is approved. Essentially, the letter serves as the first step to building your property. This includes approval of any Conditional Use Permits (CUPs), zone variance requests and/or other entitlements not included in the “by-right” zoning laws.

The following is an excerpt from the first page of an LOD for a proposed private high school Woodland Hills. This LOD cover page shows exactly what is “determined”:

Source: LA City Planning Commission

Conditions of Approval

A Letter of Determination includes a “conditions of approval” section. This means that the building plans will be approved only if they meet the additional requirements outlined in the letter.

These requirements are often add-ons that benefit or protect the surrounding neighborhood.

The excerpt below – taken from the same LOD above – is an example of a conditional requirement:

Source: LA City Planning Commission

Here, the Forestry Division must approve the landscape plans outlined by the city before building plans are ok’ed. Because the condition is included in the LOD, the city will expect this to be in the proposed building plans.

A condition may also specify such things as maximum capacity or designated hours of operation:

Source: LA City Planning Commission
Source: LA City Planning Commission

If you need to modify conditions laid out in the LOD, there is an opportunity to appeal. Take note that this will add more time to the approval and building process.

Things to keep in mind:

LOD Time constraints:

A Letter of Determination is only good for 3 years from the date of approval. Thus, unless you are ready to build within this period, you should not go through the proposal process, which can take up to year. Otherwise, you will have to draft another project proposal and reapply.

LOD does not equal a building permit

While receiving a Letter of Determination is a huge milestone in the development process, it encompasses only a portion of what you need to actually start building. Essentially, the LOD gives you approval of what you can build and insight into what you have to build.

Once drafted, the city reviews building plan submissions. Plan modifications are necessary if there are LOD discrepancies. These modifications will also require a resubmission of changes for city review.

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