Home Selling in Santa Monica>Question Details

Cluckr7, Home Buyer in Santa Monica, CA

Are most Santa Monica condos nonconforming with zoning?

Asked by Cluckr7, Santa Monica, CA Sat Jun 9, 2012

The appraiser of a condo we are trying to buy noted that the condo is in an area zoned R2. In this zoning, a maximum of 4 units can exist in a lot, whereas the unit we are trying to buy has 21 units on the lot. Santa Monica zoning laws also say that a nonconforming use building, if damaged or destroyed, cannot be built to their existing, nonconforming condition, but rather must be built to meet current code (only 4 of the 21 units can be rebuilt).

Our lender is now balking because of this, and after some research, it turns out that both Fannie and Freddie explicitly prohibit this situation.

But where I am really confused is that it seems like the majority of Santa Monica condos are in this situation, yet neither realtor has heard of this, and neither have I. Has anyone else run into this in the Santa Monica area?

Help the community by answering this question:


Not all Santa Monica Condos are in non-conforming areas. I think the realtors you have spoken to do not understand the zoning laws of properties. If you do go forward with sale and can get a loan, you need to understand that zoning laws dictate what you may replace your unit with if you need to rebuild.

There are lovely units on the market that do comply with the zoning law. I have heard of this situation, not only with condos, but apartment building, houses , etc.. Remember the currant codes are "the law" and much be followed, at all times.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Aug 10, 2012
Santa Monica zoning could be complicated. The best thing is to check with the city directly. Your agent may be able to help with that. I've sold and listed condos in Santa Monica, and I've not heard of it. Maybe that particular lender has very strict guidelines, another lender may not. If you need another lender referral, I'd be happy to connect you with.

Elizabeth Sorgen
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 11, 2012
Appreciate the answers so far, but there are things I don't understand about them. I have posted my follow ups in the comments section of each answer. Can anyone take a stab of these follow ups?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jun 10, 2012
R2 does not mean 4 units per lot. It is a rather complicated process to try to figure out how many units you can build on a lot. it has to do with lot size, living space built, parking requirements, setbacks for structures on a lot... number of stories, bla bla bla...

So I would say no.. most condo's should be conforming... from time to time zoning changes make an existent structure become non-conforming... so this must be the specific case here... there are lenders that will do a loan with a rebuilt letter from the city stating that if something happens to less than 50% of the structure and it needs to be rebuilt, they would authorize to rebuild it to the same usage it had before (albeit non-conforming).

I may be able to put you in contact with a lender that may be able to help you if you contact me directly.

If you like my answer please give it a thumbs up!

Ron Escobar, MBA
Broker & General Contractor
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 9, 2012
The answer is the same... the details are just that. (details). 1.- You have a verified non-conforming unit for which the lender will not give you a loan. 2.- Most condos in Santa Monica are conforming units, so this exception does not apply. 3.- Some lenders are able to d non-conforming zone properties with a rebuilt letter from the city (as I responded). so you can A) try to get a new lender and see if they would do it with the letter from the city or B) get a different condo in Santa Monica that does not have this issue.

Hope, this helps.. and yes I am still waiting for my Thumbs Up!

Flag Mon Jun 11, 2012
The code says the maximum density is "the lesser of 1 dwelling unit per 2000 square feet of area or 4 units.". I also confirmed with the city planning department that this is correct. Again my biggest question that this is pretty much all condos in Santa Monica so is this issue so little known and why hasn't this affected marketability of SM condos? Did I just happen to get the most thorough appraiser?
Flag Sun Jun 10, 2012
There are many exceptions to Santa Monica condo zoning, as the City has been known to make concessions to encourage development. Additionally, Santa Monica is currently re-zoning areas around the light rail line, so density levels are in flux. There are effective ways to maneuver around the zoning / financing confusion. ..i.e., look at older units. Let your agent and lender assist you. Good luck.


Jodi Summers
The SoCal Investment Real Estate Group
Sotheby’s International Realty
310. 392.1211
License # - 01343854
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 9, 2012
Thanks for the response, can you elaborate more on the exceptions and looking at older units?

I was thinking mostly it is older condos that are nonconforming. Are you saying that the city might grant us a written exception to the no rebuild law? That is actually what the lender says they need, but I was thinking that would be doa.

I feel like I have to be missing something here because I would guess that pretty much all of Wilshire-Montana is nonconforming and I don't see how this wouldnt have affected marketability.
Flag Sat Jun 9, 2012
I will add that I confirmed with the city planning department the interpretation of the zoning ordinances are correct. They confirmed the wording means fewer units than currently exist can be rebuilt if the complex is severely damaged or destroyed.

I would think that most SM condos that are properly appraised do not qualify for conforming loans because of this, but have heard nothing about this.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 9, 2012
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