Land Use Element

From Density by Design

"The idea of a mixed-use neighborhood / town center, with shops and services below and housing above, is an old, even ancient, concept that is being revived by a new generation of planners and designers. The neighborhood / town center concept holds the potential appeal of restoring a sense of community."

-Steve Fader, Density by Design: New Directions in Residential Development

General Plan


Monterey Park did not incorporate as a city until 1916. However, its land use history extends back to the Spanish Land Grant era of the 1840s, and even earlier as Native American lands. Development trends that occurred throughout the Los Angeles basin from 1840 forward are reflected in the Monterey Park of today, and although the city entered the twenty-first century as a built-out community, history shows that continued land use changes can be anticipated through the year 2020. The Land Use Element guides these changes and the land use decision-making process that city leaders follow.

The Land Use Element describes long-range goals for the physical development of the community, both in terms of land use type and intensity, as well as urban character and form. The element also provides the framework for all other General Plan elements, since the manner in which land is used in Monterey Park affects:

Scope & Content of the Land Use Element

Historically, Monterey Park residents have used the ballot box as a land use decision-making tool. Through voter-sponsored initiatives, residents have expressed their desire to participate fully in land use decisions that affect quality-of-life issues in the city. Thus, this Land Use Element has been prepared to reflect past voter initiatives. Foremost, the element supports the community's desire to retain the features of Monterey Park considered unique and special: its historic city center, the diverse residential neighborhoods, and the distinct commercial districts. At the same time, the goals and policies look toward the need to ensure the city's long-term fiscal stability, to accommodate the housing requirements of a changing demographic, and to respond to the retail and service commercial preferences of a broader-based community.

State planning law requires that the Land Use Element designate "the proposed general distribution and general location and extent of the uses of the land" for a variety of purposes [Government Code Section 65302(a)]. Through maps and text, this element defines the distribution and intensity of development of residential neighborhoods, commercial and employment districts, parks and other open spaces, and governmental and institutional uses of property in Monterey Park. In particular, the Land Use Plan section contains the Land Use Policy Map, which presents a pictorial representation of land use policy. The Land Use Plan section also identifies a series of focus areas throughout the community where specific policies will be implemented to guide the city toward its land use (and related) goals. Finally, the element describes the relationship between General Plan land use policy and zoning, and how the zoning ordinance provides the primary means for implementing land use goals. Specific land use implementation programs are identified in the General Plan Implementation Program (Appendix A (PDF)).

Urban Design 

The Land Use Policy Map provides a two-dimensional description of land use policy by indicating the location and type of permitted uses. Equally important is the third dimension of urban character and form:

  • How will new development fit within the established city framework
  • How can creative site design, architectural treatments, and landscaping be used to enhance the visual image Monterey Park conveys to residents and visitors to the city
  • An urban design plan has been created that supports this Land Use Element and incorporates design guidelines adopted by the city

The urban design plan provides an overall design framework to guide future improvement and enhancement of the city's districts and neighborhoods.

Design Guidelines

Design guidelines can encourage a positive relationship between new buildings and their surroundings and thereby work to enhance the overall aesthetic quality of Monterey Park. This Land Use Element contains goals and policies to guide site development and design approaches for private projects on private property. The element also identifies public improvements such as landscaped roadway medians, street trees, light fixtures, and directional and district signage that will help define city form. These goals and policies are intended to:

  • Strengthen the pedestrian orientation of Downtown
  • Define the city's edges
  • Enhance the visual quality of streets in residential neighborhoods
  • Avoid sign "clutter" within commercial districts
  • Reinforce the image of employment centers
  • Achieve an overall sense of community through coordinated design standards