Important Terms & Concepts

Land Use Element

This element uses several planning terms important in the discussion of land use issues.

Density and Intensity 

Density and intensity are terms used to describe the level of development existing or permitted on a parcel of land. Density applies to residential land use classifications and refers to the number of allowable housing units (sometimes called dwelling units) per net acre of land. For nonresidential land use categories, intensity means the total amount of development on a lot. Intensity can be expressed in several ways, such as the total building square footage, the mass of a building, the percent of lot coverage, or the floor area ratio (abbreviated as FAR). This Element uses FAR to describe permitted intensity for the nonresidential land use categories.

Floor Area Ratio 

Floor area ratio, or FAR, represents the relationship between the total floor area of all buildings on a lot and the total area of that lot. The FAR is determined by dividing the total floor area of all buildings by the area of that lot. For example, a 10,000 square-foot building on a 20,000 square-foot lot represents a FAR of 0.5. A 0.5 FAR can provide for a low-rise building covering most of the lot, a mid-sized structure with reduced lot coverage, or a tall building with substantial outdoor space or landscaping (see Figure LU-1 (PDF)).


Any use or structure which does not conform to the regulations of the zone district in which it is located is considered a nonconforming use. Nonconforming can include:

  • Nonconforming structures (by virtue of size, type of construction, location on land, or proximity to other structures),
  • Nonconforming use of a conforming building,
  • Nonconforming use of a nonconforming building, and
  • Nonconforming use of land.


Redevelopment, under California Redevelopment Law, provides cities with the authority, scope, and financing mechanisms needed to reverse negative business trends, remedy blight, provide job development incentives, and create a new community image. Redevelopment establishes a process for the planning and implementation of community improvement strategies, and allows a city to clearly define what public and private improvements are to be accomplished toward these ends.

As authorized under state redevelopment law, Monterey Park uses tax increment financing to fund improvement projects. Tax increment revenues come from property taxes. When an agency adopts a redevelopment plan, the assessed property values at that point in time become fixed. As property values within the development area rise over time, Monterey Park is authorized to collect the difference between the fixed assessed value and the new market value (that is, the tax increment). Monterey Park can issue bonds, using as a guarantee the estimated future tax increment revenues, thus allowing redevelopment programs to move forward before tax increment revenues are actually generated.