Floor Area Ratio
As defined by the zoning code, Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is the "total net floor area on a zoning lot divided by the gross area of that lot (prior to any required dedications for street or utility rights-of-way." FAR maybe a requirement when developing certain residentially and commercially zoned properties. Multiple-family (R-2 and R-3), manufacturing (M) and open space (O-S) zones do not have FAR requirements.
FAR serves as a type of measurement control of the intensity of building coverage, however it does not replace traditional bulk control measures such as height and yard setbacks. In calculating FAR, you will note the use of the net floor area which discounts certain floor area features, including but not limited to, parking areas, stairwells and electrical and mechanical rooms. These requirements are discussed individually in each of the code sections of the particular zones, and summary handouts are available from the Planning Division.
Small Lot Calculation
For single family (R-1) zoned lots, although the FAR decreases as the lot size increases, this does not mean that larger lots are penalized. In calculating FAR for larger lots, the code also provides for use of a minimum square foot building area, whichever is greater. FAR also helps in controlling out-of-scale homes with the rest of the neighborhood.
For example, a typical 7,000 square foot lot has a FAR of 0.4 or 3,000 square feet, whichever is greater. The FAR calculation will result in a square footage of 2,800 (7,000 X 0.4) square feet, but allows for a greater minimum 3,000 square foot home if desired.
Larger Lot Calculation
In commercial zones, a larger FAR will serve as an incentive for providing larger lots. Most of the city's commercial zones contain fragmented smaller parcels that sustain minimal and hodgepodge development. In the high profile redevelopment and specific plan areas, the city encourages consolidation of lots for the purposes of larger, more well planned developments.
For example, a 20,000 square foot commercial lot in the C-B (Central Business) zone has a FAR of 0.65. The FAR calculation will result in a building square footage of 13,000 (20,000 X 0.65) square foot. If the lot was greater than 30,000 square feet, the FAR allowance would be 0.8. A more detailed handout discussing FAR for commercial lots is available from the Planning Division.