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Spot Zoning


Zoning that does not conform to the standard general zoning laws and regulations of a geographical area.


Spot zoning refers to when a single property is subject to different zoning restrictions than the surrounding properties. It is used to the benefit of the spot-zoned property owner while being detrimental to neighboring owners. For this reason, many jurisdictions have outlawed spot zoning.

In some part of the country, certain courts have deemed spot zoning as illegal due in part to the fact that it does not coincide with land use zoning that is already in effect and it does not harmonize with certain community zoning plans. Whether or not spot zoning will be granted largely depends on the support garnered from the general public and the effect that it will hold on nearby property, as well as any consequences that arise from the spot zoning.

Factors In Approving or Denying Spot Zoning

Here are a few factors that a court could take into account when trying to determine if they should grant spot zoning to a particular property.

How compatible the spot zoning is with surrounding zones

Features of the land

Exactly how it will benefit the community

How it relates to a county or city’s comprehensive plan

If a court declares that a certain rezoning proposal is illegitimate, the decision must be based on one of the following reasons:

Absence of connection of the spot zone and a permissible purpose

Failure to conform in regards to a county or city’s comprehensive plan

The rezoning of land depicting unfair treatment of other pieces of land that is identically situated

Rebutting Spot Zoning

If a court has ruled against a certain case of spot zoning, it may not be the end of the road for that particular case if it is found that the rezoning is in fact coinciding with a city or counties zoning trends. Any rezoning that coincides with the comprehensive plan is not seen as spot zoning and can be rebutted and reclassified in court in order to be labeled properly.

Case Law As It Relates to Spot Zoning

Case Review: Ross v. City of Yorba Linda (1991)

The case, Ross v. City of Yorba Linda (1991) 1 Cal.4th 954., involved a dispute regarding spot zoning.

A family (Ross) owned a property in the City of Yorba Linda. The property was similar in nature to neighboring properties, many of which had been allowed to build one dwelling per acre of land. The Ross family decided to subdivide their lot into two lots in order to build a second home. They filed an application with the City, but the City denied their request. The Ross family sued the City, alleging that their property had been subject to spot zoning.

The Superior Court ruled in favor of the Ross family. The City appealed. The Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling. The court reasoned that because the Ross family’s intent was to subdivide the land into two parcels and fulfill the city’s zoning requirements of building one structure per one acre of land they were entitled to getting the subdivision permit approved. The court agreed with the Ross family and indicated that the city’s denial of the subdivision was due to spot zoning.

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