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ZONING CODE

BULLETIN
Date Issued: August 29, 2001
Amended: August 23, 2004
Zoning Topic:

LIVE/WORK

Pertinent Code Sections:

17. 102.190; 17.101; Ordinance 12148; Resolution 68516

The following information is being provided to clarify questions regarding the conversion of existing
buildings to live/work, the construction of new live/work buildings in the S-16 combining zone and the
conversion of downtown buildings to live/work. Please refer to the pertinent sections of the Planning
Code: Section 17.102.190 for live/work in all zones other than an S-16 zone and Downtown, and Section
17.101 for live/work in an S-16 combining zone. Additionally, please refer to Resolution 68516 (1991)
and Ordinance 12148 (1999) and a previously issued Zoning Bulletin (no date on Bulletin) regarding
conversion of downtown buildings to live/work.
A. Is there a difference between live/work and work/live in the Planning Code?
No. There is no distinction in the Oakland Planning Code between live/work and work/live. There is a
distinction in the Building Code, but there is no distinction between these two terms in Planning Code.
The term used for live/work or work/live in the Planning Code is Joint Living and Working Quarters
(JLWQ), Section 17.102.190. This term, with general provisions and special use permit criteria, was
added to the Planning Code in 1980.
B. Is live/work limited to the conversion of existing buildings?
Yes, except in the S-16 combining zone and in the following General Plan Land Use Classification areas
listed in below, where construction of new buildings for use as live/work is allowed with a Conditional
Use Permit:
General Plan
Central Business District
Housing & Business Mix
Mixed Housing Type Residential

Estuary Policy Plan


Light Industry 2
Mixed Use District
Off Price Retail District
Planned Waterfront Development 1
Produce Market
Retail Dining Entertainment 2
Waterfront Warehouse District

For all other areas of the City, live/work developments are limited to the conversion of existing buildings.
Section 17.102.190 defines live/work in areas other than those listed above as follows:
Residential occupancy by not more than four persons, maintaining a common
household of one or more rooms or floors in a building originally designed for industrial
or commercial occupancy which includes: 1) cooking space and sanitary facilities which

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satisfy the provisions of other applicable codes; and 2) adequate working space reserved
for, and regularly used by, one or more persons residing therein.
Based on this definition, joint living and working quarters are allowed only in existing buildings
originally designed for industrial or commercial occupancy other than in the S-16 combining zone and in
the General Plan Land Use Classification areas listed above.
C. Can additional floor area be added within the shell of an existing building that is being
converted to JLWQ?
No, except in the S-16 combining zone and the General Plan Land Use Classification areas listed in
Section B above, where construction of new buildings for use as live/work is also allowed with a
Conditional Use Permit.
The Guidelines for Determining Project Conformity with the General Plan and Zoning Regulations (as
adopted by the City Planning Commission) lists live/work as a conforming accessory activity within the
above General Plan Land Use Classification areas. As new floor area falls outside the scope of the
Zoning Ordinance definition of Joint Living and Working Quarters in a building originally designed
for industrial or commercial occupancy, a Conditional Use Permit is required to construct new floor
area under the provisions of the General Plan in these areas or in the S-16 Zone. Additional parking,
loading, and open space area may be required as a condition of approval for JLWQ projects involving the
addition of new floor area.
D. Are JLWQ considered to be a residential or a non-residential use?
Section 17.10.040, Accessory Activities, and Section 17.10.070, Accessory Facilities, state that the living
quarters of JLWQ are accessory to the primary use as a place of work. Therefore, JLWQ are considered a
non-residential use, with the primary use of JLWQ being commercial or industrial, not residential.
E. Is a Conditional Use Permit required for Live/Work?
Per Section 17.102.190, JLWQ are a permitted use in all zones where Residential Activities are permitted
or conditionally permitted. In all zones where Residential Activities are not allowed, a conditional use
permit is required for JLWQ as the conversion of an existing non-residential building. In the S-16 zone,
per Section 17.101, a conditional use permit is required for live/work pursuant to the conditional use
permit procedures and the regulations in Section 17.101.090.
F. Is parking, loading and open space required for the conversion of an existing building to
JLWQ?
No. However, if the building has parking spaces and loading berths prior to the proposed conversion to
JLWQ, then the parking spaces and loading areas shall be retained in order to accommodate the
commercial/industrial activities that will continue to be the primary activities of the building. With
conversion of all or part of a building to JLWQ, there shall be no loss in the number of existing off-street
parking or loading spaces. This also applies to conversions to JLWQ in Downtown. Additional parking
and loading areas may be required as a condition of approval for JLWQ projects involving the addition of
new floor area.
Regarding open space, the requirements for open space for residential uses are not triggered by the
conversion to JLWQ since the residential use of JLWQ is considered accessory to the use as a work place.

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In Downtown, Ordinance 12148 requires that any existing open space be retained if it was associated with
the building prior to its conversion. (Ordinance 12148 is ambiguous about open space associated with a
non-residential building, since such open space is not required by the Planning Code. The intent is that
non-required open space be retained if it exists prior to the conversion to live/work). Additional open
space may be required as a condition of approval for JLWQ projects involving the addition of new floor
area.
G. Is Design Review required for conversion of existing buildings to live/work?
Yes, if a conditional use permit is required or if design review for non-residential uses is required in the
zoning district where the building/project site is located. However, pursuant to Ordinance 12148
regarding conversions to JLWQ in Downtown, design review is required only if the project is located in
an S-4, S-7 or S-8 combining zone in Downtown. Design review findings are also part of all conditional
use permit approvals.
H. What about the work/live for artists resolution adopted by Council in the early 1990s?
Resolution 68516, adopted by City Council in 1991, relating to work/live was not codified into the
Planning Code; no revisions were made to the above referenced section on JLWQ and no additional
section specific to work/live was added to the Planning Code. Therefore, there is no distinction in the
Planning Code between work/live and live/work; they are both referred to as JLWQ. However, two items
from Resolution 68516 are used as zoning criteria when reviewing projects, even though these criteria are
not specifically in the Planning Code. Those criteria are: a minimum of 2/3 of the JLWQ shall be work
space and a maximum of 1/3 shall be living space; and 600 square feet shall be the minimum size of the
each JLWQ. (This 2/3 and 1/3 criteria does not apply to conversions in Downtown per Ordinance 12148.)
I.

What are the Zoning standards and criteria we should use to review JLWQ projects that are
NOT new JLWQ in the S-16 combining zone and are NOT in Downtown?

The standards and criteria for reviewing live/work projects (joint living and work quarters) that are not
located in an S-16 combining zone or in Downtown are listed below. These standards and criteria merge
the intent of Resolution 68516 with Section 17.102.190 of the Zoning Ordinance, resulting in the
following zoning standards and criteria:
1. Joint living and working quarters are allowed as the conversion of existing buildings originally
designed for industrial or commercial occupancy.
2. Permitted by right in zones where residential activities are permitted or conditionally permitted.
3. Requires a conditional use permit in all zones where residential activities are not otherwise allowed,
and shall comply with the criteria in Sections 17.134 and 17.102.190.
4. Minimum unit size of 600 square feet.
5. A minimum of two-thirds of floor area shall be used for work activities and a maximum of one-third
shall be used for living activities. (This criterion does not apply to JLWQ in Downtown pursuant to
Ordinance 12148.) Guidelines for determining live and work portions of the units are as follows:
a. In unpartitioned kitchens or work areas that include kitchen fixtures and appliances the
following areas shall be considered to be live space: the counters, cabinets, sink and
appliances in the area that will function as a kitchen and the floor area that is three feet in
front these items.
b. If a loft or mezzanine is the likely area where sleeping will occur, then the loft area including
a bathroom, closets, etc. located in the loft and the stairs that lead to the loft shall be counted
as live space. If the loft wont function as a bedroom because a portion of the main floor

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provides a usable, realistic sleeping area, then the stairs leading to the loft and the loft can be
counted as work space.
c. Bathrooms shall be counted as live space if access to the bathroom is limited by going
through live space, such as a bathroom in the loft if the loft will be the sleeping area. If the
bathroom is accessed directly from the workspace, the bathroom can be counted as
workspace.
d. Interior hallways and closets should be counted as part of the space to which they are
adjacent.
e. Living and working spaces should be within the same live/work unit and be directly
connected.
f. The Building Code allows 25% of the space to be dual purpose such that the result is 51%
work and 49% live, if the dual purpose space is counted as part of the live space. This
standard can be applied by Planning staff when reviewing the 2/3 work and 1/3 live
requirement.
g. Common sense and individual judgment will be the best guide in determining what is live
area and what is work.
6. The residential portions of JLWQs are accessory to the commercial/industrial activities and do not
trigger open space, buffering or parking requirements. (However, see #7 below.)
7. Parking and loading spaces that exist prior to the proposed conversion to JLWQ shall be retained and
used for parking and loading.
8. Businesses and uses, which occupy JLWQ, may be subject to securing a conditional use permit for
the individual uses, if those individual uses are conditionally permitted in the zoning district where
the JLWQ are located.
J. Are the zoning standards and criteria the same for the conversion of Downtown buildings to
JLWQ?
The standards are similar, but are not exactly the same. Refer to Ordinance 12148 and the previously
issued Zoning Bulletin titled Conversion of Downtown Buildings to Live/Work for specific criteria for
conversion to live/work of buildings located downtown. (The area defined as downtown is identified in
Ordinance 12148).
K. Can someone build a new non-residential building and then convert this new building to
JLWQ?
Pursuant to Section 17.102.190, in non-residential zoning districts a conditional use permit is required
before anyone resides in a building that was originally designed for industrial or commercial
occupancy. Therefore, plans for construction of a new building that appears to be designed for live/work
uses cannot be approved by Planning unless the site is located in the S-16 combining zone. (Note that S16 is a Best Fit zone for certain land use categories of the General Plan.) Construction of new buildings
for use as live/work which meet the commercial and industrial standards are not allowed, other than in the
S-16 zone, or with S-16 as the best fit zone.
Applicants should be advised that constructing new non-residential buildings with the intent of using or
converting the building to JLWQ in the immediate or foreseeable future, instead of occupying the
building with commercial or industrial uses, is strongly discouraged. If staff believes that the plans
submitted for a new building imply the intent to use the building for JLWQ (typically by having demise
walls to create individual units that are atypical of commercial or industrial-size uses such as demise walls
every 15 feet, OR with more restrooms than an industrial or commercial building requires, OR by having
an industrial building atop a parking podium so that trucks cannot access the industrial building other than

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in the parking garage) these plans should be reviewed by the Planning Director or designee to determine
whether the building permit can be approved by Planning without a conditional use permit for JLWQ
being secured prior to approval of the building permit.
L. What about building new loft-type buildings in residential and mixed-use districts?
Thats not live/work; its residential thats designed to look like lofts and that people may work in with a
home occupation permit, which is fine assuming the residential standards of the zoning district are met.
M. What are the zoning standards for new live/work uses in an S-16 combining zone and are
parking, loading and open space required?
The standards and criteria from the S-16 combining zone, Section 17.101.090, for construction of new
buildings for use as live/work are summarized below. The intent of the S-16 combining zone is to allow
new construction of live/work buildings as a transitional use between residential and light industrial uses.
Please refer to the complete text of Section 17.101.090 and to Section 17.102.190. In areas designated by
the General Plan as Housing and Business Mix, S-16 can be considered as a best fit zone.
Additionally, rezoning to S-16 as a combining zone can be considered.
1. Average unit size: minimum 1,000 square feet (SF). No individual unit shall be less than 800 SF.
2. Use of space: Generally, as a guideline and not as a mandate, one-third of the floor area should be
used for living space.
3. Usable Open Space: A minimum of 75 SF of group usable open space shall be provided for each
JLWQ and shall conform to the open space standards of Section 17.126.030, except that group open
space may be located anywhere on the lot and may be located entirely on the roof of any building on
the site.
4. Parking: A minimum of one space shall be provided for each 1,000 SF of floor area.
5. Buffering: Section 17.110.020 shall apply.
6. Upper-story setbacks: Are required in certain situations. Refer to Section 17.101.090 B.
7. Yards: Are required in certain situations. Refer to Section 17.101.090 C.
8. Refer to Section 17101.090 D-I for regulations regarding landscaping, screening of parking, loading
berths, truck parking and access.
N. What are the key differences between the Planning Code and the Building Code for live/work?
The primary difference is that the Oakland Building Code distinguishes live/work from work/live, while
the Planning Code does not. In the Building Code, this distinction is made to accommodate different
levels of hazardous activities that may occur in the work portion of live/work buildings.
In the Oakland Building Code, live/work allows work activities that are the B occupancy class which
allows business uses, primarily office-type uses. Manufacturing-type uses are not permitted in
live/work buildings by the Oakland Building Code.
In the Oakland Building Code, work/live allows B occupancy uses (business/office uses) plus F-1 and
F-2 occupancy which includes low/moderately hazardous manufacturing, fabricating and assembly;
additionally a heavier floor loading requirement is imposed.
In the Oakland Building Code, there is a separate section of the Code for conversions of existing
downtown buildings to live/work, titled Urban Core Residential Conversion.

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O. Additional Information

Refer to Section 17.102.190 of the Planning Code for joint live/work quarters.

Refer to Section 17.101 of the Planning Code for construction of new buildings for live/work use in
an S-16 combining zone.

Refer to Ordinance 12148 and the previously prepared Zoning Bulletin titled Conversions of nonresidential buildings into residentially-oriented live/work buildings in Downtown Oakland.

Refer to Zoning Code Bulletin dated November 15, 1996 for policies related to additions to buildings
containing JLWQ.

Refer to the City of Oakland Building Code for Live/Work, revised 1999, which contains different
building code requirements for live/work, work/live and conversion of Downtown buildings.

Refer to the web site Live/Work in Simple English, www.live-work.com for a summary of Oakland
building and planning codes regarding live/work. This is not an official City of Oakland web site and
the information was not prepared by City of Oakland staff.

RECEIVED AND APPROVED BY:

GARY PATTON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR


Planning and Zoning Division

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