Everything You Need To Know About MR1 Zoning

MR1 Restricted Light Industrial Zones are lands set aside for industrial and manufacturing use in the city of Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles Municipal Code, the purpose of MR1 zones is “to preserve industrial land for light industrial uses and to provide for non-retail businesses which enhance the City’s employment base.” The thinking behind designating a light industrial zone is to provide more land for manufacturing, keeping industrial and manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles. Currently less than 6% of land in LA set aside exclusively for industry and manufacturing are actually used for industry, threatening the tax base and hurting the growth potential of LA’s economy.

LA’s zoning regulations can be a confusing quagmire. The MR1 designation is used for Restricted Light Industrial use, but MR1 zones also allow for the same uses as zones marked CM (Commercial Manufacturing), which themselves allow for the same uses as zones marked C2 (Commercial) and R3 (Multiple dwelling). These kinds of cascading regulations for MR1 uses can be confusing to someone looking to build in LA, so let’s break it down. 

Examples of Businesses Permitted in MR1 Zones

  • Most general manufacturing
  • Plant Nurseries
  • Office buildings
  • Medical Laboratories
  • Wholesale – If you manufacture mannequins, for example, on MR1 land, you can sell those mannequins wholesale from your property. You cannot sell linen you don’t produce on that land.
  • Sheet metal shop
  • Banks
  • Microbreweries – that don’t allow take-out services. You can brew and serve beer within your facility.
  • Churches
  • Micro-business Commercial Cannabis Activity – As long as 700 feet away from Public Parks, Public Libraries, Alcoholism or Drug, Abuse Recovery or Treatment Facility, Day Care Center, and Permanent Supportive Housing.

As you can see, the uses are actually less limited than the name would suggest. For a full list, click here. Pages 107-114 list hundreds of varied MR1 uses that are allowed.

An experienced Industrial and Commercial Realtor can walk you through all of these uses, and more that aren’t explicitly laid out in this document.

Can you build apartments in Los Angeles’s MR1 industrial zone?

Yes, but with a caveat. Any residential use in an MR1 Limited Industrial zone is limited to providing housing for workers in that main business located in the zone. So if you have a ball-bearing manufacturing plant that requires 24-hour security, you’re allowed to build a residence for the caretaker or overwatch and their family. You are not allowed to rent the residence to people unconnected to the main manufacturing in the lot. There are other nuances that can allow for residential use that an experienced Industrial and Commercial Realtor can help you with.

Benefits of MR1 Zones

According to Los Angeles’ Department of City Planning, the intent in setting up MR1 zones was to:

  • Retain and expand existing businesses;
  • Attract new uses that provide job opportunities for the City’s residents; and
  • Maintain a healthy jobs/household ratio that supports the General Fund and its capacity to pay for essential services and programs for the City’s existing and future population.

For industrial users, MR1 zoning is a boon. The restrictions on retail use mean that a manufacturer doesn’t have to compete with non-industrial entities for land. This keeps the land price reasonable, facilitating business growth. Good for the business and good for the city.