I've spoken with a landowner in the rural area of Saratoga, California, who owns a single parcel with more land than he knows what to do with, and I asked him why doesn't he build an MDU or some such, to which he replied that the city will never allow to re-zone and/or split the parcel of the land he owns, and that neighbours and such will generally be against any such arrangements, because it'll increase crime and drive the property values down.

However, upon what principle could an application to have the parcel of land split be denied? Wouldn't such restrictions unduly violate the property rights of the owner with such a large piece of land?

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    Why wouldn't those restrictions be allowed? Nowhere in the Constitution does it forbid zoning regulations or support the idea that you can do whatever you like with your property.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 6:14
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    @cpast: The Constitution enumerates the limited powers of the federal government. It also explicitly lists some (but not all) of the people's unalienable rights. I agree with the OP that in the U.S. there is a presumption that property rights should be deferred to whenever there is no compelling public interest to proscribe them. So it's an interesting question of how those property rights have been legitimately proscribed by lower-level governments without becoming an unconstitutional seizure of property.
    – feetwet
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 19:11
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    @feetwet No, the standard is not a compelling government interest. Compelling government interests are not required unless a fundamental right is affected, and to my knowledge the Constitution does not support the right to do what you want with your land as a fundamental right. If you're going to argue that strict scrutiny (the only time a compelling interest is required) applies to land use, I'm going to have to ask if there's a source for that. The only generic rule applicable to all cases is a legitimate interest, not a compelling one.
    – cpast
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 19:12
  • @cpast: Sounds like the beginning of a good answer. Probably also worth noting that even the Fifth Amendment has a "Takings Clause" permitting eminent domain for "public use." (Though not sure if that figures into the legal justification for encumbrances on property.)
    – feetwet
    Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


Minimum parcel sizes after a split are viable targets for regulation. Counties or townships (typically, or similarly niche jurisdictional units) set the numbers for what size of parcel subdivision is allowed.

Though not a California example, here you can see that Sewickley Heights, PA has created ordinance against smaller than 5 acre lots, which ultimately leads to a number of effects that the borough collectively desires. These ordinance are laid out here.

Pardon that I cannot say examples in CA.

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