Live/Work Quick Start

We suggest you read this brief introduction and then go on to the Walk-Through Guide below.

Live/work in some form is allowed in all parts of Oakland.

There are two primary types:
  1. "Joint living and working quarters" which must be a renovation of an existing building (or part of a building) originally designed and constructed for commercial or industrial use; or
  2. "Home occupation" which is simply a residence with permission to work and can be either new construction or a renovation. (**exception)

Under present zoning regulations, there is only one circumstance which is not presently permitted, which is new construction of any type of live/work in a manufacturing zone. This is because
  1. Joint living and work quarters are only permitted in a renovation, and
  2. Residential activities are not permitted in manufacturing zones, and therefore not home occupation, which must be in a residence.

In terms of the building code, joint living and work quarters are divided into two types according to which use is dominant--residence or work.
  1. Residentially-oriented JLWO (hereinafter called live/work) are units in which residence is on a more equal par with each activity; conversely,
  2. Commercial/industrially oriented JLWQ (hereinafter called work/live) acknowledge the predominance of work activity in the space: residence is an accessory use.

The building code acknowledges the difference between live/work and work/live in a number of ways, including floor loading, sound insulation, and the amount of hazardous materials which can be used and stored in the space.

**New Construction Live/Work is now permitted in the S-16 Zoning Overlay, a new buffer zone between residential and manufacturing areas in West Oakland.

Live/Work in Plain English
will walk you through:

  1. Beginning the process of developing live/work. If you're not sure what kind of live/work you want to do--or even perhaps where, you'll want to visit the scenario helper.

  2. A decision tree regarding what type of live/work would be best for you to build, whether you control a site already or are looking for one.

  3. Detailed descriptions of each type and how they differ.

  4. Direct links to answers to questions about specific topics on our topics page.

  5. An informative capsule summary of live/work planning and building codes

  6. A detailed, indexed treatment of the live/work building code, with Plain English explanations alongside it, including links to definitions of technical terms contained in the glossary.

  7. Templates of forms to provide information required to be included in live/work building code applications are included in PDF format, to assist you in going through the entitlement and permitting process.

A step-by-step guide to the live/work development process with an emphasis on entitlement and permitting is currently in preparation. It will include specific instructions for how to get a live/work project approved anywhere in Oakland, paying particular attention to the new General Plan and its emerging regulations in the form of a new Zoning Ordinance.