Standardized Land Use Codes Documentation

Regrid Standardized Land Use Codes

What are Standardized Land Use Codes and how does Regrid generate them?

Our parcel data often includes at least one of the following attributes: usecode, usedesc (use description), zoning or zoning_description. While not standardized at all by the counties, the values are often recognizable enough to allow converting to a more uniform standardized classification system.

Where possible, we standardize the values of those four attributes provided by the county into our Standardized Land Use Code columns.

We based our classifications on the American Planning Association’s Land Based Classification Standards (LBCS).

Dimensions

We have five Standardized Land Use Code attributes, which are also called ‘dimensions’: Function, Activity, Ownership, Structures, and Site.

The Function and Activity dimensions provide typical ‘use’ type classifications, like residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural. These are classified based on the county-provided usecode and zoning codes, and have the best coverage nationwide. Please note: Standardized Land Use Code classifications are often more general than zoning or use codes. For example, Ag 1, Ag 2 zoning will both be grouped into the Standardized Land Use Code for “Farming Related Activities”

Ownership dimension classifications are derived from the ‘owner name’ county attribute and currently identify government owned parcels at the city, township, county, state, federal and tribal levels.

The Structure dimension is derived from the zoning or use codes that specify a type of structure, mobile homes or condominiums for example.

The Site dimension is derived from the zoning or use codes that specify vacant land or land designated for structures.

The full list of Standardized Land Use Code Dimensions and classification codes we used are available below.

What makes a Standardized Land Use Code different from a zoning code/use code/zoning district?

Standardized Land Use Codes are a method of standardizing use codes across the entire dataset. Individual counties and cities often use unique codes that only make sense to them. We convert these highly local codes to a standardized system across all places in our dataset.

Standardized Land Use Codes are more general than zoning codes. Where a zoning code might be very specific as to what size lot a residential area might have, the Standardized Land Use Code will reflect that the parcel’s function is for residential use or reflect that residential activity occurs on the parcel.

What is the difference between Activity and Function?

Activity and Function are two of the five “dimensions” (Activity, Function, Structure Type, Site Development Character, and Ownership). We focus on providing Standardized Land Use Codes for these dimensions because they are the most broadly useful tools for determining a parcel’s use and the most straightforward to map from an existing use or zoning code.

Activity describes the actual activities that take place on the parcel. It attempts to classify what actually takes place in physical or observable terms (e.g., farming, shopping, manufacturing, vehicular movement, etc.).

Function describes the broader economic function the parcel serves. For example, a parcel that is used as a parking lot for a school would be classified with a Function code for schools, not for vehicular parking.

For example, a parcel with an Activity classification of “4100” (“School or library activities”) and an Function classification of “6121” (“Elementary”) most likely means the parcel is used by an elementary school.

How do I read a Standardized Land Use Code?

Standardized Land Use Codes use 4-digit numbers, like “1000” or “9900” or “4312”, for each classification. Each digit is more specific than the previous one. For example, an Activity code of “4300” means “Activities associated with utilities (water, sewer, power, etc.)”; “4310” means “Water-supply-related activities”; and “4312” means “Water purification and filtration activities”. A key to the codes is available and our data is delivered with human-readable description fields for each dimension.

Why are Standardized Land Use Code classifications useful to me/my organization?

These codes give insight into how parcels are used. They are useful in a similar way to how local use codes or zoning codes can be useful: they can tell you what function a property serves and/or what activity typically happens on the property.

This is information that might not be apparent from any of the parcel’s other data. Standardizing these codes using Standardized Land Use Codes lets you know that, for example, a property with a “301” zoning code is actually a residential parcel, because the LBCS Function code is 1100.

The Ownership dimension is very useful for researching publicly owned land.

Common uses for Regrid’s Standardized Land Use Codes

Our structured numeric codes mean you can query our data to find parcels with specific uses. Below are a few examples of how to filter for common land uses.

  • Single-family homes
    • lbcs_structure = 1100
  • Mobile homes
    • lbcs_structure = 1150
  • Commercial use
    • lbcs_activity >= 2000 and lbcs_activity < 3000
  • Vacant lots
    • struct = false
    • While not technically one of our Standardized Land Use fields, we populate our struct field as part of the same process, and its value is either null (if we are unsure of a parcel’s vacancy status) or “false” if we are reasonably certain that the parcel is a vacant lot.
  • Publicly owned land
    • lbcs_ownership >= 4000 and lbcs_ownership < 5000

Please refer to our Standardized Land Use Codes key documentation for a complete list of numeric values.

How does Regrid determine the Standardized Land Use Code for a parcel?

Because systems for land use classification and zoning vary so widely from place to place, we convert each County’s usecode or zoning code when they make them available, to the closest corresponding Standardized Land Use Code manually.

Where possible, if a county provides a detailed usecode attribute, and we can locate a usecode key, we will maintain the detailed use codes as much as possible when converting to Standardized Land Use Codes.

We focus on covering the most populous places first that provide a usecode or zoning code attribute, but always welcome input on priority counties for clients.

  1. The original LBCS standards document we used for guidance: https://www.planning.org/lbcs/standards/
  2. The full list of LBCS Dimensions and classifications are here:
    https://www.planning.org/lbcs/standards/function/ https://www.planning.org/lbcs/standards/activity/ https://www.planning.org/lbcs/standards/ownership/ https://www.planning.org/lbcs/standards/structure/ https://www.planning.org/lbcs/standards/site/