Residential Overcrowding

State & Federal Regulation
The City of Lake Forest recognizes that there are community concerns related to overcrowding within residential neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the city's ability to regulate the number of individuals living within a single residence is largely preempted by both the State of California and federal law.

Specifically, the city is not permitted to modify or deviate from California's Uniform Housing Code (UHC) in determining occupancy standards. In the case of Briseno v. City of Santa Ana, (1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 1378, the Court of Appeals held that State law (e.g., the UHC) preempts local regulation of housing occupancy standards, and that a City may deviate from UHC occupancy guidelines only if it can establish specific findings of local, climatic, geological, or topographical conditions unique to the community. Therefore, limiting residential dwelling units to 1 or more families or imposing an occupancy cap which is less than the maximum allowed by the UHC would be inconsistent with and preempted by UHC 503.2. The UHC has established the following formula to determine residential occupancy:

The number of people equals the quotient of the gross square footage less 10% divided by 70 times 2.
  • The gross square footage of the residence = X.
  • Subtract 10% of the total gross square footage for the kitchen, bathroom and hallways.
  • Divide this subtotal by 70 and multiply that subtotal by 2.
  • That number will equal the total number of people who can reside in a home, as per the Uniform Housing Code.
Using the example of a 1,200 square foot home, an occupancy of thirty-1 (31) people would be allowed (1,200-120'= 1,080... 1,080/70 = 15.43... 15.43 x 2 = 30.85).

A simpler way to find this same number is to multiply the Gross Square footage by the constant of .025714.

The Number of People equals the product of gross square footage times 0.025714.

In some situations, however, the city does have limited jurisdiction. For example, the city's Code Enforcement Division can initiate enforcement action on many of the secondary conditions that result from overcrowding, such as illegal construction, garage conversions, nuisance / inoperative vehicles, property maintenance, trash accumulations, etc. Also, under certain circumstances, the overcrowding of a residence can be subject to enforcement action if it is determined that the residence is being commercially operated as a boarding house.