What is an Uso de Suelo?

By: Cheryl MIller, Broker, Baja Realty and investment

An Uso de Suelo, literally translated means, “Use of the Land”, but for Americans and Canadians, you can think of it as a Zoning Determination.

Each of the 5 Municipalities (for the sake of ease, let’s call them counties)  in Baja California Sur, Comandu, Loreto, La Paz, Los Cabos and Mulege, all have their own County Zoning Plans.  Within their zones, some land may be Federal land, some may be State land and some will be land under county’s sole jurisdiction. 

Here in Los Cabos and La Paz Municipalities, the Zoning Plans are extensive and designate zones for use throughout their jurisdiction.  Some zones may be residential, some commercial, or industrial, etc. Some zones may have special protected areas such as mountain tops or ecological areas and some may be actually owned by the Municipality for its own use. Each zoning designation may also have differing levels of restrictions. For example in the Residential Designation, your property may be designated as low, medium, high or ultra high density. It may also be designated Touristic or Non-Touristic.

​Each zone is defined by the county planners in writing as to what is allowed and not allowed for use in each zone designation. For example, in a residential area, a heavy manufacturing factory would not be permitted. In some residential areas, hotels would not be permitted.  However, just like in the United States, a change of zoning, can be applied for and approved by the county zoning commission, if the use is not in conflict with the general concept of the plan, nor endangers fire and life safety of the general population.  And just like the United States, neighboring residents can fight your change of zoning designation.

An Uso de Suelo is a formal stamped document that you apply for, that specifies not only what zone your property is within, but, also the permitted uses allowed, the height restrictions of your building, parking requirements, if any, the maximum land coverage, the maximum overall building area allowed, and in most cases, what your setbacks are that you must adhere to.   It is generally issued by the Zoning Department and in most cases this department may by a branch of either Catastro or City Planning, all under the overall heading of the Municipal government.

The process is fairly simple requiring copies of the title, ID’s of the owner, photos of the property and, if available, plans of the project intended for the property. There is a small fee and it takes about 10 days to receive.  If you are seeking a zone change or an entitlement, plans will be required, and the submission will be greater, as well as the fees.

Raw land rarely has this stamped dictamen already in place when you purchase the land. And, you really do not want it to be done prior to your purchase if you plan on doing something different from the overall zone determination. You, may wish to have it done if you are doing a home in a residential area in a rustic area. The inclusion of the Uso de Suelo in your title in a rustic area may establish the jurisdiction for such items as land cleaning permits and requirements.  In each case, you should speak to a real estate attorney for advice on the matter.

If you are buying an already built property, and you wish to use the property for commercial, industrial or hospitality uses, it is ALWAYS best to have as part of you offer, a due diligence period to check the present zoning.  Be prepared to pay a consultant to check the zoning and the requirements of that zone. Even if the property, for example, was a hotel, but has not been in operation for a while, checking the zoning can eliminate the possibility of a recent zone change disallowing the property’s re-use as a hotel again. (Properties that have continued with the same use and can prove their licenses have never elapsed, are grandfathered, despite any zoning changes that may have occurred over the years.)

For an established gated community or residential zone, it is not necessary to check on Zoning as one of the steps of receiving a building permit or a condominium regime is to have an approved Uso de Suelo.

Unlike many foreigners perception of Mexico, planning is not unrestricted. And as time progresses and towns/cities grow, the sophistication of the Urban Planning laws grow more sophisticated as well.

By Cheryl Miller, Broker of Baja Realty and Investment, Architect. For more information call 624-122-2690, info@forsaleinbaja.com , www. forsaleinbaja.com.

Zoning Plan of Pescadero