A 30 percent bonus?! That’s right. Certain properties in the Los Angeles hills have a minimum allowable square footage, and if the property analysis results don’t reach this minimum, you’re eligible for a 30 percent increase of Residential Floor Area (RFA). This means great things for your bottom line.

Even if a potential property surpasses the minimum allowable square footage, it could still be eligible for a 20 percent bonus so long as the project follows certain design criteria. Let’s look at two examples showing how you’d qualify for a 20 percent or 30 percent bonus:

1. A property in the RE15 zone is automatically guaranteed a minimum RFA of 18 percent of the total lot size. So if a property is 15,036 square feet, and the UnderBuilt report estimates 2,721 square feet of RFA allowed, the estimated RFA comes out to just over 18 percent of the total lot size and above the minimum guarantee. Since this property exceeds the minimum, it’s eligible for the 20 percent design bonus. Following the bonus design guidelines set by the city of Los Angeles, this translates to you being able to add an additional 544 square feet of RFA, increasing the maximum RFA to 3,266 square feet.

2. Now consider another property in the RE15 zone with a lot size of 15,672 square feet. Say the UnderBuilt report estimates 2,000 square feet of RFA. This would be under the minimum 18 percent guarantee, so the property would qualify for the minimum RFA of 2,821 square feet. In addition, because the original estimate didn’t meet the minimum guarantee, this property would also be eligible for a design bonus of 30 percent, allowing the max RFA for the property to reach 3,667 square feet.

In the first example, the max build size went from 2,721 square feet to 3,266 square feet by taking full advantage of the design bonus. In the second, the property’s max build went from 2,821 square feet to 3,667 square feet. In both cases, knowing how to read the RFA numbers and utilize the design bonuses made a world of difference.

Important to note: There are several design options defined in the planning and zoning code for LA where this additional bonus can be applied. These include Proportional Stories, Front Facade Stepback, Cumulative Side Yard Setbacks, 18-Foot Envelope Height, Multiple Buildings, and a Minimal Grading option. You only need to follow one option, and you can only apply one bonus per property.

As you can see, property design bonuses are key to increasing usable space. To make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, speak to a skilled architect. And, of course, get an UnderBuilt report to see which design bonus a residential lot might qualify for—and how to best maximize the property.