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ESL Overlay

Undeveloped lot with an ESL overlay?

The city has recently developed an instructional diagram that demonstrates how to determine the buildable lot area.


The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Overlay (ESL) is a set of zoning regulations adopted by the City Council in 1991 (amended in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007) to guide development throughout the 134 square miles of desert and mountain areas of Scottsdale. These areas are located north and east of the Central Arizona Project canal.  Prior to ESL, some properties where established within the Hillside District (pdf/371kb/10pp).

Key Resources

ESL Overlay & NAOS Maps ​

ESL Overlay Textlinks to external site

Exemption Schedule


Wash Modifications

Hardship Exemptions

Indigenous Plant List for ESL

List of Protected Native Plants

What is NAOS?

NAOS Forms (Easements,
Modification, Enhancement, etc)


The intent and purpose of the ESL is to identify and protect environmentally sensitive lands in the City and to promote public health and safety by controlling development on these lands. The ordinance requires that a percentage of each property be permanently preserved as natural area open space and that specific environmental feature, including vegetation, washes, mountain ridges and peaks, be protected from inappropriate development.

Community Benefit

The ESL Overlay has a direct impact on the citizens of Scottsdale as its key provisions determine the location and design of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional development in two-thirds of the City. Application of the ESL Overlay, and its predecessor the Hillside Ordinance, has resulted in the preservation of over 9,000 acres of Sonoran Desert open space while protecting our citizens from potential flooding, erosion and visual blight.



Current Planning 480-312-7800 or email planninginfo@scottsdaleaz.gov