Surveying the Central Coast Since 1987

Frequently Asked Questions

My architect told me that I need to get a survey. What kind of survey do I need?
What are some types and the costs of surveys?
Can’t you just set my corners using GPS?
I have a 20 acre parcel and the zoning states that 10 acres is the minimum. Can I subdivide it?
Can’t you set my corners without recording a map with the County?
The title company told me that I need to get a surveyor to obtain a Certificate of Compliance on my parcel. Isn’t my parcel already “in compliance”?


My architect told me that I need to get a survey. What kind of survey do I need?

Most likely your architect needs a topographic map in order to design a new residence or to design a remodel of an existing residence. The topographic map will show any existing features on the property, as well as showing the contour lines which delineate lines of a constant elevation. If you are remodeling an existing home, it will be critical for the architect to know the setbacks from the existing home to the property lines. If you are extending your new construction right up to the setback lines, we would advise that a boundary survey be done as well. Using this survey, your contractor now has the property lines clearly staked in the field prior to beginning construction.

What are some types and the costs of surveys?
The most common types of surveys are topographic and boundary surveys.
A topographic survey will determine the relative elevations of the property, along with showing planimetric features, such as: structures, fencing, walls, tree trunks and tree canopies, surface evidence of utilities, and curbs or pavement. The topographic map will also show the record property lines on the map; however, missing property corners are not set.

The cost of a topographic survey depends on three factors:
  1. Size of the parcel
  2. Slope of the parcel 
  3. Amount of vegetation and/or obstructions on the parcel
Please contact us with your assessor’s parcel number and we can determine an estimate of costs based on your specific needs. We can also use resources on the web (Google Maps) to review the terrain and amount of vegetation in the area.

A boundary survey will determine the boundaries of your parcel and set physical monuments in the ground. This includes:
  • Title research to determine how the parcel is described and how the parcel was created.
  • Preliminary calculations to determine “search locations.” 
  • A retracement survey to search for evidence of original surveys and subsequent surveys. 
  • Office calculations to resolve the boundary based on monuments found during the retracement survey. 
  • A second trip to the site to set final monuments. The monuments may consist of galvanized pipes or rebar along with a tag or cap bearing the surveyor’s license number. 
  • Preparation of a Corner Record map or Record of Survey map for submittal to the County.
The cost of a boundary survey is dependant on:
  1. The length of time since the original survey
  2. Whether the lot was created by subdivision map or by deed
  3. How much existing monumentation is available in the site area.
Large parcels in sectionalized land (square mile sections) can be extremely challenging. The original surveys done in the 1860’s set wood posts or mounds of rock every half mile.  In some cases “bearing trees” are reference with a bearing and distance to the corner. Sectionalized land is normally in rugged terrain, and finding evidence of the original surveys after 140 years is a challenge. These types of surveys can cost thousands of dollars and may take months to complete.

Can’t you set my corners using GPS?
No. GPS is just a tool for measurement. GPS has not changed the way our retracement surveys are performed, rather it has only changed the way we acquire the field information. The methods of re-establishing boundaries have not changed much in the last 120 years. Even with GPS as a measuring tool, we still have to find evidence of the original surveys based on the same methods that were common in the 1800’s.

In other words, there is no public database available with everyone’s corner positions stored with latitude and longitude coordinates.

I have a 20 acre parcel and the zoning states that 10 acres is the minimum. Can I subdivide it?
Maybe. If the parcel is in County jurisdiction, there are many factors that come into play to determine whether or not the parcel can be subdivided. A few of them are:
  • Remoteness test (distance to an urban reserve line)
  • Fire Hazard/ response time (distance to nearest CDF station)
  • Access standards (access to County maintained road)
  • Slope test (the steeper the slope, the larger the parcel)
  • Water supply Specific overlays (scenic, geologic study, etc.)
  • Sewer services (community sewer or septic) Minimum parcel area
  • Soils Classification
We suggest you to talk to an independent planning consultant to investigate the feasibility of subdividing. Once all the issues are investigated within a specific Land Use area, a decision can be made to hire a surveyor to prepare the topographic map and ultimately a tentative map for submittal to the County or local agency.

If the parcel is within an incorporated City, then a planner will need to investigate the subdivision requirements within that jurisdiction according to local zoning ordinances.

Can’t you set my corners without recording a map with the County?
No. The practice of Land Surveying is regulated by the State under the California Land Surveyor’s Act. This law act requires surveyors that set monuments in the ground to file a Corner Record map or Record of Survey map with the County. Any surveyor that sets a monument without filing the appropriate record map with the County is in violation of the law and risks losing their license.

The title company told me that I need to get a surveyor to obtain a Certificate of Compliance on my parcel. Isn’t my parcel already “in compliance”?
Maybe or maybe not. A Certificate of Compliance is a certification from the local agency that the parcel was created in conformance with local and state subdivision regulations at the time the lot was created. In order to investigate the legal status of a parcel, it is first necessary to obtain a title report and complete chain of title for the parcel. If title research determines that your parcel was created illegally, the agency may issue a “Conditional Certificate of Compliance.” This document may require you to perform a lot-line adjustment with the adjacent property to bring the parcel into conformance, or you may have to merge the parcel with an adjacent parcel (i.e.: voluntary merger) that you also own.