A Civil Engineer or a Licensed Land Surveyor (hereinafter referred to as the engineer or project engineer) is retained by you, the developer, to analyze the project and to process the required subdivision maps and plans.
Note that the State Subdivision Map Act allows for either a Civil Engineer or Licensed Land Surveyor to file for recording a tract or parcel map.  Upon request, your Chicago Title Sales Representative will be happy to provide you with names and phone numbers of such engineering firms or individual engineers for your consideration.
The following is a list of the services requiring an engineer:
  • Tentative and Final Tract Map or Parcel Map
  • Boundary survey
  • Street and/or off-site improvement plans
  • Grading plan
  • Utility plans, such as water and sewer
  • Condominium Plan (if a condominium) 
Prior to the tentative map approval
The engineer will discuss many things about the project with you prior to preparing and submitting the tentative map.  Often times a planning consultant or expeditor is involved at this stage to assist with the feasibility analysis.  Either way, the following is an overview of the items to be discussed and considered.
  • The type of subdivision you desire, the number of units or lots that are planned, timing, etc.
  • The engineer will then make a study of the existing zoning, expected street dedications or street widening requirements, community or general plan densities, parking requirements, demolition problems and environmental issues.  An initial study which includes discussions with the City Planning Department can give advanced information about the conditions the City may impose and any possible neighborhood opposition.  Once this information has been obtained, the developer will have a fairly accurate idea of the feasibility of the development.
  • Due to parking requirements or, sometimes, excessive building setback requirements, it may not be physically possible to construct the maximum number of units or lots theoretically allowed for your development.  Therefore, you should retain an architect or land planner to do a conceptual plan at this stage.  Some cities require fairly complete building plans to be submitted with the tentative map and they may require a conditional use permit to be processed simultaneously with the subdivision map.
  • In some cities, demolition of existing apartment units can trigger conditions of approval which provide for tenant relocation assistance.
  • If the project is a conversion of an apartment to a condominium, a 60 day notice of your intent to file an application for condominium conversion must be given to all of the tenants in the building before you can file your application with the City.  The local governing body (city or county) will have specific filing requirements for conversions which should be discussed at the initial study stage.
  • Once the initial study is done, the engineer will begin processing the map.  The engineer obtains a tract or parcel map number (whichever is required for your project) from the County Engineer.  This number is a key number and will appear on all correspondence with your project engineer, the city, county, attorney, budget preparer, DRE and Chicago Title.  Throughout the entire mapping process, the number will remain the same.
  • The project engineer will begin gathering the information needed to complete the tentative map package to be submitted to the city.  This package includes the tentative map, an environmental questionnaire and other reports depending on the type and location of your project.
  • Depending on the location of the subject property, other reports or studies could be required including oak tree reports, archeological reports, traffic reports, solar feasibility report, etc.  Some requested reports require the retention of other experts and some can be completed by the engineer.  In addition to the tentative map and the above reports, a radius map and a listing of the homeowners of property with that radius must be prepared.  Some cities require that a specialist prepare this for you.
  • Existing street improvements, ground elevations and existing easements are required to be shown on the tentative map in some cities which will require an early field survey.  If not required on the tentative map, the information is necessary for the final map and will be needed by the architect in preparation of the building plans.
  • Once the tentative map has been prepared, a subdivision order should be opened with Chicago Title.  Call your Chicago Title Sales Representative to open the order for you.  The Subdivision Reports and Final Guarantee issued by Chicago Title will be utilized to assure the city, county and the project engineer of names and signatures required to appear on the title pages of the final map and, if applicable, the Condominium Plan.
  • The tentative map package is then submitted to the local governing body (city or county) for their processing and environmental clearance.  This agency will, as required, distribute copies of the map and related documents to other departments, such as traffic, building and safety, planning, and engineering, for their input.  The project engineer will then receive proposed Conditions of Approval from the various departments.  After reviewing the conditions, the engineer will forward copies to the developer for his or her comments.
  • If an environmental clearance in the form of a Negative Declaration or Exemption can be given, the project can proceed.  If the project has environmental issues which cannot be easily mitigated, an Environmental Impact Report would be required and the project could be substantially delayed.
  • A public hearing will be scheduled and conducted, at which time the engineer can be available to represent the developer.  In cities requiring building plans with the tentative map, the project architect is often present at this hearing.  It is always a good idea for the developer to be present at all hearings and meetings with the city or county.  The decision at this hearing may be appealed by anyone dissatisfied, either by the opposition to the development, or by you, the developer.  If appealed, a higher board will re-hear the case and either deny the appeal or grant it in part, or in its entirety.  Some cities allow the second appeal to be filed with the City Council.  The result of an appeal to the City Council is final. 
After the tentative map approval
  • Once the City has approved the tentative map, the developer has teh required information to submit an application to the Department of Real Estate (DRE) for a Preliminary Public Report (Pink).  For detailed information on this process, see the section entitled 'Obtaining Your Public Report'.
  • The documents required of the engineer for a DRE filing are:
    1. Copy of the tentative tract map
    2. Copy of the signed Conditions of Approval of the map
    3. Preliminary Condominium Plan, if the project is a condominium
  • Once the subdivision map conditions of approval are determined after the public hearing, the project engineer will discuss with the developer how to comply with each condition.  The engineer will then begin processing the final map.  The map itself is a complete, in-depth boundary analysis and survey which will include the entire area around the property on which the project is or will be located.  Once the final map has been drafted (after the survey and analysis) it will be submitted to the City or County Engineer as well as to Chicago Title for checking.
  • Concurrent with the preceding processing, all the various conditions of approval should be complied with, some of which may require the payment of fees, recording of covenants and agreements, the posting of improvement bonds, processing street and other improvement plans, etc.
  • All subdivision maps recorded between January 1st and October 31st will require a Tax Bond.  Depending on the County, the tax bond amount may require a separate application.  You should discuss this process with your engineer as it is not always covered by their contract.  In addition to the bond, taxes for the full year must be paid to obtain a tax clearance.  Maps recording between November 1st and December 31st do not require a bond, but the full year's taxes must be paid.
  • When the final map is found to be technically correct, and all conditions of approval have been satisfied, the map will be sent, as appropriate, to the City Council or the County Board of Supervisors for final approval.  Ordinarily, the tract will be approved without discussion since the Subdivision Map Act prohibits them from rejecting the map, unless the conditions of approval have not been satisfied.  The Clerk then signs the map and returns it to the City or County Engineer who will verify the title information with Chicago Title's Subdivision Guarantee and check for tax clearance.  The map will then be sent to the County Recorder to record. 
If the map recorded for your project is for condominium purposes, your engineer will be consulting with you, your attorney, your architect and Chicago Title in connection with the preparation of a condominium Plan or Plans.  The aspects of a condominium plan are as follows:
  • A Condominium Plan is based, most frequently, on the building plans prepared by your architect.  The Condominium Plan defines (using notes and definitions) the project boundary, common area(s), elements of the units and exclusive use common area(s), if any.  The units and any exclusive use common area(s) are delineated on separate sheets of the Condominium     Plan(s).
  • Your project engineer will be requested to provide copies of the proposed Condominium Plan to your attorney (to review for consistency with the project CC&R's and related documents), to the DRE (for review in connection with the application for a Public Report) and to Chicago Title (for review in connection with approval for title insurance to your purchasers).  Any required corrections based on such reviews must be completed prior to recording the final Condominium Plan.
  • Decisions that you will make about your Condominium Plan will include whether patios, balconies, decks, yard areas, storage and parking will be an element of the unit or exclusive use common area.  An element of a unit means that the area is considered part of the unit, whereas exclusive use common areas are considered part of the common area but reserved for the exclusive use of a particular unit.  For example, individual garages that have direct access to a particular unit are usually considered an element, whereas parking spaces in a common garage are usually considered exclusive use common area.  If parking is exclusive use common area, you will need to decide whether it will be assigned to a particular unit at the time of sales or predetermined by the Plan.  There are pros and cons for both methods and you should discuss with your attorney and engineer which method works best for you and your project.
  • If possible, (prior to recording the Condominium Plan and the CC&R's) the Plan should be checked in the field by the engineer against the units as constructed (or under construction(.  This field review of the units is necessary if the Condominium Plan is based solely on architectural plans of buildings to be build or under construction and not based on a survey of the units as-built.  This check will enable the engineer to verify that the units build on the ground are substantially the same as defined and delineated on the Plan and that the parking is correctly shown.  (This process is called as-built certification.)  This certification, if required, will prevent last minute problems in closing your escrows.  If the engineer cannot make this certification because of substantial differences between the Plan and the units as-built, the Plan will need to be amended before escrows can close.  Because of this, it is recommended that you keep your project engineer informed of changes occurring during construction and review your Condominium Plan carefully before it is submitted for recording.
  • Before your units go to sale, your Condominium plan will be used to provide Chicago Title with an Address Certification List.  This list will provide a reference and cross check of the official addresses issued by the City and posted on the doors of the units, with unit numbers shown on the Condominium Plan.  The list also provides the parking space assignments, if parking is not pre-assigned on the Condominium Plan.  You should decide early if you want your unit numbers to match your address numbers.  It is also essential that the Address Certification List be prepared after the unit numbers are on the doors and after you have made a physical inspection to see that the addresses are posted correctly.  Early planning and a final check by you will eliminate errors in the grant deeds to your buyers.  These errors can occur with parking space assignments and storage assignments as well as with the units themselves. 
The escrow holder...