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Contra Costa Regional Medical Center: “This land is your land, this land is my land...”

When the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center (CCRMC) decided to add a new parking lot, the black-top project was anything but black and white. Access to the new lot was planned in a 40-foot-wide vacated public street. Half of the street belonged to the county, and the other half to the adjacent property owner. Or so everyone thought.

Initially, we were asked to determine if the county could squeeze their access driveway into the vacated street half that belonged to them. Reality, however, landed us in a land-ownership puzzle.

The road to know where

The JES team started by performing a boundary survey. The goal was to determine the true width of roadway that the CCRMC had to work with.

The survey work revealed two important facts:

1. The full width of the vacated roadway was only 26 feet — not 40 feet. This meant the county only had 13 feet to work with. That is, until the second revelation:

2. The county actually owned all of the land, not half. The County Assessor maps showed one thing, but JES discovered some 30-something-year-old errors that proved the maps were wrong. Oops.

Gaining ground

With more than 20 years of experience working for governmental agencies, JES Engineering Owner/Principal Glen Lewis had seen many unusual city and county situations, including inadvertent mapping errors. From first-hand experience, Glen knew that when streets are vacated, it’s not unusual for misconceptions from long ago to generate an error that can go undetected indefinitely. The errors are often the byproduct of incorrect assumptions, inaccurate methods, and yesteryear’s lacking technology. Glen decided to investigate and make sure everything was tickety-boo. It wasn’t.

Land ownership disputes are sticky by nature, and the prospect of governmental red tape didn’t help matters. Having experienced these snafus before, however, the JES team knew where to start, who to contact, which forms to fill out, what meetings to hold, what the presentations should include, and how to quickly resolve the map mishap.

JES reached out to multiple county departments, surveyors, the property management company and others to explain the findings, reach consensus and approve the changes. We achieved the necessary consensus by enlisting the County Surveyors to review and approve our Record of Survey, and then filed it. We also convened a meeting with CCRMC, the County Assessor’s Office, and county right-of-way representatives to present our findings and answer questions.

Less is more

After following the process with the various parties and county departments, the maps were amended, and the land ownership was rightfully returned to CCRMC. And although the vacated strip of land ultimately turned out to be less than originally thought, the full width of 26 feet was sufficient to build the parking lot access. What’s more? The county didn’t need to spend a dime on the land. This alone saved our client tens of thousands of dollars.

In our work, accuracy doesn’t just count. It pays. And in this case, it also paved.

For this project, we provided:

  • Boundary survey work
  • Application of previous government experience
  • Record of Survey
  • Coordination of multiple county departments