Engineering, Surveying, Planning, and SUE Glossary

ALTA SURVEY
A survey made for the purpose of supplying a title company and lender with survey and location data necessary for issuing American Land Title Association (ALTA) or Extended Coverage Title Insurance.

ASSESSOR'S PARCEL NUMBER (APN)
A number, for tax purposes only, that the Assessor assigns to a piece of land. This does not necessarily constitute a “Legal Lot.”

BOUNDARY/EASEMENT DISPUTES
Boundary/easement line disputes, gaps, and overlaps are often the result of legal descriptions originally written and recorded without the services of a Licensed Land Surveyor.

CIVIL ENGINEER
General civil engineering is concerned with the overall interface of fixed projects with the greater world. Civil engineers work closely with surveyors and specialized civil engineers to fit and serve fixed projects within their given site, community and terrain by designing grading, drainage (flood control), paving, water supply, sewer service, electric and communications supply and land (real property) divisions.

CONTROL SURVEY
Precise location of horizontal and vertical positions of points for use in boundary determination, mapping from aerial photographs, construction staking, and other related purposes.

COURT EXHIBIT SURVEY
Analysis of various legal descriptions and survey maps, field locating of record monuments and physical features, and mapping showing this information for the purpose of presenting of visual exhibit to be used in a courtroom.

DEDICATIONS
The turning over by an owner or developer of private land for public use, and the acceptance of land for such use by the governmental agency having jurisdiction over the public function for which it will be used.

DENSITY
The number of permanent residential dwelling units per acre of land. Densities specified in the General Plan/Zoning Ordinance may be expressed in units per gross acre or per net developable acre. Slope density calculations may also apply.

EASEMENTS
The right to use property owned by another for specific purposes, or to gain access to another property. For example, utility companies often have easements on the private property of individuals to be able to install and maintain utility facilities. Open space easements for the protection of environmental constraints are also common easement rights.

LAND OWNERSHIP AREA
When providing the Surveyor with a recorded legal description/grant deed, current title report, or policy concerning the subject parcel, the Surveyor will then locate the property on the ground, marking the corners with physical monuments, and provide you with a Record Of Survey map (ROS), or Corner Record (CR) showing the results of the survey.

LEGAL LOT
In 1972, the State of California adopted the “Subdivision Map Act.” This date is critical in analyzing whether or not your Assessor Parcel Number (APN) actually constitutes a “Legal Lot.”

LOT SIZE
Lot size is the minimum square footage or acres, as permitted in the city or county’s Zoning Ordinance.

LOT SPLIT
Lot split is the laymen’s terminology for a “Minor Subdivision.”

PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER (PE)
PE typically stands for a Professional Engineer, who is a RCE. A "professional engineer" by definition of the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BPELS) refers to a person engaged in the professional practice of rendering service or creative work requiring education, training and experience in engineering sciences and the application of special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences in such professional or creative work as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning or design of public or private utilities, structures, machines, processes, circuits, buildings, equipment or projects, and supervision of construction for the purpose of securing compliance with specifications and design for any such work.

PROFESSIONAL LAND SURVEYOR (PLS)
This is an individual who is a Licensed Land Surveyor with the State of California.

PROPERTY LINE
The legal boundary of a property as described by deed.

PUBLIC LAND SURVEY SYSTEM (PLSS)
The Public Land Survey System, also referred to as the rectangular survey system, was used to identify large parcels of land by the General Land Office (GLO) resulting in the eventual creation of hte State Plane Coordinate System (SPCS).

QUALITY LEVELS (QL)
QL are assigned to each facility and depicted on a SUE plan per ASCE Standards. This allows an owner, manager or contractor to evaluate the risk level or confidence in relying on the information shown on the construction drawing according to the QL shown on plan.

REGISTERED CIVIL ENGINEER (RCE)
In the State of California, a professional civil engineer must be licensed by the BPELS in order to be a RCE.

RECORD SEARCH
This varies by (a) the number parcels involved; and (b) the number of past transactions. (This necessary step is complicated by the casual manner in which some land transactions have been handled in the past, resulting in many vague, incomplete, and often contradictory legal descriptions and land records.)

REIMBURSEMENT AGREEMENT
An agreement held between a private developer and a public agency that allows monetary reimbursement to individuals, who paid for construction of public facilities with private monies.

RIGHT-OF-WAY (ROW)
The area between private property lines which is available for facilities such as public road improvements such as curb, gutter, sidewalk, pathways, grading, drainage facilities, and dry utilities.

RUNOFF
Rainfall that is not absorbed by soil. Runoff is often referred to as "Q".

REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD (RWQCB)
There are nine zones in the state of California. These boards implement the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) requirements throughout its zone.

SETBACK
The horizontal distance between the property line and any structure (or from some other pre-determined line, for example the centerline of a public right-of-way or a private road easement).

SUBDIVISION
The division of a tract of land into defined lots, either improved or unimproved, which can be separately conveyed by sale or lease, and which can be altered or developed.

SUBSURFACE UTILITY ENGINEERING (SUE)
A means to better characterize the quality of subsurface utility information and to manage risks associated with construction activities that may affect existing utilities

SURVEY
There are various types of legal surveys that can be performed upon a piece of land. It is important that you understand exactly what your needs are in order for the licensed professional surveyor to determine the appropriate survey (please refer to our “Services” link for more information).

SURVEYING EXISTING EVIDENCE
Existing evidence such as iron, wood, stone monuments, old fences, occupation lines, and witness trees may aid the Surveyor. Their absence may compound difficulties involved in retracing any original survey.

TITLE COMPANY REQUIREMENTS
Title companies may require considerably more documentation than is normally required by the average land owner. Please consult with your title company to accurately assess your surveying services.

TITLE REPORT
There are different types of Title Reports: to purchase land, for Subdivision purposes, or an ALTA.

TOPOGRAPHY
Graphic representation of the surface features of a place or region on a map indicating their relative positions and elevations.

VEGETATION
Branches, brush, and small trees must frequently be cleared (in accordance with any permits required by the local, state, or federal authority) to afford a line of sight for the Surveyor. Shrubs, flowers, and trees on homes sites are normally not disturbed, but may require additional field time to perform work around them.

ZONING/ZONING ORDINANCE
The division of a city or county by legislative regulations into areas, or zones, which specify allowable uses for real property, size restrictions for buildings, minimum lot size, maximum height and building setbacks. It is a complete program that implements policies of the General Plan.