Professional judgment you can count on
Surveying the lands of California since 1982
- Right of Way (ROW) mapping
- Street and highway surveys
Property Line Surveying
A property line survey, often referred to as a boundary survey in California, is conducted for the purpose of locating the corners and boundary lines of a given parcel of land. Also known as a retracement survey or a reestablishment survey, it involves records research, searching for evidence in the field, land measurements, and advanced geometric computations to establish boundary lines in conformance with the Professional Land Surveyors Act. Encroachments of existing improvements upon or from adjoining lands are often determined. See About Boundary Surveys and our Boundary Survey FAQ's for additional information.
An ALTA Survey is made for the purpose of supplying a title company and lender with land survey and location data necessary for issuing American Land Title Association or Extended Coverage Title Insurance. ALTA Surveys are highly customized work products. They are designed to satisfy the needs of lenders, corporations and title companies when dealing with valuable commercial properties. Each ALTA Survey is a unique blend of standardized specifications coupled with several optional items. See our ALTA Survey FAQ page for additional information.
Title report review
Most boundary surveys are conducted in reliance upon the information disclosed in a preliminary title report or title policy. Prior to undertaking a field survey, the land surveyor can be retained to review the information in the title papers and to prepare plots depicting parcel configurations and easements of record. Such work should be considered a preliminary study only, not as a substitute for a boundary retracement survey that is based upon evidence recovered in the field.
Legal description preparation
Land Surveyors write legal descriptions to describe property by references to government surveys, recorded maps, or deeds of record. The summary vacation of street and highway rights in conjunction with a public works project, for example, might be documented via the preparation of a new legal description in a deed.
Easements are non-possessing interests held by one entity in the lands of another. The land surveyor reviews the easement deeds of record disclosed in title papers, plots the easement locations on the project boundary map, topographic map, or other base map, and reports on the impact of the easements upon the project. Easement analysis is an important assignment that should not be overlooked or given short shrift.
An encroachment survey is conducted to document the location of existing site improvements relative to a property boundary or right-of-way line. Encroachments may be at the surface of the ground (e.g. a driveway), below the surface (e.g. a wall footing), or even high in the air (e.g. a billboard sign). It's vital to have a high degree of confidence in the location of the property boundary line for this type of investigation - a thorough boundary retracement survey and easement review should be conducted prior to labeling any structure as encroaching.
The term "encroachment" should be used with care. Sometimes situations are obvious: a building structure clearly on the lands of another, for example. But sometimes situations are a bit murkier, such as the question of the ownership of a party wall. Determining the location of improvements and encroachments is a major focus of ALTA Surveys.
Most of our land survey projects are in Southern California - in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange County, including the San Gabriel Valley and the inland empire. See Our Service Area for a map of where we conduct the majority of our land surveys.
But if your project happens to be outside those counties, please remember that we are licensed as Professional Land Surveyors in four western states: California, Washington, Oregon and Arizona. Don't hesitate to call us to discuss your needs; we're pleased to venture farther afield for selected projects and clients.
Topographic surveying is conducted to locate features on the land, either naturally occurring ones such as trees and streams, or manmade structures such as buildings, fences and roads. The survey may be two dimensional, mapping planimetric details only, or three dimensional, showing elevation details such as gradients or the contours of the land. Topographic mapping may be required by a governmental agency, and is regularly requested by engineers, architects and other land professionals.
Aerial mapping by photogrammetry
Surveying the lay of the land by aerial photogrammetry is a highly cost-effective method of measuring larger areas of terrain; it is an efficient way to map existing site conditions, drainage patterns, and improvements that are visible from the air. Aerial mapping is especially effective in measuring the lay of the land in a broader context, such as adjoining lands surrounding a particular project, without having to physically enter private property.
Some sites are more effectively mapped by using terrestrial surveying methods. Field information is collected on the ground by means of an electronic total station, downloaded to a PC, and then mapped using computer aided drafting software. This method is a good choice when a higher level of topographic detail is required or when the existing terrain is obscured by vegetation or improvements.
Aerial mapping or ground topography survey - which is best for your project? See our Topographic Survey page for a detailed discussion.
A planimetric survey is a two dimensional presentation of topography. It is a map that shows only the horizontal positions of various features on a given parcel of land. It is distinguished from a full topographic map by the omission of relief in measurable form. Contours of the land and spot elevations of ground and manmade structures are not measured.
Site planning surveys
Also referred to as a design survey or an architectural survey, this professional work product is typically the amalgam of a boundary retracement and a topographic survey. The site planning survey may also include the results of a utility investigation, easement analysis, or other studies. Site planning surveys are often prepared for the benefit of land development professionals such as civil engineers and architects who use them as base maps for the design of site improvements.
Aerial photos & rectified orthophotography
High resolution aerial imagery is excellent for site planning - it is extremely useful for understanding existing site conditions, visualizing spatial relationships, community outreach, and for public presentations and public hearings. Controlled high resolution color photographic images of the project site are captured with an aerial mapping camera mounted in the aircraft. The images provide stunning clarity and detail.
An orthophoto is a digital aerial photo image that has been analyzed with sophisticated software and modified on a pixel-by-pixel basis to correct for the significant scale distortions and warping in photos caused by undulations in the terrain. After rectification, ground level features visible in the photo match corresponding line work in the topographic mapping.
Digital terrain modeling
A digital terrain model (DTM) is a computer model of a terrain's surface. Also referred to as a digital elevation model (DEM), it is a commonly used for site design purposes, including computing earthwork volumes. The raw data for the model may be collected by either aerial mapping or terrestrial mapping.
When you need a land surveyor, you want a company that has the skills and the experience to get the job done efficiently and economically. You want dependability, thoroughness and prompt attention.
Bell Land Surveying offers technical expertise and an impressive record of business results. How can we help you?
- Surveys for ADA compliance
Public Agency Surveying
In the context of a public works project, a design survey is a customized topographic survey that focuses on locating a specific subset of existing site planimetric and topographic details. A typical design survey might be for a corridor project, perhaps the widening or resurfacing of an existing roadway or flood control drain. A design survey can include a site inventory of existing improvements, street cross-sections, driveway profiles, rim and invert elevations of storm drain structures, and the like.
Right of Way mapping
Right of Way maps are typically prepared for local agencies when they are acquiring real property for the design and construction of public works improvement projects. They are used by real estate appraisers and city engineers to determine valuations in condemnation proceedings, and serve as reference base maps for the preparation of new metes and bounds legal descriptions for easement rights and/or grant deeds for acquiring fee title to parcels of land.
California law requires that all land survey monuments be protected in place. Monument preservation must be conducted to perpetuate monuments in jeopardy of being destroyed due to planned construction on every public or private sector project. To accomplish the preservation, survey monuments must be tied out and referenced by a Professional Land Surveyor prior to construction activities, and then replaced in kind by the surveyor after completion of the project. A Corner Record or Record of Survey must be filed in accordance with state law for each and every survey monument that has been impacted. See Survey Monument Preservation for additional information.
Street and highway surveys
A complete survey of existing field conditions should be the basis of every successful street construction project, whether the intended design is for a new road alignment, the reconstruction of an existing street, or the retrofit of infrastructure such as a bridge. The survey generally includes retracement of centerlines, right of way determination, and elevation measurement via cross-sections. An inventory of existing planimetric features such as curbs, gutters, manholes, catch basins, valves, street lights, bus stops, street signs and lane striping is usually needed.
A full investigation of utilities serving the project is often necessary. The location of storm drains, sanitary sewers, waterlines, gas and petroleum lines, street lighting, traffic signalization, overhead and underground power lines, and various communication lines such as telephone, cable TV and fiber-optic are identified in the course of the survey.
Subdivision of Land
The subdivision of land into smaller units, showing monumentation and survey data on a map, in conformance with local ordinances and the Subdivision Map Act.
A Tentative Map and Final Tract Map are required for subdivisions creating five or more parcels.
A Tentative Map and Final Parcel Map are required for subdivisions creating four or fewer parcels.
Lot Line Adjustments
California state law provides a legal mechanism for adjoining land owners to modify property deed lines when a need arises to reconfigure the land holdings to accommodate existing or planned site conditions. The California Government Code provides for the filing of Lot Line Adjustments between four or fewer existing adjoining parcels, where the land taken from one parcel is added to an adjoining parcel, and where a greater number of parcels than originally existed is not thereby created. An application is submitted to the local agency, but it is not subject to the provisions of the Subdivision Map Act.
Infrastructure & Land Development
The initial step in understanding the extent of existing utilities and infrastructure at a site is to conduct records investigation at the various public and private utility providers servicing the project. Atlas maps and utility "as-built" records are acquired from providers. After careful study, location information of the record positions of the utilities is delineated on a topographic survey or other similar base map. Utilities investigated commonly include electricity, water, gas, telephone, cable TV, storm drains, sanitary sewers, street lighting, traffic signals, oil and gas pipelines, and fiber optic lines.
Structures often need to be monitored to ensure they are not moving. Representative projects include the monitoring of dams, bridges, municipal water reservoirs, retaining walls, buildings adjacent to active excavations, pilings and shoring placed to retain roadways, and active landslides.
Land surveyors provide important horizontal and vertical positioning control to help ensure that construction projects get built in the right location. The surveyor transfers the architect's or engineer's "paper" designs by laying out the proposed improvements on the ground. The list of representative construction activities is long, but some broad examples include providing survey control stakes for earthworks and grading, high-rise construction, residential subdivisions, commercial industrial buildings, bridges, railways, streets and highways, storm drains, sanitary sewers, and pipelines of all sorts such as waterlines, natural gas lines and oil lines.
Precise location of horizontal and vertical positions of points for use in boundary determination, mapping from aerial photographs, construction staking, and other related purposes.
Surveys for Americans with Disabilities Act - ADA compliance
Recent cases in the courts (i.e. Caltran's record $1.1 Billion settlement to remove barriers), and current activity in the state legislature have both brought renewed attention to the need for every California business and public agency to focus renewed efforts on providing proper ADA access to their facilities. We helped the Rose Bowl with their compliance by mapping the existing access tunnels into the stadium, and assisted Long Beach City College in designing new ramps for people with disabilities, to name just a couple of projects.
GIS data collection
The field collection and inventory of site features and their data attributes for purposes of populating databases in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Land Surveyors use computer aided design and drafting (Cadd) software to collect, analyze and graphically present land survey data. Bell Land Surveying has extensive experience and expertise in AutoCAD and other surveying data analysis software applications. We take great pride in our ability to present complex issues in a manner that promotes informed decision-making.
Surveyors utilize the Global Positioning System (GPS) by employing sophisticated hardware and software algorithms to provide high accuracy land measurement across large distances. The GPS system in now commonly referred to as the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) to reflect the use of additional European Galileo satellites and Russian GLONASS satellites.
Southern California Counties We Serve
• Orange County
• Los Angeles County
• Riverside County
• San Bernardino County
Land Surveying Services We Provide
About the Author:
Douglas Bell, PLS, is a Professional Land Surveyor licensed in four western states, and is a CFedS, a BLM Certified Federal Land Surveyor. He provides a range of property line, ALTA, boundary survey, topographic mapping, easement determination, encroachment investigation, and utility location services.
Mr. Bell provides land surveying services to engineers, architects, attorneys, and other land professionals in the private and public sectors in Southern California, primarily in Los Angeles County, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange County. He can be reached via email: AskDoug@Bell-Land-Surveying.com.
Copyright by Bell Land Surveying
Diamond Bar, California, 91765
Bell Land Surveying is a certified Small Business Enterprise (SBE)
Residential Lot Surveys
Looking for a property line survey for a single-family residence? Sorry, that's not our line of work.