What is Subdivision?

In simple words, subdivision is a process of dividing an improved or unimproved area of land which is also called a “parcel of land” into different lots with the purpose of selling, leasing or building development.  A Subdivider can subdivide real estate either for themselves or for others. Say, you bought a large vacant land in California decades back and it is in the real estate boom right now but no one wants to buy one huge piece of land, in that case subdividing the property in multiple lots can increase the usage of land and the subdivider can gain additional profits.


Types of Subvision

Land division on the basis of number of lots, there are two basic types- 

  1. Parcel maps, are the subdivision in which the divisions is limited to fewer than five lots (with certain exceptions) 

  2. Subdivision maps or tract maps,applies to divisions resulting in five or more lots. This type of subdivision is normally associated with full urban improvements, which would include paved streets, curb, gutter and sidewalk, street lights, drainage system, water and sewer service and other infrastructure found in urban areas.There is a particular  limit to the number of lots that can be created using this process. However, each lot must meet the minimum lot size required by the County General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.


Applications for both types of land divisions are submitted to the local government  in accordance with the local subdivision ordinance and the California Subdivision Map Act.


How does law control land subdivision in California?

Almost any time someone subdivides California property—whether the land is improved or unimproved, and whether the owner's purpose is to sell or lease the resulting portions, it's considered a subdivision.

The California Subdivision Map Act regulates the property subdivision. It requires that, before property is subdivided, a subdivision map must be prepared by the subdivider and be approved by the governing body of the city or county in which the land is located.


The purposes of the legislation are:

1) Community development,

2) Improvement of the areas

3) Prevent fraud and exploitation

In general the Subdivision Map Act needs a preliminary soils report, the existing topo survey and a recorded map showing the property boundary lines and allows jurisdictions to mandate several requirements. Tentative Maps are required before Final Maps and sometimes it may be required for Parcel Maps also. Tentative Maps show the physical characteristics of the subdivision and adjoining area, which includes topography, water resources, existing and proposed infrastructure/ roadway geometrics/ building footprints/ easements/ parcels. It is typically approved by the Planning Commission and has an expiration date of about 24 months with exceptions.


How to Subdivide Property in California?

The subdivision process starts with the description that legally defines the property boundary of the land being subdivided. Next is to check the local regulations. There are two things that need to be checked -

Zoning - Zoning is practiced by local governments to prevent any new development from interfering with existing residents or businesses in that area. Zoning regulates the activities which can be practiced on a particular lot. Zoning can be -  Open space, Residential, Commercial, Industrial or agricultural.

Subdivision regulations-  These regulations spell out the legal requirements to subdivide the land. These regulations must be followed before any land can be divided and sold.  Sales can be voided if the regulations are not followed.

Most likely, the subdivider has to develop a plat. A plat is a map of the subdivision, drawn to scale by a surveyor or initial map can be by an engineer. It shows how the various proposed lots along with any streets and utilities, meet the requirements of the local jurisdiction.

This initial plat/tentative map is reviewed and approved by local planning staff and an appointed planning commission. The tentative map application sometimes also requires a site plan and preliminary grading plan with earthwork quantities.  Once the tentative map is approved, the Final map/plat is prepared by the surveyor and recorded at the local courthouse, then deeds can be written and new tracts can be sold. The whole subdivision process can take anywhere from a few weeks to years depending on the jurisdiction, their regulations and the complexity of the subdivision.

How can we help?

Subdivision Process can get complicated in no time. It requires skilled and experienced professionals. Design Everest provides services with  civil and architectural plans and support with legal approval/applications with quick turnaround time. We go through your needs and recommend what all is needed for your subdivision as well as future developments.Contact us now and we will provide you a FREE Consultation with a quote.


*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.


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