BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                            Senator Dave Cox, Chair

          BILL NO:  SB 1319                     HEARING:  4/19/10
          AUTHOR:  Pavley                       FISCAL:  No
          VERSION:  4/13/10                     CONSULTANT:  Detwiler
                              SUBDIVISION MERGERS

                           Background and Existing Law  

          The Subdivision Map Act controls how local officials  
          approve property owners' proposals to create smaller lots  
          out of larger parcels.  The Map Act also describes several  
          methods for reversing that process, including reversions to  
          acreage, resubdivisions, local options, and parcel merger.

               Reversion to acreage.  Either the property owner or  
          the city or county can start proceedings to revert  
          subdivided land back to acreage.  The statutory procedures  
          for a reversion require the city council or county board of  
          supervisors to hold a publicly noticed hearing and make  

               Resubdivision.  As an alternative to reversion, a city  
          council or county board of supervisors can adopt an  
          ordinance that allows property owners to resubdivide their  
          property by filing new parcel maps or new tentative  
          subdivision maps.  This procedure results in merging  
          formerly separate lots without reverting them to acreage.

               Local option.  Another alternative allows a city  
          council or county board of supervisors to adopt an  
          ordinance that allows property owners to merge contiguous  
          parcels that are under common ownership, requiring only the  
          recordation of a merger document.

               Merger.  The merger of previously subdivided parcels  
          is a formal proceeding that requires the city council or  
          county board of supervisors to adopt an ordinance that  
          spells out the conditions under which the city or county  
          can force the merger of contiguous parcels under the same  
          ownership.  At least one of the affected parcels must be  
          undeveloped, developed with only an accessory structure, or  
          developed with a structure that straddles the property  
          lines.  One of the parcels must meet at least one of seven  
          named conditions.  Before local officials can order a  


          SB 1319 -- 4/13/10 -- Page 2

          merger, there must be publicly noticed hearings.

          At an interim hearing in 1986, the Senate Local Government  
          Committee reviewed "California's Hidden Land Use Problem:  
          The Redevelopment of Antiquated Subdivisions."  Legislators  
          learned that local officials had created more than 400,000  
          parcels that were still vacant, but "too small, too remote,  
          or too dangerous to build on."  Private investors explained  
          the difficulties they faced in assembling parcels and  
          resubdividing them into marketable lots.  A subsequent  
          proposal to enact a bold "land readjustment law" failed,  
          but legislators made other statutory improvements.

          Electrical utilities --- both investor owned and public  
          agencies --- want to expand their capacity to generate  
          electricity from renewable sources, including solar and  
          wind energy.  Commercial scale alternative energy  
          generating facilities often require large pieces of flat  
          property near existing power lines.  Conservationists want  
          to discourage alternative energy facilities from locating  
          on productive farmland or desert habitat.  They want to  
          find alternative locations that would be suitable without  
          further disturbing habitat or agricultural land.  Combining  
          the unbuildable lots in antiquated subdivisions could  
          create these sites.

                                   Proposed Law  

          Senate Bill 1319 allows a city council or county board of  
          supervisors to adopt a local ordinance that lets the owner  
          of contiguous parcels merge them, without complying with  
          the Subdivision Map Act's provisions, by recording an  
          instrument of conveyance or security.


          1.   Voluntary merger  .  Formal parcel mergers --- one way to  
          combine contiguous lots --- requires the city council or  
          county board of supervisors to hold extensive hearings and  
          make detailed findings.  These sections in the Subdivision  
          Map Act implicitly assume that the affected property owners  
          will resist merger because they want to keep their parcels  
          separate for future sale or development opportunity.  SB  
          1319 creates another voluntary method for property owners  


          SB 1319 -- 4/13/10 -- Page 3

          to willingly combine their substandard lots into  
          developable parcels.  No one can force property owners to  
          use the bill's new method if they don't want to.

          2.   Not the answer  .  Assembling enough parcels to develop  
          alternative energy facilities is a useful goal, especially  
          if it converts antiquated subdivision lots into productive  
          uses.  Success will require a clear vision of what's  
          needed, access to sufficient credit and working capital,  
          sound real estate management, and plenty of patience.  But  
          there are no obvious statutory obstacles.  Public agencies  
          can use the Joint Exercise of Powers Act to form  
          confederations that can raise the needed funds.  Local  
          officials can use the Community Redevelopment Law to  
          eliminate the blight caused by substandard and irregular  
          lots.  The Subdivision Map Act provides several ways to  
          combine parcels.  If legislators want to help local  
          officials and utilities find good locations for alternative  
          energy facilities, they should direct the California Energy  
          Commission to provide property owners and utilities the  
          needed financial help and technical assistance.

          3.   Not much  .  SB 1319 doesn't provide property owners with  
          any real opportunities that they don't have.  The Map Act  
          already gives property owners at least three ways to  
          combine their lots: reversion, resubdivision, and local  
          option ordinances.  Formal mergers attract property owners  
          resistance for good reasons: the procedures and standards  
          are more burdensome that the existing statutory  
          alternatives.  Although SB 1319 doesn't harm private  
          property rights, it doesn't do much to help property owners  

                         Support and Opposition  (4/15/10)

           Support  :  The Nature Conservancy.

           Opposition  :  Unknown.