The Rutherford Report—County Surveyor: Where to Draw the Line

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“Government has no other end, but the preservation of property.”

—John Locke
County Surveyor: Where to Draw the Line

When professional land surveyors need to know where to draw the line, they start with the County Surveyor’s office.

An arm of the Department of Public Works, the County Surveyor maintains a comprehensive compendium of historical land survey documents dating back to the when the County of San Bernardino was formed. Professional land surveyors, engineers, and members of the public access the records regularly to determine official property boundaries, rights-of-way and other land information.

The California constitution and statute law require counties to have a county surveyor. Originally, all county surveyors were elected, but today only El Dorado County maintains the post as an elected position. The last elected county surveyor in San Bernardino County was Jacob ‘Bud’ Abbey who served in the position from 1955 until his retirement in 1971.

Early surveyors divided up California using three principal meridians. These initial meridians, which were established by the United States Surveyor General, gave surveyors a framework by which to subdivide land.

The San Bernardino meridian played the primary role in the subdivision of San Bernardino County and, in fact, most all of Southern California. It is based on a survey marker, set atop San Bernardino Peak just east of Highland, called the San Bernardino Initial Point. Base Line Road, Base Line Street, or Base Line (depending on where you are in the valley) are all named for the San Bernardino Baseline that intersects with the San Bernardino Meridian at this Initial Point.

The first county surveyors were tasked with collecting and providing detailed information about the land and resources within their respective counties to the California Office of the Surveyor-General, which was eliminated by statute in 1929. Among other things, county surveyors were required to estimate the quantity of land available for agricultural purposes; the number of horses, cattle, sheep and swine, and the quantity and value of minerals produced in their counties.

Today, the County Surveyor’s office provides land survey services for County Departments to facilitate the construction of new buildings, roads, bridges, flood control channels, and other public infrastructure. The office also reviews and approves subdivision maps, records of survey, lot line adjustments, district boundaries, and consults with private and public firms on other land surveying matters.

The County Surveyor’s office also maintains a free online database of recorded maps, corner records, and other land-related documents.

Click here to learn more about the San Bernardino County Surveyor’s office.
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