New Rule on Adding Conditions After Map Approval

From a recent case Tarbet v. East Bay Municipal Utility District (2015), it is clear now that property owners cannot rely on the Subdivision Map Act to shield them from additional requirements by third party service providers other than local agencies.

In Tarbet, after the County of Alameda accepted and approved Gregory Tarbet’s parcel map, Mr. Tarbet applied to the water district for water service to his property.  The water district requested an easement on Mr. Tarbet’s property for installation and maintenance of the pipeline.  Mr. Tarbet refused to grant an easement and filed suit against the water district, claiming that the approval of the map gave him a vested right and precluded the water district from imposing conditions it had not imposed prior to the county’s approval of the map.

Under the Subdivision Map Act, approval of the vesting tentative map entitles the developer to proceed with the project in substantial compliance with the ordinances and polices in effect when the map application was complete.  The Subdivision Map Act limits what local agencies can require from property owners once the map is approved.  But under the Act, local agency means a city and/or county.  The County of Alameda, and not the water district, acted as the local agency when it approved Mr. Tarbet’s map.  In addition, the Subdivision Map Act expressly states that nothing in the Act “shall be construed to create a right or entitlement to water service.”  Lastly, the Act applies to the initial design of a subdivision, and does not deprive a water district of control over the final design of its water delivery system.  Thus the water district was under no duty to acquire an easement on the property at the time the map was approved.

Take away: The approval of the map does not entitle property owners to automatically receive all the services on their property.  When planning the development of their properties, it is paramount for property owners to take into consideration any additional conditions that third party service providers may impose after the map is approved.

Yana Ridge advises clients on land transactions and development, municipal law, and real property.  Her transactional practiceYanaCasualincludes preparation of cost sharing agreements, easement agreements, purchase and sale agreements, CC&Rs and leases.   Her public practice includes the initiative petition process and public agency legislation.