Sept. 26, 2013
Kimberly Rivers, OVN correspondent
There is a conversation taking place in the Ojai Valley about property lines in Matilija Canyon that could impact every property owner as well as a popular gathering spot.
In 1893, the Government Land Office (GLO), now the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), completed the first — and only — survey of the canyon. According to the Ventura County Surveyors office, the map from that 1893 survey is the only legally binding map for the canyon.
“This map is filed in the BLM office in Sacramento,” explained Wayne Battleson, Ventura County Surveyor.
Neither the assessor’s map nor the GIS map on the county’s website is legally binding according to Battleson, so to determine the location of property lines, a surveyor licensed by the state would need to be brought in.
“Any other depiction of property lines on a map or aerial photograph is simply someone’s inexpert opinion,” he noted.
“The parcel lines throughout Matilija Canyon are likely to be inaccurate,” added Sue Exline, district ranger at the National Forest Service’s Ojai office. Because it has been so long since the properties were fully surveyed, Exline said many of the survey markers — or monuments — cannot be found.
“I do not even want to speculate on the cost to do a survey today in the canyon,” said Exline. If compelling evidence could be shown that a property, or portion of a property in question was public land, then the BLM would consider conducting a survey said Exline.
Monuments are supposed to mark each corner of a parcel, thereby defining property lines. Those corners are related mathematically to other monuments on surrounding parcels and in other locations, going all the way to the very first monuments placed atop three mountains when California was first surveyed in the 1800’s.
In 1852, the initial marker for all of Ventura County was placed at an elevation of 10,300 feet by the GLO on a peak just west of Mount San Bernardino. It was 1878 by the time GLO surveyors made their way to Matilija Canyon.
“Properties must be surveyed to confirm the true boundaries,” said Battleson. He explained that the county’s online mapping site show lines representing someone’s best guess as to where property lines might be, based on the best information available.
“I am not aware of any widespread boundary issues in Matilija Canyon, nor of any recent surveys there,” said Battleson. He said it would be a “huge undertaking” to complete a survey today and determine where true property lines lie.
“If there are problems or disputes regarding property lines, that would be a private matter between the adjoining property owners, or between the private owners and the Forest Service. If a survey by a licensed land surveyor were to discover material discrepancies with the information shown on any recorded map or Bureau of Land Management map, then that surveyor would be required to file a Record of Survey map with the county, Battleson explained. “The role of the County Surveyor’s Office would be to examine the map to make sure that it is technically and mathematically correct, and possibly to add comments to it, prior to the map being filed by the County Recorder. Neither the County Surveyor nor the Planning Department would play a role in determining where the property lines are, or correct them if there are errors. Those are issues for private land surveyors, the owners, their title companies and attorneys to resolve and the Forest Service.”