Tentative Tract Maps

Tentative Map vs Final Map?

Many of us who have been in development for many years recall those early years where we couldn’t help but ask a dumb question.  But as they say, there are no dumb questions – that is often how you learn.  Whenever we hold live bootcamp and training sessions at Argus College, we welcome any and all questions.  And maybe it is because we remember the days early in our careers, we have yet to hear a dumb question.

Years ago as a young project manager, I was assigned an entitlement project.  A project schedule had already been developed and was handed to me along with an initial project budget.  As I looked at the schedule, I saw that 12 months was the projection to get a tentative map approved, and then another 12 months to get a final map approved.  My first thought was “if the City approves the tentative map after 12 months, why not just consider that final”?  Why do we need another 12 months?

Before I continue, just a quick word on the term “map”.  Here in California, we have the Subdivision Map Act, and thus probably why “tentative map” and “final map” are the terms.  In many other states, the terms “tentative plat” and “final plat” are commonly used.  In essence, both map and plat are the same concept.

What I eventually learned was that the tentative map was equivalent to a tentative “plan”.  When you review a tentative map, you will notice a lot of information.  The lots and streets are designed, which includes dimensions, slopes, elevations, and proposed grade contours.  You also likely see some simple lines denoted in the streets with an “S” or “W”, which typically means where the water and sewer lines are to be located.  Additional information can include the locations of parks, landscape area, basins, street sections, walls, and other pertinent information about the project design.  Again, I like to think of this tentative map as the “plan” for the project.

The final map does not have all this information, but for the most part just has the boundaries for the lots, streets, and common area.  Most of the other pertinent information is now included on the “final engineering” documents, such as the grading plans and improvement plans.  It is during this final engineering phase that these grading and improvement plans are fine-tuned with much more detail, and these final map boundaries can be more accurate than on the tentative map.  And the final map is prepared by a licensed land surveyor and becomes the document that is sent to the County Recorder, establishing new legal lots.

As always, if you have questions or comments, we welcome them below.

John Kaye has over 30 years experience within the land development and homebuilding industries, having held senior management positions with The Irvine Company, Koll Real Estate Group, and Brookfield Homes. As a developer, John has overseen the land acquisition, entitlements, and development of master planned communities, residential tracts, urban infill sites, and land assemblages. His experience and skill sets include land acquisition, land brokerage, project management, market analysis, finance, and strategic planning.

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