New Rule On Road Dedications

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A new case Coppinger v. Rawlins (2015) clarifies that dedication of property does not shift the burden of maintenance to the public agency without satisfying the requirements of the Streets and Highway Code section 1806.

California Court of Appeal found that the county’s acceptance of the road transferred the title, but not the duty to maintain, to the public.  In Coppinger, property owners Joseph and Connie Coppinger filed a lawsuit against the county to quiet title to the road that their predecessor transferred to the public.  When the road was dedicated, the county accepted it with a proviso that the road would not immediately become part of the county-maintained road system.  The Coppingers argued that the county rejected the dedication when it did not unconditionally accept the road, thus the title to the road reverted back to the Coppingers.  The Court disagreed.

Code of Civil Procedure section 771.010 provides that there is a conclusive presumption that dedication was not accepted if all of the following conditions are satisfied: (1) the proposal was made by filing a map only; (2) no acceptance of dedication was made within 25 years; (3) the property was not used for the intended purpose within 25 years of filing the map; and (4) the property was sold to a third party after filing the map and used as if free of dedication.  All of the conditions were not satisfied to invalidate the dedication.  Further, Streets and Highway Code section 941 creates a presumption that an offer of dedication of land, without more, will not be included in the county-maintained road system, because additional action such as acceptance of the road into the county’s maintenance system by the agency, per Streets and Highways Code section 1806, is required.

Take away: When dedicating property for public use, property owners should require the agency to formally accept the property into its maintenance system.  Failure to do so will keep the burden to maintain on the owner.

Yana Ridge advises clients on land transactions and development, municipal law, and real property.  Her transactional practice YanaCasualincludes 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.

Ms. Ridge is a member of the LAND Practice Group.

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