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The Environment

Heard of the California gnatcatcher? Or the red-legged frog? Or the fairy shrimp? These are all endangered animal species that reside in California. If you have any of them on a parcel you are intending to develop, the chances are you won't be able to build on the land.

Figure 1. This tiny animal is a fairy shrimp (actual size about 1/2" to 1" long). Fairy shrimps live in so-called vernal pools: areas of temporary wetland in the winter and spring. To find out why there is so much fuss about saving vernal pools, see here.

For most land buyers who are buying a single lot to build a home, the presence of endangered animals is either going to be something that is disclosed during the escrow period (see section 'Disclosures') or is not going to be a problem. 

Certain projects, because of their size or potential impact, may require an environmental review. This determination is based on rules of the California Environmental Quality Act, referred to as CEQA.

Another issue that commonly arises is the presence of 'Open Space'. Many rural parcels that have been subdivided include an area designated as Open Space which cannot be built on. For example, open space may include the area around a stream or other natural feature. Open Space on first glance may appear to be harmless. After all, you wouldn't want to build on a stream, would you?

I sold a four acre lot in San Marcos several years ago. It was in an area that required septic, and the seller had plans for a three bedroom house.  Four acres is a lot of land, so many potential buyers wanted to build a four or even five bedroom house on the lot. No way. Why? Because two of the four acres was designated as Open Space, so the net size of the lot was only two acres. Add to this the presence of some rocks that cut down the available space for the septic system, and you have your answer.



This website has been written and developed by Rob Ransom, PhD. Rob has extensive experience working with buyers and sellers of vacant land in San Diego County, CA. Although Rob currently has a California real estate license he is retired from selling real estate.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding this web site, email Rob at the address below.


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