Tag Archive | Parcels

CA Supreme Court Issues Ruling on GIS Open Records Case

For the history of Sierra Club v. Orange County see GIS Cafe Blog (May 10, 2013): Sierra Club v. Orange County Has Its Day In Court

For the CA Supreme Court ruling (PDF), visit: CA Supreme Court Decision July 8, 2013

To the extent that the term ―computer mapping system is ambiguous, the constitutional canon requires us to interpret it in a way that maximizes the public‘s access to information unless the Legislature has expressly provided to the contrary. (Officeof Inspector General v. Superior Court, supra, 189 Cal.App.4th at p.709.) As explained above, we find nothing in the text, statutory context, or legislative history of the term―computer mapping system‖ that allows us to say the Legislature clearly sought to exclude GIS formatted parcel data from the definition of a public record when it can be disclosed without any accompanying software.

Applying the interpretive rule set forth in article I, section 3, subdivision (b)(2), we must conclude that section 6254.9(b)‘s exclusion of―computer mapping systems from the definition of a public record does not encompass a parcel database in a GIS file format. Contrary to what the County contends, this reading of the statute does not ―repeal or nullify‖ a ―statutory exception to the right of access to public records‖ in contravention of article I, section 3, subdivision (b)(5). Our holding simply construes the terms of section 6254.9 in light of the constitutional mandate that a statute ―shall be narrowly construed if it limits the right of access.(Cal. Const., art. I, §3, subd. (b)(2).)
We note that this interpretation is consistent with a 2005 opinion letter issued by the Attorney General in response to a request by a member of the Assembly to determine whether ― parcel boundary map data maintained in an electronic format by a county assessor [is] subject to public inspection and copying under provisions of the California Public Records Act (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 153, 153 (2005).) The opinion letter explained that ―the term ̳computer mapping systems‘ in section 6254.9 does not refer to or include basic maps and boundary information per se (i.e., the basic data compiled, updated, and maintained by county assessors), but rather denotes unique computer programs to process such data using mapping functions original programs that have been designed and produced by a public agency.‖ (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. at p. 159.) Accordingly, the Attorney General concluded, ―parcel map data maintained in an electronic format by a county assessor does not qualify as a ̳computer mapping system‘under the exemption provisions of section 6254.9 (88 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. at p. 159) and must be provided upon request as a public record at a fee limited to the direct cost of producing the copy (id.at pp.163–164). As noted above, the record here indicates that 47 counties in California maintain GIS-formatted parcel base maps and provide access to those GIS-formatted databases as public records. (Ante, at p. 3.) Of those 47 counties, 19 changed their fee policies following the Attorney General‘s opinion letter, according to Sierra Club‘s expert.
Because section 6254.9(b) does not exclude GIS-formatted databases like the OC Landbase from the definition of a public record, such databases are subject to disclosure unless otherwise exempt from the PRA. Unlike the records at issue in County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1301, the County here does not argue that the OC Landbase is subject to any other exemptions. The fact that the County offered to produce the information underlying the database in an alternative format suggests that no such exemption applies. Similarly, the County‘s general practice of producing the OC Landbase to the public, albeit pursuant to a licensing agreement, suggests that its contents do not implicate any of the confidentiality or other concerns underlying th e exemptions set forth in section 6254. Because the OC Landbase is not excluded from the definition of a public record under section 6254.9(b), and because the County does not argue that the database is otherwise exempt from disclosure, the County must produce the OC Landbase in response to Sierra Club‘s request―in any electronic format in which it holds the information‖ (§6253.9 (a)(1)) at a cost not to exceed the direct cost of duplication (§§ 6253.9 (a)(2),6253, subd. (b)).
For the reasonsabove, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal andremand to that court with directions to remand to the superior court to issue a writ consistent with this opinion.

Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Proprietary Software Falls Outside Open Records Law

Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act

by Dennis Whalen, CNO, March 7, 2013

The Supreme Court of Ohio today denied a writ of mandamus sought by Portsmouth real estate appraiser Robert Gambill to compel the production of certain public records by Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman.In a 6-1 per curiam opinion, the court held that Opperman met the requirements of the Ohio Public Records Act by offering to provide Gambill with a copy of the county’s electronic database containing deed information and aerial photos of all property in the county if Gambill paid the estimated $2,000 cost of separating that data from proprietary mapmaking software protected by U.S. patent laws that is “inextricably intertwined” with the data on the engineer’s computer.

For full text of the article, visit Supreme Court Rules County Engineer’s Response Met Requirements of Public Records Act.

Related Articles:

See also High Court Rules in Favor of County (Portsmouth Daily Times), Ohio Court: Geodata Intertwined with Copyright-protected Software Falls Outside Open Records Law (Directions Magazine).

Similar Cases:

Sierra Club loses on appeal in case for access to Orange County database (Directions Magazine 2011)

The WireData Case and Implications for Geospatial Data (WI State Cartographer’s Office 2008)

‘Why Don’t We Own This’ Site Maps Detroit’s Housing Crisis

By Ashley Woods and Kate Abbey-Lambertz, HuffPost Detroit, January 28, 2013

Alsup and Paffendorf said there are many possible uses for their improved site. Detroiters could visualize the privately created Detroit Future City framework, which provides a road map for city development over the next four decades, using WDWOT’s data. Community organizations could build private maps to keep track of abandoned lots in their neighborhood. Organizations working on foreclosure prevention may find the data to be more proactive.

But not everyone sees the open access to information as a good thing. When WDWOT first made information from the massive county foreclosure auction readily available online, some wondered if the site would just help out-of-state speculators to buy up property on the cheap — with no intention of ever improving it.

via ‘Why Don’t We Own This’ Site Maps Detroit’s Housing Crisis With New Tools To Battle Back.

New Report: The Feasibility of Developing a US National Parcel Database

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HUD charted new territory in an effort to develop a national database of standardized parcel-level property data collected directly from the most authoritative sources: local counties. HUD contracted with Abt Associates Inc. and their subcontractors, Fairview Industries and Smart Data Strategies, to embark on an exploratory project for assembling local assessor data, including key attributes such as property address, assessed value, land use, sales price, and sales history, for 127 targeted counties. The primary tasks of the project included identifying the appropriate data sources in each community, assembling the data and metadata, and standardizing the data in a common format to be accessible for HUD research efforts and for possibly aggregating data to higher levels of geography for public dissemination.

To download a PDF copy of the report, visit The Feasibility of Developing a National Parcel Database: County Data Records Project Final Report | HUD USER.

Legislative Proposals Affect Land Information Program Funding

By Jim Lacy, Wisconsin State Cartographer’s Office, October 10, 2011

Two different bills recently introduced into the Wisconsin legislature affect the funding of the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP)— a long-standing program used by counties to support local land information activities. Senate Bill 225 and Assembly Bill 303 are companion bills aimed at making significant changes to Wisconsin’s comprehensive planning law. Among the various changes proposed, both bills would de-fund $2 million in yearly comprehensive planning program grants available to local governments in Wisconsin. If passed as currently written, the $2 million would be permanently lapsed from the WLIP, and transferred to the state’s general fund.

For full text of the article, visit Legislative proposals affect Land Information Program funding | News.

US Patent Office to License National Online Parcel level Map – Geo: International

USPTO to License National Online Parcel-level Map

GeoConnexion.com, 17 March 2011, 2:05pm

United States Patent Office is set to issue BSI, patent #7,912,880 entitled “Computerized National Online Parcel-level Map Data Portal” (NPDP™). Boundary Solutions, Inc. (BSI) is pleased to announce that the United States Patent Office is set to issue to the company, patent #7,912,880 entitled “Computerized National Online Parcel-level Map Data Portal” (NPDP™) . This patent is for locating a street address by displaying the boundary of the parcel in which it is located within a national multi-state database.  …

For full text of the article, visit USPTO to License National Online Parcel level Map – Geo: International.

Geocoding Provision in the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act

Financial Reform Includes Geocoding Provision  

Source: GeoPlace.com, September 13, 2010

 The financial regulatory reform legislation recently signed into law by President Barack Obama includes a parcel geocoding provision that would provide an “early warning system” that could help detect anomalies related to mortgage activity. The new law amends the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) to include a provision requiring the newly created Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (part of the Federal Reserve) to collect the “parcel number to permit geocoding” on mortgage transactions. Specifically, Section 1094 of the accompanying conference report for the legislation calls for the new bureau to collect the “parcel number that corresponds … [to] … real property pledged or proposed to be pledged as collateral,” which should help track the number and dollar amount of mortgage loans as well as completed applications, grouped according to measurements such as parcel-level data. …

For full text of the article, click here.

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill and Land Parcels

Tthe following language is in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Enrolled Bill [Final as Passed Both House and Senate]

 ‘‘(H) as the Agency (Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection) ;may determine to be appropriate, the parcel number that corresponds to the real property pledged or proposed to be pledged as collateral;” http://docs.house.gov/rules/finserv/111_hr_finsrv.pdf

For a summary of the bill, click here.

See also the NRC report on National Land Parcels: A vision for the future.

Directions Mag Podcast on Google Maps Recent Changes


Podcast: Google Maps Changes US Base Data, Adds Parcels and Crowdsourcing

By Joe Francica and Adena Schutzberg
October 13, 2009

This past week Google prompted a flurry of discussion by announcing some changes to its data and functionality in Google Maps. There’s new data and new feedback tools and some anxiety in the geospatial world. Our editors separate fact from fiction and offer our take on the implications of these changes


See also James Fee’s GIS Blog for additional commentary:  http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com/2009/10/07/google-maps-now-uses-their-own-map-data/

Santa Clara County Releases Data

September 16, 2009

Bruce Joffee forwarded the following:

After a three year legal battle, Santa Clara County provided a copy of its GIS parcel basemap data to the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) in compliance with California’s Public Record Act (PRA). Decisions from both the California Superior Court and the California Court of Appeal affirmed that public agencies must provide their geodata in accordance with the PRA (California Government Codes §6250-6259). Generally, agencies can not charge a requestor of their geodata more than the direct cost of duplication, and they can not restrict how a requestor can use or redistribute the data. Santa Clara County had been selling its geodata for $ 158,000; the cost CFAC finally paid was $ 3.10 per disk, plus shipping. In addition to providing its geodata to the public, the PRA requires the County to pay CFAC’s attorneys fees and costs incurred to assert its legal right to the data.

For background information, visit:



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