La Jolla’s Missing Land Survey Markers: Mapmaker on a quest to prevent litigation by homeowners

La Jollan Michael Pallamary says survey monuments in some of the oldest La Jolla subdivisions have disappeared, making the job of land surveyors (such as himself) harder.

Survey monuments, also called survey markers, are objects placed in the ground as benchmarks to determine property lines, elevations or horizontal positions. Ludington Heights and the Muirlands — which are among La Jolla’s oldest subdivisions dating back almost a century — are missing some of these markers.

“Curbs, gutters and sidewalks, hard-fixed concrete improvements are really clear delimiters that help us have a good understanding of where the limit (between properties) is,” Pallamary explained. “Some of the most valuable property is in Ludington Heights and the Muirlands, and those neighborhoods have peculiarities — there’s no curbs, gutters nor sidewalks.”

On June 22, Pallamary took La Jolla Light on a field trip through Kearsarge Road, a 20-foot-wide street with no sidewalk, curb or gutter. “We just passed five homes on each side of the street, let’s say they are $3 million homes. We went through $30 million worth of property just on this stretch, and no one knows where they are,” he said, referring to the lack of markers on that stretch of Kearsarge Road.

“Someone’s going to come in, trying to build a new home, and they’re going to want every single inch of that property, and with that kind of money, they will be forceful in terms of ejecting their neighbors from any encroachments on their property,” he added, “And that’s when we get litigation.”

On Kearsarge Road, the sharp eye may find two layers of concrete, an older one on the edges and a newer one in the center, running over a sewer main. “You can see that the street has been dug up, and there’s new sewer line up through here,” Pallamary said.

Asked if in the past the City of San Diego had inadvertently destroyed land survey monuments, City Engineering Division deputy director Gregory Hopkins replied, “Yes; however, when this happens, the City will perform a survey of the area and reset all monuments that were destroyed or covered, and file the appropriate documents.”

However, Pallamary countered, “It’s nice what they’re saying, but the fact is those markers are gone. They’ve been gone on that street for five years.”

Pallamary said he was worried about the City’s extensive road repair program and the opportunities to destroy or pave-over land survey markers that it brings. To that concern Hopkins responded, “We have a very aggressive monument preservation effort in place and take great steps in trying to preserve every survey monument.

“Every project gets reviewed by the City’s Field Survey Section, which will (prior to any work being done), go out to the area being paved, repaved or slurry sealed, and tie out any survey monuments that will be negatively affected by that maintenance activity.”

La Jolla Shores-based real estate agent Peggy Davis told the Light: “Land survey markers are supposed to be on the sidewalk when you look at the property, so you’ll have one marker on one side and one on the other. It’s very important when contractors do remodeling and replace the sidewalk that they ensure the markers are still there.”