Vacation/Abandonment of Public Streets and easements
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A vacation is when a public right-of-way or a public service easement is “abandoned” by the City. Once the subject right-of-way or easement is abandoned the public use of the land or easement area is relinquished without restrictions to the property owner. The use of the abandoned area usually reverts to the adjacent property owner(s); legal dedications and ownership are verified by original maps and deeds.
For example, the City may decide that an alley that runs behind a row of buildings is no longer necessary as a public right-of-way. The City Council may approve to abandon (or “vacate”) the alley and add that land to each of the parcels that are next to it. The property owners can then extend their backyards into their portion of the former alley. This benefits the City because it no longer has to maintain the alley (i.e., street-sweeping and pavement repair).
Check the Vacation/Abandonment Project List (PDF) for a status list of current and recently recorded vacation/abandonments. They are sorted by date. Each recorded item may be referenced by the Book and Page at the Sacramento County Recorder’s office.
For inquiries regarding vacations / abandonments of public streets and easements, please send an email to: DE@cityofsacramento.org
What Can Be Vacated
Anything considered a public right-of-way may be subject to vacation (abandonment):
- Public utility easements (i.e., power and gas company equipment)
- Public service easements (traffic signals, street lights, etc.)
Vacation of public right-of-ways is processed under the California Streets and Highways Code, California Subdivision Map Act, the Sacramento City Code, and Sacramento City Council Resolution 96-176 (PDF) . City staff determines the appropriate category of vacation for each application (see below). All vacations require City Council action and must comply with state laws and local ordinances. Once the vacation is approved by City Council and recorded at the Sacramento County Recorder’s Office, the title to the underlying property shall be cleared off any public right-of-ways and/or public service easements.
The Abandonment Process
The process begins when a property owner submits a completed vacation application package to the City to have a public right-of-way or public service easement abandoned. If any planning entitlements are being requested at the same time as a vacation, both will be processed simultaneously.
Only the property owner whose land includes or abuts a public street right-of-way or public service easement may request an abandonment.
Once the process is complete (as listed below under "Types of Vacation/Abandonment"), City staff reviews the request and makes the appropriate recommendation to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission reviews all vacations for their consistency with the City's adopted General Plan. The Commission then makes the appropriate recommendation to the City Council.
Once the City Council approves of the vacation, the City Clerk's Office will create a Resolution of Vacation. The vacation will be effective once the City Clerk's Office records this resolution with the Sacramento County Recorder.
Please see the vacation/abandonment flowchart (PDF -1.5 MB) for a brief overview of the process.
Types of Vacation/Abandonment
There are four different categories of vacation. The vacation process varies slightly between each category.
- No Entitlements
- Applicant completes the application package. This can be submitted either by mail or at the permit counter:
Department of Public Works
300 Richards Boulevard, 3rd Floor
Sacramento, CA 95811
- The Vacation/Abandonment Clearance Letters and Adjoining Property Contact Form (both of which are part of the application package) are good for up to one year prior to City Council approval of abandonment.
- The application is reviewed for completeness, accuracy and conformity with State law and local ordinance and a determination of the type of vacation is made. If the application is not complete, it will be returned to the applicant for completion.
- A preliminary environmental assessment of the proposed vacation is made. If the vacation is determined to be unusual or controversial, an environmental document may be required.
- The Community Development Department Planning Division reviews the proposed vacation to determine the vacation's consistency with the General Plan and the local Community Plan (see State of California Government Code #65402 for Vacations/Abandonments (PDF)). Their findings are then included in the staff report presented to City Council at the vacation hearing.
- Conditions, which must be met by the applicant prior to the vacation being recorded, are developed. These conditions are generally derived from the comments received from City departments and utility companies.
- The property owners and tenants within a 500-foot radius of a proposed vacation are notified by mail of the said proposed vacation, and the hearing date before the City Council. The “Intent to Vacate” is also posted along the area to be vacated and noticed in a newspaper of general circulation and as part of the City Council agenda.
- The applicant provides Development Engineering with proof that the conditions of vacation have been met. The conditions must be met within two (2) years of the vacation hearing date or the vacation is void. If needed, a vacation time extension may be requested of the City Council.
- The “Resolution to Vacate” is then recorded with the County Recorder by Development Engineering. For your information, flow charts of the above Vacation and Summary Vacation process are provided.
- Non-Map Entitlements
- All of the steps listed in the “No Entitlements” section (above) apply, except where modified below.
- The application and fees for the vacation are submitted to the Community Development Department - Development Engineering section, Vacation Coordinator.
- Prior to the vacation being heard at City Council, the non-map entitlements are sent to City Planning Commission for approval. If the City Planning Commission does not approve the non-map entitlements, then the vacation is not heard at City Council (unless the denial of the entitlement is appealed).
Exception: If any City department recommends denial of the vacation, then the vacation is heard at Council prior to the non-map entitlements being heard at City Planning Commission. (This may delay the City Planning Commission hearing date.)
- The vacation is heard at City Council.
- Applicant satisfies vacation conditions. The conditions must be met prior to the expiration of the Non-Map Entitlement or the vacation is void. If needed, an vacation time extension may be requested of the City Council.
- Recordation of the vacation and issuance of building permit are done concurrently.
- With Subdivisions
- The Tentative Map is submitted with the applicant's proposed easements/streets to be vacated shown on the map. On the map, provide written reference to the recording date creating these public streets or public easements.
- The Engineering Services Department - Development Engineering, Project Manager will evaluate the request to do the vacation on the map. If the Project Manager determines that it is not appropriate for the vacation to be done on the map, then a Streets and Highways Code vacation will be required (see Section 1 No Entitlements).
- At least three weeks prior to Subdivision Review Committee, submit the Vacation/Abandonment Clearance Letters and the Adjoining Property Owner Contact Forms to the Project Manager. Clearance Letters and Contact Forms are good for up to one year prior to Planning Commission/City Council approval of the tentative map. There is no additional fee deposit required.
- If a Tentative Map Time Extension is requested, new Clearance Letters and Contact Forms will be required.
- The vacation is effective upon recordation of Final Map or as noted on the Final Map.
- Map Entitlements
- The Tentative Map is submitted with the proposed easements/streets to be vacated shown on map. On the map, provide written reference to the recording date creating these public streets or public easements.
- If the Project Manager determines that a Streets and Highways Code vacation is required, then all of the steps listed in Section 1 (No Entitlements) apply, except where modified below.
- At least three weeks prior to Subdivision Review Committee, submit the Abandonment Application Submittals and fees to the Vacation Coordinator.
- Prior to the vacation being heard by City Council, the tentative map is sent to City Planning Commission for approval. If the tentative map is not approved by City Planning Commission, then the vacation is not heard at City Council unless the tentative map is appealed.
Exception: If any City department recommends denial of the vacation, then the vacation is heard at City Council prior to the tentative map being heard at City Planning Commission. (This may delay the City Planning Commission hearing date.)
- The vacation is heard at City Council.
- Applicant satisfies vacation conditions. The conditions must be met prior to the expiration of the tentative map or the vacation is void. If needed, a vacation time extension may be requested of the City Council.
- Recordation of the vacation and the Final Map are done concurrently.
Related Forms and Documents