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San Francisco, CA 94133
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Richmond, CA 94806   
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Bay Area Land Surveying, Inc.
Residential Condominium Conversions in Oakland, CA

Residential condominium conversions are a great way to separate the ownership of a jointly owned property or to pull equity out of a property that is no longer producing. If you are a Tenants in Common (TIC) owner, it is a way to separate the ownership of your property so that you have independent title to your own unit and can finance or sell it separately from the other owners. As the owner of a multi unit property, you can decide to sell the units to obtain greater profits than if you sold the property as a single income producing property.

Different cities and counties in the Bay Area have differing rules for converting property to condominiums. California is a state with some of the strictest residential rental laws in the nation and most communities extend these restrictions to make it difficult for a property owner to convert existing residential rental units to condominiums.

The City of Oakland has very specific rules for converting an existing building into condominiums. Any multi-unit building in the City is eligible for conversion, but there are specific eligibility requirements if your property is in the “Conversion Impact Zone” around Lake Merritt, or if your property contains greater than 5 units. The basic rules are:

    1)   If you own a property that is 4 units or less and you are not in the Impact Zone, then you can convert to condominiums without a great deal of difficulty.

    2)   If you have a property with 5 or more units, or your property lies within the Impact Zone, then you have to replace the units you convert with an equal number of rental units. In the case of properties within the Impact Zone, those replacement properties must also be within the Impact Zone. A market has arisen for “Rental Conversion Credits” where a property owner who is building rental units will sell the “Conversion Rights” for these units to someone who wishes to convert their property.

    3)   There are occasions for exceptions to these restrictions. For example if the property is owned by existing residents as a Tenants in Common ownership, the City can provide an exception since there are no renters being displaced and they will be providing home ownership at below market prices. Also, when a property has remained vacant for an extended period and is in a state of disrepair. The owner can sometimes negotiate with the City to allow a condominium conversion, so a non-productive property can once again start generating taxable revenue.

Bay Area Land Surveying, Inc. has a number of attorneys and facilitators that we work with on a regular basis who can help you to determine the feasibility of your project. Please call us for references.

After you determine the feasibility of the conversion, you are ready to start the process. The rules in Oakland are pretty clearly defined, so if you have the time to make trips down to the City, the system is set up for homeowners to be able to facilitate the process themselves. I have personally converted two projects in Oakland myself, so I know it isn’t too difficult, but it can be fairly time consuming.

If you have tenants, your first step is to notify your tenants in writing of your intent to convert to condominiums. You must do this 60-days prior to submitting your subdivision application to the City.

The second step is the Tentative Map and the subdivision application. The Tentative Map is a complete Boundary and Topographic Survey of the site, showing the property lines, all of the physical features and all of the legal encumbrances (easements and right of ways). The City uses this map to determine if there are any problems with the site. They look at the setbacks, parking, encroachments and various other aspects of the site to make sure it complies with their standards.

The items your surveyor needs to get started on your Tentative Map are:
1) Signed contract
2) Preliminary Title Report
3) Copy of the grant deed to your property
4) Check for deposit
5) Copy of building plans (if available)

As soon as we receive these items from you, we will call and let you know when you can expect us to do the fieldwork and site work necessary to prepare the maps. We will generally do the exterior site work on one day and then come back a few weeks later, after we have your building plotted in a drawing and measure the interior spaces. In Oakland, the Condominium Plans are not required to be submitted with the Tentative Map, so we generally wait until after we have provided you with your Tentative Map submittal to come back and measure the interiors. Please note, when we measure the interior spaces we will need someone at the site who has access to all of the spaces on the property (including all units, closets, garages, decks, storage areas, basement areas, yard areas etc.) and knowledge of which unit will have rights to which spaces and which spaces will be used as common area.

Bay Area Land Surveying Inc. will provide you with the Tentative Map and supporting documents that are required for submittal.

Your Tentative Parcel Map Submittal Package will include the following:
Tentative Parcel Map
Reduced copy of the Tentative Parcel Map
Preliminary Title Report
Assessor’s Map
Invoice for Services

When you receive your package, you will need to fill out the Subdivision Application and either you or your agent will schedule an “intake appointment” with the Planning Department by calling (510) 238-3940. They will assign you a date to meet with a Planner and when that date arrives you meet with them, pay the appropriate fees and give them your completed application and submittal package. Around a week after the intake meeting your application will be assigned to a planner. This planner will be your contact person with the City throughout the rest of the subdivision process.

When the City makes their determination and approves your project, they will issue a “Conditions of Approval” letter. This letter will outline in detail all of the things that you need to do to complete the subdivision process. The normal things that are required are:
    1)   Have Bay Area Land Surveying, Inc. prepare the Final Map and Condominium Plans.
    2)   Have an attorney prepare your Home Owners Association documents.
    3)   Have the proper sound insulation installed between the units.
    4)   Have separate utility meters for each unit.
    5)   Have your building inspected and the Building Department issue a new Certificate of Occupancy. This requirement was necessary to make sure that all improvements done to the site were done with the proper building permits.

The Condominium Plans are the plans that show the airspace divisions of the individual units, the common areas, exclusive use common areas. The City reviews these plans for compliance with their laws and then the Condo Plans are attached to the CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions of your Home Owner’s Association) as an exhibit.

The Final Map is the map that gets filed at the county to notify the public that a parcel has been subdivided. The Final Map shows the location of the buildings with respect to the property lines and shows the monuments or other survey control that was used to determine the boundary of the property.

We will provide you with The Final Map Submittal Package for the City at this time. This will consist of copies of the Final Map, engineering closure calculations, your deed, your Title Report, adjoining deeds to your property and any maps used in determining the boundaries of your survey. We will also include copies of the Condominium Plan so you and your partners in the conversion can review them and make sure that all of the areas on the site are distributed the way that you would like them. You will then take the submittal package to the City, pay them additional fees and they will start the final review of the Final Map.

When all of the conditions are met and the agency approves the Final Map, you are ready to have Bay Area Land Surveying, Inc. prepare the Mylar version of the Final Map and sign it. You can then meet at our office and sign the map with our notary, or sign somewhere else in front of a notary public. Some projects require the lender, or the holder of the deed of trust on the property to also sign the map at this time. The map is then delivered to the governing agency for their signatures then routed to the county for the Tax Assessor’s signature and the County Recorder’s signature. The map is then filed in the county records. Your subdivision is finally completed when you file the association documents and the condominium plans.

It is very important to have a good team working for you to complete your subdivision. You want professionals who know the agencies that are going to approve your project and it helps to have an elite team of people who are used to working with each other. Bay Area Land Surveying, Inc. has done Condominium Subdivisions in almost every community in the Bay Area and we have done more of these subdivisions in Oakland in the past 10 years than any other company. We have a great working relationship with the planners and engineers at the different agencies who will be reviewing and approving your subdivision as well as the attorneys, financial consultants and title officers who will be working on your behalf to complete your project.