Going Public

County of Riverside Publishes Its Land Records with ArcGIS Online

By David McMillan, PLS, Senior Land Surveyor, County of Riverside

The County of Riverside has a long history of using Esri’s product line, starting with ArcInfo in the 80s and then transitioning to ArcGIS in 2000. Now the county publishes its web maps and apps using Esri’s cloud-based platform, ArcGIS Online, because of the ability to launch services quickly and keep information updated. As a result, land records investigation is much less complicated and far more sustainable.

Land Records Management 1.0

The County Surveyor’s office has maintained Riverside’s land records and made them available to the public in the form of microfilm, Mylar, and paper. These include, but aren’t limited to, corner records, survey records, final parcel and tract maps, field notes, benchmarks, horizontal control, right-of-way records (vacations, street name changes, dedications, and so forth), unrecorded maps (plans and right-of-way maps), and certificates of correction.

Toggle-enabled feature layers simplify survey research.

In the past, those physical records were maintained by survey staff who had to handwrite the recorded or filed information on large-scale counter books and hanging files. These items are still available but were last updated more than a decade ago. The County Surveyor had a tool called Map Inquiry that allowed users to search for these records through a variety of methods; it returned a list of values based on how the original data was entered into the system. Typically, that data was entered by map number, project number, street name, or using the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) identified by section, township, and range. Since PLSS sections touched other sections, the results always included a minimum of four surrounding sections, in some cases more. To see if the data was viable from the current search, one had to look at each and every document.

Linked to Laserfiche

Thankfully, that system was retired in 2009 and replaced by an online scanned repository system called Laserfiche. Laserfiche allows querying of the above-mentioned information through a variety of search methods, such as street intersection; project number; map number; or section, township, and range (just to name a few). Although this is a much more user-friendly system that retrieves all the information related to your entered search criteria — and you can review the documents — in essence, it’s still a record-by-record search and thus inefficient.

An embedded search widget, created with Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, links to Laserfiche.

Now, the county hosts point, line, polygon, and raster data using an ArcSDE geodatabase on ArcGIS for Server. The County Surveyor’s office created an in-house research interface that combines Laserfiche, ArcGIS for Server, and ArcGIS for Desktop into a single map. In addition to centralizing all the records, ArcGIS for Server allows multiple users to simultaneously edit layers in the geodatabase. This map is used by survey staff and the Transportation Department and is shared at the county’s public research counter.

With the release of ArcGIS Online, those resources, which have had limited internal access in the past, are now being shared with the public in apps that we created in ArcGIS Online. The county has an ArcGIS Online organizational account, giving it the ability to publish maps and apps with hosted feature and tile layers. Both of these services communicate through Representational State Transfer (REST) technology and can be used by ArcGIS Online or applications that are not based on ArcGIS Online.

Clicking the corner record displays a pop-up window with more information and a link to the digitized document.

The County Surveyor’s office manages and maintains the following layers in the geodatabase:

• Tie Books
• Field Books
• Benchmarks
• Geodetic Survey Control
• Corner Records and certificates of correction
• Recorded Instruments related to rights-of-way
• Recorded Maps — Tract/Final Maps, Parcel Maps, Records of Surveys
• Unrecorded Maps — Caltrans right of way maps, plans, and County right of way maps
• Historical Maps — San Diego Maps, San Bernardino Maps, Riverside Automated Mapping Program maps
• Counter Books and Hanging Files (handwritten maps that contain rights-of-way, recorded maps, and other important notes that relate to these maps)

Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS

The County of Riverside’s subscription allowed it to publish and share its first web maps and apps in a short time thanks to Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. The county built custom web maps with widgets and custom styles, then shared and published apps to internal groups and the public. Also, items within the web maps can be linked to a website; in this case, our search layer is linked to Laserfiche (we have many layers that display Laserfiche data in our Survey Research application and have plans to add more).

Laserfiche Web Link shows an actual document.

Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS allowed us to embed a custom widget in our research app that searches corner records within a section, township, and range. The map then displays the returned corner records that fit the entered search criteria. When we click the corner record, a pop-up window appears showing more information and a link. By clicking the link, the user can see the actual scanned corner record.

The public doesn’t have time to conduct land records searches the old-fashioned way (and neither did we, for that matter). Now anyone can conduct research from the office, field, or favorite coffee shop. Our new system simplifies the land records investigation process maintained by the Surveyor’s office, modernizing it to enable efficient research for years to come.

About the Author

David McMillan is a licensed land surveyor with the County of Riverside. He has worked with the county for over 11 years and currently supervises the Geodetic Section & Counter Services, which is part of the Survey Division within the Transportation Department. McMillan is currently a graduate student working on his master’s degree in GIS at the University of Redlands. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in geomatics engineering from California State University, Fresno.