What is the purpose of the Surplus Land Act? (Gov. Code § 54221)

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The purpose of this article is to address the goals that California’s Surplus Land Act was designed to accomplish.

The article will address the prior version of the Surplus Land Act, the changes to definitions made in 2019, and provide a big-picture perspective on its aims.

In 2019, the California Legislature re-made the Surplus Land Act in significant ways. Just three of those ways are addressed here.

Surplus Land Act Agency Types

First, the new Surplus Land Act changed the agencies to which it applies. Previously, existing law described “surplus” land as being limited to a “local agency,” which excluded sewer, water, utility, local and regional park districts, joint powers authorities, successor agencies to former redevelopment agencies, housing authorities, and other political subdivisions of the State. Now, all those agencies are subject to the Surplus Land Act.

Surplus Land Act Property Types

Second, the new Surplus Land Act changed the types of property to which it applies.

Previously, existing law defined “surplus land” as property held by a local agency that was determined to be no longer necessary for the agency’s use, except property held by the agency for the purpose of exchange.

Similarly, existing law defined “exempt surplus land” to mean land that is less than $5,000 square feet in area, less than the applicable minimum legal residential building lot size, or has no record access and is less than 10,000 square feet in area, and that is not contiguous to land owned by a state or local agency and used for park, recreational, open-space or affordable housing.

Now, “surplus land” means land owned in fee simple means any land owned in fee simple by any local agency, for which the local agency’s governing body takes formal action in a regular public meeting, declaring that the land is surplus and not necessary for the agency’s use. Similarly, “surplus land” would extend to land held in the Community Redevelopment Property Trust Fund and land that has been designated in the long-range property management plan, either for sale or for future development.

Surplus Land Act Acquiring Land

Third, the new Surplus Land Act changed the process of acquiring land. Previously, the law required a local agency disposing of surplus land to send a written offer to sell or lease to specified entities prior to disposing of the property.

Now, the law requires that the local agency disposing of surplus land send a written notice of availability prior to disposing of that property or participating in negotiations to dispose of that property. Thus, the new law fundamentally altered the process.

If you are contemplating the purchase of surplus land and would like assistance navigating the process, please contact the lawyers at Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

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