The term “vacation” means the complete or partial abandonment or termination of the public right to use a street, highway, or public service easement. A street or highway is defined as all or part of, or any right in, a State highway or other public highway, road, street, alley, trail, or other public right of way or easement. A public service easement is an easement acquired for public use by dedication or otherwise, for sewers, pipelines, electrical or water transmission lines, storm drains, drainage canals, and other limited use public easements other than for street or highway purposes.
The vacation of a public easement for a street or highway will allow that property under the easement to revert back to the property owner. Most roads in the County are easements over private property and are not owned in fee by the County. If a road or highway easement is vacated for a road owned in fee by the County, any excess property is still owned by the County and will have to go to public auction for acquisition.
Most commonly, applicants request a vacation to allow greater development freedom for their property. If a public service easement traverses a parcel and makes construction difficult or infeasible, vacation of the easement may allow a less complicated building design. The vacation of an unused alley or excess right-of-way can sometimes provide enough extra room to allow additional parking or structures, or to allow conformance with setback standards. Another common vacation request is to convert a public access easement into a private access easement, usually to accommodate gated access to an area. The vacation of a public access easement cannot terminate legal access to a parcel. If the request does terminate legal access, the application has the option of continuing with a non-summary vacation before the County Board of Supervisors. A summary vacation cannot be prepared.