Geospatial Data Science

Historic Lot Cuts: The Urban Infill Land Grab

Jun 23, 2023 12:27:52 PM / by Benjamin Pezzillo

First, the be clear, Historic Lot Cuts are not 'Historical Places' worthy of cultural preservation.

Historic Lot Cuts refers to the subdivisions of land into buildable lots that existed prior to the subsequent and contemporary parcel mapping system. That is, a system of subdivision demarcation that predates the current system.

In California, that means Lot Cuts that were recorded before the Subdivision Map Act of 1972. 

That is the state law establishing local discretionary review over lot line adjustments like Lot Splits.

Exempted from the Subdivision Map Act of 1972, Historic Lot Cuts cannot be subjected to a Lot Line Adjustment Discretionary Review. The Lot Lines already exist. There is no adjustment needed.

A Historic Lot Cut, however, must be recorded as a contemporary parcel before it can be sold.

What do Historic Lot Cuts look like?

Not all cities have historic lot cuts.

Here's an example of one that does, the City of Huntington Beach in Orange County, California.

In the image below:

  • Historic  Lot Subdivisions are recorded here in italics and identify 20 lots of the Vista Del Mar Tract's Blk. 804
  • there are dotted lines wherever the lot boundaries and the parcel boundaries are not the same lot line; solid lines where they are the same
  • only 13 parcels have been recorded; they are represented by the numbers inside small circles of the Parcel Map's Block #211 
  • Huntington_Beach_Split_Lot_01
Parcel map

Above: A larger view of Blk. 804 and five other historic lot cut blocks (e.g. 704, 604, 803, 703, and 603).


Above: A detail of Blk. 703 showing 12 lots and eight parcels (note: Parcel #12 and its two unnumbered lots between Lot 9 and Lot 8).

The Infill Impact of Historic Lot Cuts

Buy one parcel with one single-family dwelling that has two historic lot cuts -- each with dimensions to support a marketable detached single-family -- and build two newly constructed single-family homes. 

And in California, with SB9, each of those historic lot cuts can have a duplex and those two duplexes. One parcel with one single-family dwelling becomes four units. And since Historic Lot Cuts are not subjected to SB9's urban lot split process, the duplexes can be condo mapped for individual unit sale and there is no owner-occupied requirement.

Urban infill that is not subject to a discretionary lot line adjustment process.

Lot split projects that are by-right.

Typically this looks something like one small home on a large lot becomes two long narrow homes each on a smaller lots.

How do Historic Lot Cuts pencil out?

Always an essential question as even non-profit organizations (i.e. those without shareholders) must make a fiscal profit in order to keep their doors open for business. And corporate profits are necessary in order for business tax credits (e.g. Low Income Housing Tax Credit) to have a value. After all, a tax credit is only needed by a business or investors making a profit.

Here's an example that's been constructed. I found in searching the building permit records of a former client.


Above: Existing conditions to new construction.

The original SFD 7500 sqft parcel cost the developer $1,250,000.

The post-construction value of the two individual home sales combined? $3,585,000. That's for two 1620 sqft 3 bed/2.5 bath homes each on 3750 sqft lots.

In other words, $2,335,000 for carry costs, construction of two new homes, and profit.

Even at a construction cost of $450 per square foot there's still close to $900,000 left to manage the permits, development fees, financing of the original purchase, property taxes, and business taxes before profit.

In short, there's money to be made in acquiring and redeveloping Historic Lot Cuts as long as the demand for Single Family Homes in urban infill markets persists. 


Above: Solid blue lines indicates the contemporary Parcel Map while the dotted white lines indicate Historic Lot Cuts in the City of Seattle (King County, Washington).

Pactriglo's Historic Lot Cut Analysis Process

In addition to Huntington Beach, Pactriglo has been successful in finding Historic Lot Cuts in the City of Los Angeles (Los Angeles County, California), Seattle (King County, Washington), and Denver (Denver County Colorado) using a trade-secret process.

Pactriglo's proprietary data not only identifies those parcels with historic lot cuts, but also the parcel and lot dimensions for dialing in the best candidates. 

Feel free to contact me for more information on searching for Historic Lot Cuts and using Historic Lot Cuts to your competitive advantage.

Above: Areas in the City of Los Angeles with Historic Lot Cuts.


Topics: Geospatial, Data Science, Urban Infill

Benjamin Pezzillo

Written by Benjamin Pezzillo

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