By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.
When someone is injured because they tripped and fell on a sidewalk, or in a field, or near a school, the immediate answer to who was responsible is not always readily apparent. For example, cities often claim that the sidewalk is jointly controlled with a homeowner. Some cities will cross-complain against the homeowner or other landowner. Some will just assert that the homeowner is responsible and wait for the person injured, typically the plaintiff, to make a claim or file suit against the property owner. Sometimes, a plaintiff, for a variety of reasons, does not want to sue one organization or another. Since economic damages are joint and severable, that may be a judgment call a plaintiff is willing to take. Another reason may be that the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s lawyer has failed to comply with the Government Claims Act. Then, the defendant may wish to file a Government Claim and then file a cross-complaint for indemnification.
There are few better ways of learning a city, its businesses, and its infrastructure than by walking. Since we are having such nice weather, particularly for early January, I took a break from my office and walked around the block. I am on a block which is mostly on the Lugonia grid, but it is punctuated by the turn of the former State Highway 99, now Redlands Boulevard. To walk around the block, I walked out of the parking lot of Redlands Executive Suites, which it shares with Bakers Drive-Thru and Arby’s onto the sidewalk along the southern portion of Colton Avenue. I took the sidewalk past Dynasty Suites, Taco Bell, past an Omnitrans bus shelter, past the Carl’s Jr. on the corner of Tennessee Street and West Colton Avenue. I took the sidewalk south past the parking lot for Carl’s Jr. on Tennessee, past Michelle’s and Excel Automotive.
Once you pass Excel Automotive walking south on Tennessee, the sidewalk ends. The pedestrian is faced with a small patch of asphalt and railroad tracks at grade, or to cross the tracks. To the north of the tracks is a small drainage ditch. Along the railroad tracks are a series of what appear to be utility poles. Most of them are not connected by wires.
I have investigated a variety of incidents and accidents over the year since becoming a lawyer. That, coupled with being involved with public works contracts, lobbying for grants from the United States Government, advising local municipal departments, and practicing code enforcement law, and boards, has left me fascinated with infrastructure, public and private.
The railroad lines behind my office are part of the Redlands Industrial Spur. Having lived in the Inland Empire almost my entire life, save for college and law school, I do not ever recall seeing a train on these particular tracks, though I have seen trains on other portions of the spur, and I am told as recently as five years ago, trains were seen on the spur line.
While figuring out who owns what infrastructure can be difficult, you can find clues by looking at the infrastructure, by using the internet, by using the California Public Records Act, and by using other public information and databases. One way to find evidence of ownership and control, rather than a definitive answer about ownership and control, is to use the Assessor’s Parcel Maps and to look at the San Bernardino County Tax Collector’s online ownership information. The Assessor’s Parcel Maps are designed for ad valorem taxation purposes only, but they are commonly-used to help find out the owners of property. Since the railroad tracks are near my office, I will use my office address to find the right map: 1255 W. Colton Ave, Redlands, California.
That address corresponds to San Bernardino County Assessor’s Parcel Number 0169-411-05. That corresponds to Assessor’s Map Book 0169, Page 41. The map shows a parcel with no parcel number (referring to Page 39), and it is labeled “A.T.&S.F. R.R.” for Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, the predecessor to BNSF. That doesn’t mean that BNSF currently owns or controls the railroad track.
Looking at Assessor’s Map Book 0169, Page 31, we find more information. This map shows the parcel which is one hundred feet across. It says “Reserved Rail Freight” and Serv. Esmt. It shows two parcel numbers, 02, and 04, corresponding to APN 0169-391-02 and APN 0169-391-04. There is also a little portion south of the railroad designated as 0169-391-03, which we will look up as well.
Looking up 0169-391-02, the Tax Collector says that the parcel owned by San Bernardino Associated Governments (commonly known as SANBAG), that the recording date is March 30, 1993, and the document number is 9313704100043. The tax collector says that the previous owner was “ATCHISON TOPEKA AND SANTA FE RR CO.” To find out more information, one can obtain that document by going to the County Recorder. The Tax Collector also gives an abbreviated version of the legal description: PAR NO 10 MAP 804 36 106. Looking up 0169-391-04, it says that it is an easement, with a legal description of “MAP 804 36 106 PARCEL NO 10A (RESERVED RAIL FREIGHT SERV ESMT) ***** SBE LAND CHG FOR 94 PG 13 *****” with a document number of 9500000000000, a recording date of 3/1/1994. This information would suggest, though does not conclusively prove, that this segment is owned by SANBAG, with an easement owned by BNSF for rail freight purposes. A search of the internet finds SANBAG’s FY 2011-2012 budget which has this blurb about the Redlands Industrial Spur:
Redlands Passenger Rail
The Redlands Passenger Rail Project is planned to provide service operating between a proposed
San Bernardino Transit Center at Rialto Avenue and E Street in the City of San Bernardino and
the University of Redlands on the former AT&SF Redlands spur acquired by SANBAG in 1993.
A preliminary feasibility study was completed in Fiscal Year 2002/2003. A station area plan
study, completed in January 2007, identified the preferred station locations and recommended
the type of transit-supportive land use that should occur within a ½-mile radius of each station.
A consultant is currently under contract for preparation of environmental documents necessary
for each city to modify their land use around each station location in support of rail service.
What about that little parcel? Looking up the parcel number it gives the legal description of ” BARTON RO COM ON S LI NE 1/4 LOT 20 N 89 DEG 21 MIN W 74.43 FT FROM SE COR TH N 89 DEG 21 MIN W 77 FT TH N 27.76 FT TO S LI A T AND S F R/W TH S 70 DEG 44 MIN E 81.56 FT ALG SD R/W LI TO POB EX STATE HGWY .25 AC.” That’s a small remnant parcel. It was formerly owned by the “Grant Water Company,” and looking on Google Street View, it appears to be a former well. The legal description mentions the “State Highway” meaning Redlands Boulevard.
Tomorrow, we will examine the evidence for ownership of the infrastructure along this section of the Redlands Industrial Spur.
The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
A: 1255 W. Colton Ave. Suite 104
Redlands, CA 92374
T: (909) 708-6055