Overall, as I've stated previously, I believe that having a CS review is a good thing. But there is no question that in CA, there are some problems with how that review is performed and administered. IMO, that doesn't mean that it should be done away with. It means that efforts should be made to address the real and perceived problems.
Some of the problems I've seen or have often heard others lament about are:
1. Review fees. These range from no fee to exorbitant, depending upon county, their internal financing structure and level of review. It would be good if there were more consistency, but I don't see the counties working with each other to solve it. Nor do I know if there is a legislative answer that can directly help this situation. Perhaps there are legislative solutions that can address other matters to provide more consistency in the performance of reviews across all counties that could have an indirect effect on review fees.
2. As David Kendall pointed out, the signature of the CS is often taken as and sometimes presented as an endorsement of the correctness and quality of the survey. To some extent, that may be true in some (very few if any) counties, but based on my experience and on the maps I've seen from nearly every county in the State, correctness and quality of the results of the survey are not part of the review. At best, some counties perform a level of review as Ian described - the correctness and quality is fully on the surveyor of record while the CS just ensures that, aside from the technical drafting requirements, the surveyor of record has sufficiently explained what they did so that it is either easy for following surveyors to follow, or the surveyor of record provides enough info to hang themselves given an honest and competent review by BPELSG.
Personally, I think that a reviewing surveyor necessarily has limitations that prevent him or her from fully knowing if the results are completely reasonable as the reviewing surveyor has little way of knowing how thorough the research and field work were performed. The results might appear to depict reasonable conclusions based on diligent efforts in the field and office, but without reperforming the survey, the reviewer has no way of knowing whether there is additional field evidence which should have been considered, court judgments, wills or unfiled documentation which is relevant, etc.
Often, the info on the map makes it clear that the effort was so deficient or the conclusions so off base that it's clear that a poor or bad survey was performed. I've seen several, particularly in the Bay area that are much like Ian described (survey based on 2 mons, 35' apart, 2 blocks away). Those instances are ones in which a note by the CS should be required.
Beyond that, perhaps the CS Statement should be legislatively altered to make it clear that the signature that a review occurred does not constitute an endorsement of the results or quality of the work in performing the survey.
3. Inconsistent level of review. I've seen inconsistency within a county, but that's an internal thing and not the larger problem I'm identifying here. It has registered with me for many years that some CS offices perform more rigorous reviews than others, but it really stuck home when I attended a CS Panel Discussion at a CLSA Annual Conference a few years back. When asked about the level of review, particularly with regard to apparent diligence of the survey effort and reasonableness of the conclusions, the 3-person panel ran the full gamut.
A CS from a Southern CA county said that his office does look closely at each map for those issues and will work with the surveyor for them to provide a map that reflects a survey performed and analyzed to the proper standard of care or will ad a CS note if that effort fails. The 2nd CS, also from somewhere in Southern CA, IIRC, described a review process much as Ian described, stating that if it's really obvious that the map reflects a poor survey, they will suggest the surveyor fix the procedural deficiencies and that they might add a note. The 3rd, a former CS of a Bay area county said that her office didn't look at those matters at all but limited their review to only the technical drafting requirements outlined in the PLSA. She said that she limited the review to encourage surveyors to file maps and assumed that if her review was more stringent, many surveyors would knowingly and purposely violate the PLSA by not filing when required.
The root of this inconsistency, I think - I mean beyond a work ethic that makes excuses for essentially not performing any meaningful review at all - is the vague wording of 8764(g). "Any information necessary..." leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Some CSs read that as requiring, or at least authorizing them to review whether the efforts, methods and conclusions appear reasonable (and I think there is room for that interpretation), while others think that depicting a few found and set monument positions that have bearings and distances between them that reflect the closure report is sufficient (IMO, there is room for this interpretation for instances where the survey is very straightforward and appropriate control was found and used, i.e. an interior lot in a subdivision for which controlling monumentation is abundant). But some apply that last interpretation to all survey maps and, IMO, there is not room for that lax an interpretation. If that is to be the extent of review, then it is utterly useless.
I believe that language could be tightened up without dictating methods as some state's MTS seem to get into. Something to the effect that the various elements of survey be fully explained, from the control used (why limited to the 2 mons, 2 blocks away and 35' apart) and how a lack of better control (when applicable) has potentially affected results, to the reasoning behind the establishment of each point and line. That doesn't dictate to the surveyor what control must be used or what evidence and reasoning must be followed, but would provide info for others to better assess the effort and results and provide the side benefit of encouraging some marginal practitioners to be a little more diligent when they realize that having to provide the explanation makes it more difficult to hide the corners they cut in performance of the survey.
There may be other issues that some have with the review process, but I think if #2 & #3 could be effectively dealt with through legislation, that would help with #1 to some extent. It would also make it easier to subsequently look for potential solutions to a somewhat simplified matter of inconsistent review fees.
Evan Page, PLS
A Certain Forum Essayist