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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Designing Your ‘New California Garden’: 2. Developing a Base Map (Base Plan)


Background: A base map or base plan shows the layout of the property and accurately locates the permanent site elements on a residential lot. In urban areas and developments, lots have typically been surveyed.  You may already have a copy of your deed map or property survey (or can obtain one from your local municipality).   If you live in Los Angeles County, you can view the official deed map for your property on-line at the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office site : http://maps.assessor.lacounty.gov/mapping/viewer.asp  Just type in your street address and city to view the appropriate deed map. 
If a property survey has been done, it should show all property edges, setbacks and right of ways, building and pavement locations, and other permanent site elements.   If no property survey exists, you may want to have a survey conducted by a reputable surveyor.   This will help you correctly locate permanent structures on your property as well as adjacent property lines, fences, pavement, etc.   Having a recent survey map will save you time and effort constructing your base map.
We suggest that you construct two base maps: one that just includes the physical features (Base Map 1) and a second that also includes any existing plants you will retain in your new landscape (Base Map 2).  You can use a copy of Base Map 1 to draw Base Map 2.  And you will use copies of Base Map 2 to construct the maps you’ll need for your for site assessments, functional analysis and drawing the landscape plan.

Constructing Base Map 1:  
To construct Base Map 1, start by redrawing the property survey to scale at a larger size.   For properties under an acre in size, a scale of 1"=10' is an appropriate scale. For smaller urban properties your scale may be even larger.   You want a scale that is large enough to show details, but small enough to be photocopied.
You may find it easiest to use simple ruled (quadrille) paper to help you draw your base map.  If you want to draw it freehand, we suggest using an architectural ruler or an engineer's scale (these supplies are available at most drafting or art shops).   We recommend drawing your plan first in pencil; then ink in the lines for the final base map.

Example: Base Map 1 for typical local home
Lot size is 60 ft. by 80 ft.

The base map should show the following information:

  • all property lines.
  • bodies of water (streams, lakes, ponds, low areas with seasonal flooding)
  • buildings, including basic floor plan with doors and windows noted
  • downspouts
  • outside water spigots
  • outside electrical outlets
  • decks and overhangs
  • air conditioner units
  • all walls, fences, utility boxes and poles, fire hydrants, etc.
  • roads, drives, parking areas, walks and paths, patios, swimming pools
  • on and off site utilities including electric, telephone, gas, water, sewer, septic tanks and field drains.
  • off site elements including adjoining roads and drives, bodies of water, and structures that may influence your design.
  • compass directions showing north, east, south and west.
  • the scale size of the base plan.

We strongly suggest you read the helpful article ‘Drawing a Landscape Plan: The Base Map’ before drawing your base map (http://www.caes.uga.edu/Publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=7444).  

Once your Base Map 1 is completed, make 3 or more photocopies of it.   Store the original in a safe place. 


Base Map 2 for our Example Home

Constructing Base Map 2:  
Using a copy of Base Map 1, draw an outline of any pre-existing plants you wish to retain in your new landscape.   Be sure to draw the plants to scale and locate the accurately.  For example, the outline of a tree should show the extent of it’s spread (as if you were looking down on it from above).  Do not fill in the outline, since you may want to plant other plants under the tree.   Once your Base Map 2 is completed, make 7 or more photocopies of it.   Store the original in a safe place.   You will use the copies to map the physical characteristics of your site, the irrigation system, etc.  You will also use copies to develop your landscape plan.  


Other helpful resources on drawing a landscape base map




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