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California man fined $1,000 for drawing lines on map

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Image: Institute of Justice

Los Angeles entrepreneur Ryan Crownholm is suing California for being fined $1,000 for drawing maps.

Crownholm, founder of, a website that allows people to purchase unofficial maps of their property drawn from existing information and images, is the California Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and A letter of citation has been issued by Geologists. Crownholm and Site had conducted land surveys illegally without a license.

The board said a license was required to “delineate property lines, fixed construction locations, and their geographic relationship to them,” and would not only pay Crownholm a $1,000 fine, but also suspend the business. I requested

The Board’s language that anyone who “depicts the location of property lines” and delineates functions within those boundaries requires a license is broad and vague. Anyone who has ever drawn a map in California without a license can be construed as violating the law.

“Somebody has to do something and fight back. I mean, this is how I’ve been making a living for myself for years,” Crownholm tells Motherboard. “There are many other business owners in California who are kind of strangled by these policies that don’t help anyone, and certainly the people of California.”

Crownholm, in conjunction with the Institute for Justice, has filed three claims against the board in federal court. In its first allegation, the board says it violated Crownholm’s First Amendment right to free speech. Second, they argue that “California’s definition of a land survey is unconstitutionally broad and unconstitutionally vague.” On his third, the team argues for “alternative claims under the Fourteenth Amendment.” This means that Board rules must promote the government’s legitimate interests and not discriminate against “likely situated persons.” Create your own site his plan.

At the top of Crownholm’s site is a bold disclaimer that reads, “This is not a legal investigation and is not intended to conduct or exchange investigations.” The company’s “About” page clearly states that it uses public information such as Google Maps, online geographic information systems (GIS), and other programs, including satellite imagery, to create digital drawings. It also states, “If your building department doesn’t need a surveyor, engineer or architect stamp, our plans are just what you need!”

Building departments regularly accept plan drawings from non-surveyors and may even instruct contractors and homeowners on how to produce their own site drawings. Crownholm began his career as a contractor, learning how to create the site plans needed when applying for permits. For example, the City of San Gabriel, California Department of Urban Construction has a pamphlet that answers questions such as “What is a site plan?” and “How do I create a site plan?” and guide homeowners to use free online GIS data. The customer can visit her to make this process easier. Whether it’s a restaurant planning her table for al fresco dining or a wedding venue working on the next ceremony.

Local officials’ encouragement of people to create their own site drawings contradicts the commission’s assertion that anyone who draws site maps must be licensed. Of the Crownholm case he wrote:

“At the end of the day, we are a professional tracking company. We just take existing information and reuse it. does the same thing,” said Crownholm. “Anytime we need a permit, especially a building permit, they specifically say they don’t have to hire a surveyor, an architect, or an engineer. It’s just working as an extension of .So it’s like someone who doesn’t want to change the oil in their car. [so] we change it for them.

The Justice Institute said that if the board took action to close the Crownholm business, it would set a harmful precedent for all cartographers and cartographers.

“For the board to tell me it can’t be done, they also have to tell all the building departments to change all policies so that all homeowners can no longer talk about themselves.” We have to tell them that they are not allowed, and all contractors,” Crownholm said. “By the way, Zillow and Redfin and all other companies using the same database should also be shut down.”

“It has long been recognized that, as our complaint explains, a literal interpretation of the Law of Surveying Practices makes many common, everyday things illegal without a license: GIS data , Google Maps and many other current uses. Attorney representing Crownholm and Managing Attorney for the Arizona Institute of Justice office.

The requirement to have a surveyor’s license for everyone who draws maps is not only for residential purposes, but also the currently published maps used to delineate COVID-19 cases, crime rates and patterns, and current wildfires. Limit the GIS data you have. To obtain a surveyor’s license in California, he must have six years of full-time experience in land surveying. Then take and pass four exams and pay the $175 application fee.

This article is part of the State of Surveillance and made possible by support from the Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights at Columbia University and grants from Arnold Ventures. This series explores the development, deployment and impact of surveillance and its intersection with race and civil rights.