June 13, 2005
San Mateo County's Enterprise GIS System
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Message from the Editor -


Welcome to GISWeekly! Enterprise GIS systems are appearing in the news quite often these days. For municipalities such as San Mateo County in California, the need to share data between various offices within the county spurred them to seek an enterprise GIS system. Read about how different offices within the county worked together to create an enterprise GIS to benefit them all in this week's Industry News.


GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, Appointments, New Products, Around the Web and Upcoming Events.


GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at


Best wishes,

Susan Smith, Managing Editor




Industry News


San Mateo County's Enterprise GIS System


By Susan Smith


Enterprise GIS systems are appearing in the news quite often these days. For municipalities such as San Mateo County in California, the need to share data between various offices within the county spurred them to seek an enterprise GIS system.


CLICK TO ENLARGE
San Mateo County is basically 750 square miles bounded by San Francisco to the north, Stanford to the south, the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay to the east. It has 20 cities, 700,000 people. Because it is a high tech area, many people don't realize that it has a lot of open space, redwood forests and rugged coastlines. Agriculture is one of its main industries, and strawberries, artichokes and flowers are among the crops grown there.


It is also the bioscience capital of the world, and home to Oracle, Genentech, Sun Microsystems and many other technology companies.




Business Challenge


San Mateo County knew they needed to share data and that they needed an infrastructure in order to do so. Initially, the IT, planning, assessors and public works offices got together. “We also had to incorporate other cities, and agencies such as the Board of Education,” said Charles Borden, project manager, business systems, for the Information Services Department. “It required jurisdiction coordination since we had to jump boundaries.”


The Board of Supervisors office wanted to set a vision for the county to follow which they named “Vision 2010,” which provided support for the group. The timeline for the project went as follows:


6/1998 - Board of Supervisors approved a plan for county-wide GIS.

1/2001 - Implemented GIS hardware and software and basic map layers deployed

8/2001 - GIS used for San Mateo County Supervisorial redistricting

9/2001 - updates of GIS layers began (parcels, election precincts)

10/2002 - GIS portal and web applications deployed

1/2003 - GIS rolled out to three departments public works, assessor, planning. They started coupling Hansen with GIS.


Although the County looked at many different solutions, Intergraph's data independence, and its focus on “not worrying where the data came from” was a big factor in San Mateo's choice of their solution.


The Oracle Server used contains just the database and the application servers contain all the applications. The Internet server has all the web maps for web users which go to the intranet.


75% of the spatial activities and analysis for the Web use Oracle spatial tools and functions. “If someone changes parcel features, we use Oracle for post processing of data,” said Borden. “We can use GeoMedia Web for some of the web activities. We are looking at taking orthophotos and storing them, and getting some other jurisdictions to share in the expense.”


With regard to their Internet presence and licensing structure the county must decide what to put on it, and be careful of whose information is listed on the internet.




Data Stewardship


Warren Slocum, Assessor, county clerk and recorder, said that no one is in charge of the county, and there is “always a pull toward independence.” By having county wide standards in place, this helps keep some sense of order. “We use key fields to link data. All GIS data is in the database and all ancillary data might be somewhere else.”


The County Assessors' Office comprises county clerk, assessor, recorder and elections - four departments rolled into one.


The office handles:

Voter registration - conduct of elections

Record all real property transactions

Marriage licenses, qualifying notary publics and providing birth, death and marriage certificates

Valuation of all real and personal property for property tax purposes.


Assessor parcel maintenance:

Composed of multiple workflows:
Paper maps - mylar and working books

Assess database (tabular change that represent legal changes)

GIS parcel fabric - emulates true legal boundaries

In the GIS, a document gets recorded (such as a parcel map), a change is made to the assessor database and records it, an inbox is created and relates GIS data to assessor's database. It then lets you know where changes must be made to the GIS.


Every department in the county has access to this intranet site, which includes a metadata catalog (including levels and features using Intergraph's SMMS), standards, and charter (governing structure), said Slocum. “Everything with parcels is done with Oracle Spatial.”


In order to maintain a parcel fabric:
- Create record for new parcel in assessor database

- You can look up historical documents

- This parcel tool automatically stores parcel geometry and can add multiple APNs for parcels.

- Retire old parcel geometry - keep on file

- There is a nightly dump of all information so that changes made will appear tomorrow.


Public Works Department


Adam Lodge, Public Works GIS manager, said that his department uses raster maps access and uses geography as a search criteria. They must access survey maps.


Orphan raster are maps that don't have a polygon, Lodge explained. When a GIS technician wants to build a link s/he zooms into a lot, uses a parcel to link to an LLS polygon, then uses the interactive phase command to insert a polygon. It tells you a list of APNs relevant to the polygons you've placed in both property review and raster applications.


You can then store this document in a file system. In the future, the county may store in Georaster, which is a part of Oracle and they could also use Filenet.


Public works has its own internal enterprise system including asset management. They use Hansen, a standalone product that holds tabular information, that doesn't have a GIS component. “Intergraph allows us to view data from Hansen into GIS,” explained Lodge. “We populated Hansen from our GIS.”


Oracle Spatial is used to maintain street node layer. It also allows Public Works to automate a lot of processes such as views and to integrate cleanly with Hansen. GeoMedia can pull in data from Hansen to make thematic maps.


The county is working to move 911 data into the enterprise system. The existing GIS system isn't fast enough for emergency response. Pavement Management is done in Street Saver outside Hansen, and can be put together in GIS.


The Linear Referencing System provides the capability to segment roads, and use attribute data to create a segmentation layer. This is all pulled from one geometry and GeoMedia is used to create different views.


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