California development regulations are out of control.
An example of the many projects I’ve built after battling with jurisdictions;
Young family, buys a piece of property in the heart of San Diego to build a modest new home. This raw land had never been built on due to its steep topography, while all of the surrounding lots had been developed decades earlier. In San Diego we have canyons, and this block of lots has a canyon in the backyards of the lots, on both parallel streets, with what’s called a “paper alley” at the bottom of the canyon. The sewer had been installed in the canyon back in the 1920’s. This canyon is completely development locked, meaning the entire rim around it had houses or streets existing.
16 months of processing for a discretionary permit, granting us the privilege to then submit for processing for an actual building permit. From project start to construction completed – 4 years.
4 years. Ridiculous. My clients were absolutely amazing through the entire process. Their perseverance was inspiration to me.
With the steep topography, the street being on the high side, the “paper alley” being way down below at the very back of the property – it was a no-brainer that the house needed to be up top close to the street. The only “native habitat” on the City maps was down below, where we were not building. However, because the sewer that was installed at the bottom about 90 years ago was our connection to this service, we had to trench down to it. Because of that, full California Environmental mania came in to play. Without going into too much detail, we actually had to get approval from many agencies including… yes, Fish And Game. Apparently because when it rains (in San Diego) some water collects at the bottom of the canyon for a few days.
There was also the native bird nesting periods, that we had to avoid during construction.
To make matters worse, because of the very real wildfire danger here, the Fire Department had very specific requirements for “brush management”. At the same time Environmental had very specific requirements for not touching the environment. At the same time Landscape had very specific requirements for plantings and erosion control. My head was going to explode, trying to make these departments coordinate with one another, and shield my clients as best I could from this stressful unnecessary insane nonsense.
Whew… I feel better now. Thanks for listening. In the end the house turned out beautiful, and there’s a beautiful young family creating their own history in this custom designed home just for them. It’s a part of their lifestyle, its the backdrop to family events, photos, videos, and will be a part of their heritage. Thinking about that feels good.
The system is broken however. The lack of reason, logic and common sense on small projects is maddening.