Archive for June, 2010
June 1st, 2010
Lenny started working on the design of the house at Cave Landing in August, 2009, and in early June 2010 he had everything pretty much the way he wanted it. Judi and I were delighted with the design.
The exterior looks like a low key, neutral colored, Big Sur style ranch house and barn of average proportions, except for a large amount of windows facing the ocean. The roof lines are curved to mimic the natural curves of the hillsides. Ideally, when we are done with the construction, passersby will not even notice the house, or will assume that it has been there a long, long time.
Inside the house we are trying for a modern take on the classic craftsman style homes, with lots of natural materials like wood and stone. We don’t want a museum – it has to be a house where dogs and kids can play.
In size, the new house at Cave Landing is slightly bigger than our existing house in Avila Valley – the main thing being there are are two small office areas – one for Judi and one for me. There are 3 bedrooms in the house, and one bedroom and a loft area in the barn for guests. This is so that our kids and my sister with her kids can all fit comfortably at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and our various nieces and nephews with their kids can visit at any time and not feel like they are imposing on me and Judi.
There are no saunas, pool rooms, media rooms, trophy rooms, etc. However, there is a dog door and a small fenced area so the our two Labrador retrievers can go in and out of the house on their own.
Lenny said that it is the best single family home that he has ever designed, and he is extraordinarily proud of it. He believes that it will end up in architectural magazines as an example of how to build sustainable, eco-friendly housing that is both functional and beautiful.
Lenny has continued to tweak the design since June, but has not made any major changes.
June 10th, 2010
Lenny and Dave filed the Minor Use permit (MUP) application for the Cave Landing Ranch house with the Planning Dept on June 10, 2010. The cover sheet and views, etc., are here:
Cave Landing MUP Application Cover Sheet and Views (careful – this is a 20 meg PDF so it will take a while to load)
Here is just page 12, which has the simulated views of the house:
Cave Landing Simulated Views (1 meg PDF)
It took Dave over an hour just to explain all the documents that we are submitted to Ryan Hostetter of the Planning Dept. With all the required copies of all the reports (like Geology, Environmental, etc.) the stack of documents was about 3 ft tall. Dave said that Ryan was shocked to see the “will serve” letter from CSA 12 that commits CSA 12 to supplying water to the house. This “will serve” letter undermines the argument of the Planning Dept that I need to get water from Avila Beach CSD, and thus I need to move the Avila Beach CSD urban services line (USL). This is the CSA 12 “will serve” letter.
By the way, we believe this is the most well documented MUP permit application for a single family house in the history of San Luis Obispo County.
June 11th, 2010
After Doug Enloe drilled the water well, we tested it for flow rate and water quality. Doug did the flow rate test right away, and the results were that the well could probably deliver 20 gal per minute, but Doug was really sure the well could deliver 15 gal per minute sustained – which is way more than you need for a single family home.
Building code requirements for wells are here.
The water quality is another issue. I was concerned that the well might deliver smelly sulphur water, as Sycamore Hot Springs right next door has hot sulphur water. But once again, I was lucky. The well has very good quality water, better than most community water in Southern California.
So the water well produces plenty of high quality water and it could be used for domestic water at Cave Landing. However I actually drilled the water well so that I could use the water to fight potential fires on top of the ridge.
To translate the test results I got my good friend Rodger Baird, who for many years ran the water testing laboratories in Orange County, to take a look. Here is Rodger’s opinion:
June 12th, 2010
Could it be that all of the evil in the entire SLO County government is concentrated in the Planning Dept? From my conversations with local architects, engineers, planners, builders, and property owners it would appear that it is so. But I don’t actually believe that.
What I believe is that the Planning Dept staff has its own policy, and its own agenda, and that it pursues that policy and agenda whenever possible.
And in our case, I don’t believe that Planner Ryan Hostetter is the instigator in all this trouble. In fact, I believe that Kami Griffin (Planning Dept Acting Director at this date), Nancy Orton (Senior Planner), and James Caruso (Senior Planner) are actually the ones who are telling Ryan Hostetter what to do.
(FYI: During the summer of 2010, SLO County was interviewing people for the open Planning Dept Director job. Kami Griffin applied for the job but was rejected, and outsider Jason Giffen was hired in from San Diego County. My conclusion is that internally the top managers of SLO County don’t think much of Kami.)
I also believe that, for many years, the Planning Dept has not had effective management that aligns the staff with the overall policy goals of the County Supervisors. Given this power vacuum, the Planning Dept has expanded as much as possible – as any bureaucracy would do in the same circumstances. In this particular case, expansion of the Planning Dept’s power means that more and more policy decisions are being made by the Planning staff. In other counties the Planning staff’s job is pretty simple, because all they have to do is enforce simple zoning requirements, etc. In SLO County, the Planning staff has taken it upon themselves to effectively set land use policy. This inevitably causes controversy. The Supervisors need to take back their power. As elected officials, they are accountable to voters, and the planning staff are not.
The Planning Dept decides that Cave Landing must be moved into Avila Beach CSD to get water service from CSA 12
June 16th, 2010
This is the incoherent letter that Kami Griffin, the acting Planning Dept Director, sent to Greg Sanders stating the Planning Dept’s decision to require that the Avila Beach Urban Services Line (USL) must be moved to encompass Cave Landing in order for my property to get water service from CSA 12. If that sounds confusing – you are right, it is confusing.
What Kami is saying is that in order to get water service from CSA 12 (the county service district that Cave Landing is inside of), I need to get the SLO Board of Supervisors, LAFCo, the Coastal Commission, and Avila Beach CSD to agree to move the boundaries of Avila Beach CSD to include Cave Landing. This would also require amending the SLO County General Plan and the SLO County Local Coastal Plan.
Or stated even more simply – I need to get the boundaries moved of the water service district that Cave Landing is currently in (CSA 12), putting Cave Landing inside another water service district (Avila Beach CSD), in order to get water service from the district that Cave Landing is currently in (CSA 12).
Oh, and by the way, it is impossible to move the boundary of Avila Beach CSD – because that requires Avila Beach CSD to agree to share their water with me, and that will never, ever happen. And it also would require me to get sewer service from Avila Beach CSD, and that also will never, ever happen.
What is most important about Kami’s letter is what is doesn’t say – it does NOT have the argument about Public Policy 1 that will later become the Planning Dept’s main argument. And this means that, in reality, the Planning Dept is opposed to my house (for unknown reasons) and they are grabbing any argument they can to to get the policy outcome that they want. The Planning Dept is NOT simply following the public policy of the Supervisors to the best of their ability.
The Planning Dept would like the public to believe that they are just like a baseball umpire, calling balls and strikes as they see ‘em. In fact, the Planning Dept is like a baseball umpire who moves the strike zone around to make sure that you always are out.
June 20th, 2010
I know that all of this talk about USL and CSA and sphere of service is confusing, but (unfortunately for me) this is the core of my fight with the Planning Dept.
Let me define these terms as clearly as I can.
CSDs – Along the coast in SLO County there are urban areas that get water and/or sewer service from community service districts (CSD). CSDs have an Urban Service Line (USL), and an Urban Reserve Line (URL). The USL is the line around the area that the CSD currently gives services to, and the URL is the line outside of the USL area that the CSD may extend services to in the near future.
CSAs – County service areas (CSA) are legal entities that the Board of Supervisors have created to supply some sort of services to rural parts of the county. CSAs have “sphere of service” areas and “sphere of service lines” that define where they can deliver services.
All of these areas, spheres, and lines are codified in the General Plan and the Local Coastal Plan (LCP), which are county ordinances (not state or federal ordinances) that have been adopted by the Board of Supervisors of SLO County, and in the case of the LCP, also approved by the Coastal Commission. The General Plan is for all of SLO County, the LCP is only for the coastal areas of SLO.
Two CSAs are in the coastal zone. CSA 10 delivers water service to the beach town of Cayucos. Two small areas of CSA 12 are also in the coastal zone. These two areas are the Port of San Luis and Cave Landing. The Port of San Luis and Cave Landing are separated from each other by the urban area of Avila Beach, which has a CSD. The Port of San Luis has been getting water service from CSA 12 for many years.
From my research it looks like Avila Beach CSD was just created in 1997, so before then all of Avila must have gotten water service directly from CSA 12.
So far, so good: no disputes up to this point between the Planning Dept and me.
It is my contention that Cave Landing should get water service from CSA 12, since it is inside the CSA 12 sphere of service, just like the Port of San Luis, who currently gets water service from CSA 12. This is also similar to Cayucos, which is entirely within CSA 10, has no CSD, and is in the Coastal Zone. The Planning Dept disagrees.
Eventually, after giving several different explanations over a period of a couple of months, the Planning Dept will finally settle on an argument (found by James Caruso in the Pat Beck letter) saying that Cave Landing shouldn’t get water service from CSA 12 because of Public Policy 1, which states: “Permitted development outside the USL shall be allowed only if it can be serviced by adequate private on-site water and waste disposal systems”. I actually agree with the Planning Dept here, because you shouldn’t give services to development outside of the service area without amending the service area lines first. But where the Planning Dept and I disagee is this: it is the Planning Dept’s opinion that Cave Landing is outside of any USL, and it is my opinion that Cave Landing is inside the USL of CSA 12.
Here is my reasoning on why Cave Landing is actually inside a USL:
Here is the page in the local coastal plan (LCP) that defines of sphere of service line. This is the one line from that LCP page that defines what a sphere of service line is: “The definitions of the sphere of influence and sphere of service lines correspond directly to the definitions of the Urban Reserve and Urban Services Lines (respectively) in the Land Use Element.”
What this means is that the boundary of a CSA, such as CSA 12, corresponds directly to a USL of a CSD. This is awkward phrasing, but what the LCP is saying is the the border of CSA 12 is a USL. Therefore, since Cave Landing is inside of CSA 12, it therefore follows that Cave Landing is inside a USL.
So the root of the main argument is this – the Planning Dept says that Cave Landing is outside of a USL, and I say that Cave Landing is, in fact, inside a USL.
And, of course, I am right.
I should point out that I didn’t figure this out myself – my very capable lawyers Greg Sanders and John Flynn figured this out many years ago.
And one more point that I would like to make: the CSA 12 service area was created by the Board of Supervisors in 1966 with Cave Landing inside of it, before the Coastal Commission even existed. For over half a century it has been the Board of Supervisors’ clearly defined public policy that Cave Landing should get water service from CSA 12.
June 22nd, 2010
AVAC is the “Avila Valley Advisory Council”. Their website is here.
AVAC was created by the SLO County Supervisors in 1996, along with about 10 other Advisory Councils in SLO County. AVAC is supposed to advise their County Supervisor on the Avila Valley communities’ reactions to various land use issues inside the Avila Valley area. For example, when someone like me applies for a MUP permit, the Planning Dept then refers the application to the Advisory Council to get the communities’ input on the project before a permit is issued. Sounds like a reasonable idea, right?
In practice this can prove a really bad idea, as any student of human behavior can tell you. What has happened at AVAC is that some well meaning people with time on their hands (mostly retired) are given power to interfere with the lives and property rights of their fellow citizens without any serious consequences to themselves.
In my particular case, it means that Anne Brown, a member of AVAC, who has no education whatsoever in architecture, can impose on my MUP permit “conditions of approval” that force me to change the shape of my roof to suit her – which is what she did!
Now Anne Brown can impose these conditions on me without any repercussions – unless I decide to sue her, which will cost her (and me as well) many thousands of dollars. I don’t believe that Anne actually understands that I can sue her, and I also don’t believe that she has any idea of how close I am to suing her – because otherwise she would be a lot more cautious. But if the Planning Dept puts a “condition of approval” on my permit that changes my roof to please Anne Brown, I will first appeal the decision to the Planning Commission, and then to the Board of Supervisors, and then I will sue Anne Brown. Because the shape of my roof is Judi’s and my decision to make – not Anne Brown’s.
My advice to the SLO County Supervisors is that they should discontinue Advisory Councils altogether since they cause much more trouble than they are worth. Failing that, my advice would be to have the training of Advisory Councils emphasize setting priorities. In other words, teach these council people to wisely pick their battles. In my case, AVAC is picking a battle with me involving their trampling of my Constitutional rights in order to get a very modest change in the overall appearance of my house. This is a battle that AVAC should not have started because the payoff is so low for the possible negative consequences.
June 23rd, 2010
This is a discussion between various Planning Dept staff people about AVAC boundaries. And how are the boundaries set? As you may have guessed, the Planning Dept staff just makes it up.
It is my contention that Cave Landing is outside the boundary of AVAC, and therefore AVAC should have no part in my MUP permit application. However, in the content of my overall battle to get a building permit, this is just a minor skirmish.
June 30th, 2010