Why a blog about getting a building permit?
August 12th, 2009
NOTE – The posts in SLOLeaks.com are in chronological order. To see the latest posts choose the current month link under “Archives” on the right panel. I also have a Summary of the most important events here.
I actually started this blog in February 2011. I wish I had started back in August 2009 when Judi and I first decided to build a new house. But since August 2009 I kept every email, every letter, every report, and every drawing so I have been able to recreate all that happened. I also used the California Public Records Act to try to get all its relevant emails from the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department. From here on I will post things as they happen – because after over two years of effort I am still far, far away from securing my permit.
To someone who doesn’t live in San Luis Obispo County (SLO) all of this must seem crazy. After all, how much more difficult could it be to get a building permit in SLO than the rest of the state, or the country? The answer is, sadly, a lot more difficult.
I want to be clear. I do not think that some evil cabal set out to deprive decent citizens of their constitutional property rights in SLO. Instead, what I believe is that the political leaders, for their own good reasons, decided long ago that SLO should be a “slow growth” county. And over the years hiring practices, procedures, state regulations, and pressure groups like Surf Riders, Sierra Club, etc. have created an environment where the SLO County Planning Dept staff view their job as preventing as much building as possible. Judi’s joke is that it should be called the SLO Planning To Stop You Department.
Who can secure a building permit in SLO County? It helps to be rich or well connected. You need to have the resources to pay for the extraordinary legal and consulting help that the process currently demands. This makes housing costs very high, and so there is a limited amount of low income housing. Traffic is congested because it is so difficult to build new roads, or expand old roads. Homeowners have a very difficult time getting permits to remodel. Water resources are artificially limited by the local government so that new housing in many areas cannot be constructed at all. And local kids have to move out of the county to find a job.
Why do I want so much to live here? My great grandfather, William McCarthy, moved to this part of California in 1906 and started a business, and my family has lived here since. At Avila I am in a beautiful place, where I had my happiest childhood memories, and many members of my extended family live nearby. And so Avila is where I want to spend the rest of my life.
What follows are my comments, along with documents, emails, drawings, etc., about each step I took to try to get a building permit for a single family residence in SLO County, on a parcel that is properly zoned, has no building code variances, and has both well water and a “will serve” letter from the county water utility. In most any other county in the USA this could be done within four weeks*. But not here …
*Note: I checked with the Planning Director of Kern County about the time necessary to get a MUP in his county. His answer was four weeks – I had originally put two weeks here and I want to be as accurate as possible so I have edited this.