February 1st, 2010
This was my first direct contact with the SLO Planning Dept. Bob Howard had years before applied for and gotten a minor use permit (MUP) to drill a test water well on my lot at Cave Landing. I gave this permit to Doug Enloe, the well driller. But before Doug could start drilling he was told by the Planning Dept that he needed one more environmental permit. But the Planning Dept would not give Doug the necessary permit – because water wells for domestic use are not allowed inside County Service Areas like CSA 12. I tried to explain to the Planning Dept that I want to use the water for fire suppression. My email to Ryan Hostetter explaining what I want to use the well water for is here:
The Public Health Department also had to approve the well site:
February 4th, 2010
I called John King, the owner of a neighboring property (Sycamore Springs), to get permission for Doug Enloe to drive a well drilling rig across John’s property. I had never talked to John before; he was very helpful and kind. I told John about my problem with the Planning Dept in getting a simple well permit. John suggested that I hire Dave Watson, with whom John had worked on many projects in San Luis Obispo County. I met with Dave shortly afterward and immediately hired him. It was clear that I would need a professional planner to help me to deal with the Planning Dept.
February 14th, 2010
Lenny and Dave wanted to make sure that we have the very best people to design the house and to help with the SLO permitting process. The whole team is as follows:
Rob & Judi McCarthy – owners
Bob Howard – land developer, San Miguelito Partners
Leonard Grant – architect
Jim Wiens – lawyer for contracts
Greg Sanders – lead lawyer for SLO permit process
John Flynn – lawyer for SLO permit process
Fred Gaines – lawyer for Coastal Commission appeal
Dave Watson – planning consultant
Todd Smith – project manager for Cannon Engineering
Susan Roberts – principal engineer from Cannon Engineering
Ed Collins – senior engineer from Cannon Engineering
Jeffry Gordon Smith – landscape architect
Bill Cole – geotechnical from Geoinsight
Dennis Shallenberger – geologist from Earth Systems Pacific
Richard Gorman – geologist from Earth Systems Pacific
Tim Cleath – geologist from Cleath and Associates
Brooke Langle – environmental consultant from Terra Verde
Greg Gibbons – general contractor
All of these very expensive people are necessary to just get the permits to build one single family residence in SLO County!
The reason that we built such a large, capable team of professionals is that I had heard horror stories about dealing with the Planning Dept from previous applicants and their professional teams. Added to that was my own experience 20 years ago, when adding one bedroom and bathroom to my current house meant a seven month permitting process. Given how much money I now had at stake it made sense to get as much insurance as possible in the form of really talented people to give my house the best possible chance of getting a permit. I didn’t know what the Planning Dept was going to do, but I suspected the worst, and so I hired the best people to defend the project.
Later I had to add even more people to the team in order to get a building permit. These people were:
Jeff Emrick – civil engineer from Garing Taylor & Associates
David Fross – native plants expert from Native Sons Nursery
Robert Malone – Designer from RRM Design (Lenny Grant’s new company)
And then, a year after my minor use permit got appealed to the California Coastal Commission, I hired one more person:
Bonnie Neely – former Coastal Commissioner and lobbyist for the Coastal Commission
February 22nd, 2010
After three weeks of phone calls and emails, plus $5,000 of “erosion control engineering design work,” and visits to the Planning Dept by Todd Smith (project manager at Cannon Engineering) trying to get the additional permits necessary to drill the water well, Nancy Orton and Ryan Hostetter of the Planning Dept decided that if I write a letter that promises that I will never, ever use the well for domestic water, then I don’t actually need any additional environmental permits at all to drill the well.
Here is the letter they forced me to write and Fed Ex to them:
Doug Enloe drilled the well without incident. Doug hit water at about 280 ft down, or at roughly the same elevation as our planned house.
Tim Cleath and Doug Enloe did the well pumping test for me. They pumped 20 gallons per minute for almost 12 hours, or about 14,000 gallons. The well did fine. Based on the feet the well water dropped during the test, Tim estimated that I could pump at least 10 gpm indefinitely. Tim’s well test results are here.
A flow rate over 10 gal per minute is enough water for 4 houses. The water quality is excellent – better than most municipal water sources. I really lucked out here.
UPDATE: Right before my Coastal Commission hearing in June 2012 Tim Cleath sent me a letter saying that the well test was fine. The letter is here: Tim Cleath the well is good.
March 12th, 2010
While reading some of the geology reports, Lenny Grant came across a pretty cool picture of Cave Landing. I think this was an aerial shot take by Geoinsight when they were doing some work around 2004.
April 27th, 2010
Greg Sanders went to a meeting at SLO County Parks Dept to talk with them about sharing some of the 4 acre-feet/year of CSA 12 water that Cave Landing has by contract. Bob offered to pay all the installation charges for a 4 inch pipeline and a small pumping station to bring the water up to Cave Landing from the CSA 12 water main: about $280,000 in total expenses to Bob. If the Parks Dept wanted some of the water, then Bob would only charge them their proportional water usage – estimated to be around $1,500 per year. Our thought was that the Parks Dept would like some landscaping, some drinking fountains, and maybe some bathrooms to serve the public visiting the Pirates Cove beach area (Pirates Cove is the beach area just below and to the left of Cave Landing Ranch). But the Parks Dept would not have to use the water, and if they didn’t want any, they wouldn’t be required to pay anything.
Nancy Orton and Ryan Hostetter from the Planning Dept also showed up at the meeting and told Greg that the “will serve” letter we have from CSA 12 is invalid. Furthermore, they said that we cannot get our water from CSA 12 without getting the Avila Beach Community Service District (Avila Beach CSD) to move their boundary to encompass Cave Landing.
In 2007, Greg and Bob had met with then-Director of the Planning Dept Victor Holanda and Deputy County Counsel Tim McNulty, and they hammered out a deal for water service from CSA 12 for Cave Landing. Consistent with this agreement with SLO County, CSA 12 issued the “will serve” letter on January 23, 2007, stating all the conditions necessary to get water service for Cave Landing. It had taken Greg and Bob over three years of work to get all of these conditions fulfilled. And now the Planning Dept was reneging on the agreement!
A technical note: a “will serve” letter is a legal contract between a water district and an end user which lays out the conditions necessary for the end user to get water service. Developers view them as a golden ticket because once you have a “will serve” letter, nobody can take away the water for your project. Except, of course, for the SLO Planning Dept.
A copy of the “will serve” letter from CSA 12 for Cave Landing is here.
May 12th, 2010
After the meeting at the SLO County Parks Dept, Greg Sanders wrote to Kami Griffin at the Planning Dept about why Cave Landing should be allowed to install a water pipeline to connect to the CSA 12 water main.
Greg made one mistake in this letter. He said that the urban reserve and urban services lines are coterminous. I had proofread the letter before Greg sent it, as had Dave Watson, and we both missed that. It actually is a trivial mistake, but later Kami seized on this mistake as part of her decision to not allow Cave Landing to use CSA 12 water.
May 24th, 2010
People applying for a minor use permit in SLO county are advised to have a pre-application meeting with the Planning Dept to find out if there are any issues that need to be addressed in the MUP application. We decided to do this. We wanted to make sure that if the Planning Dept had any questions that we would have the right expert there to answer immediately. So on Monday, May 24th, at 11:00am my team met with the Planning Dept in at the main county building.
My team consisted of Dave Watson (planner), Leonard Grant (architect), Bill Cole (geologist), Dennis Shallenberger (geologist), Rick Gorman (geologist), Jeffrey Smith (landscape architect), Brooke Langle (environmental), Susan Roberts (engineering), Todd Smith (engineering/planning), Ed Collins (engineering manager), and Greg Gibbons (general contractor).
Lenny made a presentation, Dave made a few remarks, and then asked for questions from the Planning staff. There were none. The meeting lasted exactly one hour because the Planning staff was anxious to leave for lunch at noon.
Based on this meeting we decided to submit our application for a minor use permit with the information and documentation that we already had.
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.