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Advice about Building Permits
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Can you be penalized for doing a remodel in a house without using permits in Berkeley? We're thinking of renovating a section of our house for our in-laws that would include redoing electrical, gas and plumbing stuff as we would add a kitchen, bathroom and central heating. Since we aren't planning to rent it out, would there be any repercussions if the city found out that we didn't get permits? And if we did get caught, what kind of penalty would we receive? Anon
A few years ago we added on to our house in Albany. We got all the proper permits, but during construction, we changed what had been described in the permit as a storage space to a half bath and laundry room. The city inspector signed off on all the work (electrical, plumbing, etc) as meeting code, so we are confident that the work is okay, but we never went through that final step of requesting the permit modification from the city, so technically, this was done without a permit. Our general contractor advised us to let sleeping dogs lie, but we would like to be able to include this in the house description when we eventually sell, and not worry about having to disclose this and maybe address this at the time of a future sale. That said, getting the permit for the main addition from the city was such a traumatic nightmare, we are reluctant to open this can of worms. Has anyone out there had any work permitted by the city of Albany afer the fact? And if so, did you live to regret it? On the fence
If you approach the city directly to get your permits ''finaled'', it is relatively easy to deal with building inspectors one-to-one in Albany, compared to nearby cities that have large numbers of inspectors who may give contradictory instructions.
Any realtor will tell you that there are houses sold in every city, every day, where there is work that has been done with no permits or permits for which no final signature was obtained. If you should find yourself in a situation of listing your house for sale where permits have not been ''finaled,'' you can disclose this situation to the buyer, along with documentation on the permit you originally pulled. The ball will then be in someone else's court.
One downside to not having your permit ''finaled'' will be that the improvements -- in your case, the new half-bath and laundry room -- will not be counted in the valuation of your property if you list your house for sale. Your agent will be legally required to disclose the ''non-permitted'' work. And when the buyer's mortgage lender's appraiser will not count the non-permitted work to justify the amount of money that bank is willing to lend to the buyer for your house.
When we built our house in Oakland, I was literally in labor when we got the final signature on the certificate of occupancy. Because the building department had wanted to drag the approvals out longer, they came back one year later and re-inspected all the things that had been inspected before. But we did get the final approvals, eventually!
we bought our house in south berkeley in 2010 with the intention of redoing the tiny backyard. we are on a ''sub standard'' corner lot - an 1800 square foot two-story house on a 1500 square foot lot. our backyard currently consists of a small deck, a little area where we have our grill and trash cans, a garage that is in need of $15000 of work and that we would never actually park a car in, and a poorly designed parking pad/driveway. we have a young child, possibly another in the future, like to entertain, and we really want to make the most of our space. because of our tiny lot, we are very close to our neighbors' homes. the neighbor behind us has at two story garage with a rental on top and unpermitted garden shed between our two garages (with their roof actually connected to our garage).
i have spent a lot of time thinking about the best use of the
space. this includes:
* removing the 12' x 20' decrepit garage
* extending the driveway (partially where the garage is, partially where the parking pad is) so that it meets the off street parking requirement
* paving the backyard with a permeable paver
* adding a prefab 6' x 8' shed for storage
- do we need a permit to remove the garage? extend the driveway? for a 48 square foot garden shed?
- does anyone with a similarly substandard lot have any insight into how regulations about setbacks may differ? i am a little concerned about our neighbor's unpermitted garden shed and how that might impact our placement of a garden shed. truth be told, i'm fairly certain they would be fine if we put the garden shed right up against their shed, but not sure if that would be allowable.
- similarly, i once read on the city's website that a parking space could be shorter than 18' when the lot was small, though nothing was specified as to what ''small'' meant. anyone ever heard of this?
thanks a million for helping me get started! drowning in permit research
Set backs are typically 4 ft on the sides, so your neighbor is in violation of this, and if you put something there (without a permit) you would be in violation too. But maybe this rule doesn't apply for non-livable space? It's my understanding that a building up to 10x12 can be made with no permit required, as long as it's not intended as livable space.
It's all quite complicated, (but usually workable once you learn the rules, and figure out how to play them) and depends on how your lot is zoned. There are development guidelines for each zone designation, (like R-1, R-2, R-2 restricted) that speak to roof heights, set backs, lot coverage, parking pad requirements, etc.
I suggest you go to the permit office with your list of questions, and you might get lucky and get someone who is in a good mood and willing to explore all your questions and give you some good answers. I've also had good luck with getting calls back from the planning department to discuss potential plans/additions/remodels. It's all possible, you just have to learn the rules
We met with the over the counter permit folks many, many times. Ask them all the questions you posted, there is no harm, and generally they are very friendly. Although, they generally were not familiar with the parking pad requirements. You can pay a fee ($60/hour?) to meet with Traffic Engineering to understand requirements. If possible, bring a to scale, plan, so they can really advise you.
We recently bought a house that has an old old fuse box and knob and tube wiring. I understand that we need a permit to complete the rewiring (which my husband will do - no arrows please, he's very knowledgable and competent wrt the rewiring itself). Anyone have any advice - I read and read on the oakland permit website but I feel like I'm not getting very far in terms of what kind of information they actually need. Mostly this would be replacing wiring that is already there, but of course we'd like to add some more sockets and lighting, so it's not exactly like for like. While I'm asking, we just took out an old rotten deck from the back yard. Do we need a permit to replace that too?? Thanks Not very permit savvy....yet
I suggest emailing someone at the permit center or building department - like a building inspector. Whenever we have questions or to understand what is required of each city - I usually look for an email address (search on google - or the city's own website)I can write out my questions and concerns and usually they respond within a day or two. You can also just call to find out. It doesn't take that much time. Usually, if you ask - they will send you the necessary paperwork you will need to fill out and provide you with instructions.
Electrical Permit: New installations, additions, extension, alterations, changes, and fire and accident repairs of any electrical wiring and electrical equipment associated with a structure or project. Separate permits are required for wiring, fixtur es, furnaces, and construction poles. For convenience, the wiring, fixtures, and furnaces may be combined on one permit if they are included on the original application. Construction poles will require a separate permit in every case.
Permit Counter (Planning & Zoning) 250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 2114 Oakland, CA 94612 Permits@oaklandnet.com Telephone: (510) 238-3891 Fax: (510) 238-4730
If she isn't the right person to answer your questions, you can ask if she can direct you to them. Hope this helps. I know most people want to avoid having to go down to the permit center multiple times. anon
On the deck project I am sure they likely want a permit for that too. One key thing I learned was to build the deck isolated from the home and not attached for insurance reasons. If attached it is an addition to the home and your homeowners premium may go up. If isolated it is covered under ''other structures'' for free. It also is free to move separate from the home which is a plus.
For free advice on permit policy you can go to the building department and talk to somebody at the permit counter about what you ''might do someday'' and what kind of permits would be needed. Don't give an address just ask them general questions anonymously until you decide. been there
Anyone have any luck getting their remodelling permits through the city of Berkeley? We submitted for some remodels (nothing too crazy, no increase in square footage, just redoing bathrooms, kitchen and opening up one room to kitchen, with new windows and deck in back of house). We submitted our plans in early November! Got some questions in January, and resumbitted in early February, and not heard a word since then. I feel like the permit is just lost there. Our architect is working directly with the city, so I haven't had direct contact, but this seems crazy! I have heard that it can take forever, but didn't believe it. Anyhow have any luck and what did you try? Did you complain to anyone to document the process? Thanks! frustrated new Berkeley resident
My realtor mentioned getting a retroactive building permit for a property I have in Oakland. This involves renovations to two bathrooms and to a kitchen. No load-bearing walls were moved but the changes did involve significant plumbing and electrical work. Has anyone had experience with this? If not, in Berkeley? I cant find anything on the City of Oakland website about this. C.
Unfortunately the inspector needs to see the work you've done to know it's up to code, which means you'll probably need to open up some walls/floors to expose pipes and such. This is why it's so much easier to get the permit in the first place if you have any intention of claiming these updates. But since you haven't, I'd very much suggest going into the permit office, taking a number and chatting with someone there. If you don't feel the person at the desk is helpful, be sure to ask for their supervisor or the engineer on duty. I've been very impressed, once I got past the few not-so-helpful desk personnel, with the staff there. They will give you a list of all the paperwork you'll need and go over it all with you as well. Ask for their card and you can check in with them as needed too. Oaklander
A neighbor did some work without permits more recently and the city issued a permit months after it was done without requiring a rip out and re-inspection at all. The work violated numerous building codes and ordinances plus straddled over the property line onto a neighbor's property without permission or encroachment permit. Despite complaints the city did nothing. The FBI is currently investigating corruption of the building department staff in Oakland after an OPD investigation and a grand jury revealed inspectors were taking bribes, preying on property owners, and the department head was removed after numerous improprieties (SF Chronicle-3/13/12 Chip Johnson). I would suggest steering clear of any involvement with the Oakland building department until the FBI has ''cleaned house''. Or perhaps now is a good time to grease some palms to get a ''retroactive permit'' before they do----up to you.
Officially a retroactive situation should be handled the way they handled my kitchen back in a time before the department was so corrupt. They can't allow covered up plumbing and electrical work to be approved sight unseen as they did in the second scenario above. Doing so leaves the city in a position of extreme liability if they knowingly approved the work without proper inspections. anon
I'm a relatively new homeowner and just got two new outlets installed by a licensed electrician. It dawned on me after the fact, when I was wondering how I would know if he did a good job, that maybe I was supposed to have gotten a permit and inspection for that type of work. I'm in Kensington (CC County). If I was supposed to get one, what do I do now? If I didn't need to get one, how do I know if he did a good job? New homeowner
This attorney told us that repairs, small improvements, and painting do not need a permit. A permit is required when making a structural change (get good information from a structural engineer about what is a structural change) or a ''major change'' to a building system (new roof, major rewiring, major plumbing, new furnace, etc.).
You hired a licensed electrician.
Did you ask experienced property owners for recommendations and information ?
Did you ask for a copy of that electricians license and insurance? (You should have asked to see both the contractors's license and insurance before you signed any contract or began any work. If you didn't ask before, ask now.)
In general, after having taken out hundreds of permits for all kinds of work to be done and dealt with hundreds of inspectors, it has been our experience that a licensed professional contractor of whichever trade is likely to be far more knowledgeable than any building inspector in any town or city, so, unless something seems to be wrong, it seems to us you shouldn't worry.
We've been rebuilding homes and building new homes for alomst fifty years, now.
The permit fee is $75 but depends on fee schedule that is based on the cost of work. This should be a line item on the invoice from your contractor.
Be careful, if no permit was issued, there could be fines and the work has to be inspected before the permit can be signed off by a inspector. If new wire was installed, they may require seeing the wire which could mean opening up the wall.
Look at the building codes for wire gauge, circuit load, grounding, outlet box, circuit breaker etc. and then check the work to see if it is to code to determine if the contractor did it correctly. Old Wise Guy
With electricity, the trades-person should make sure that your circuits will not be over-loaded, your panel is not over-loaded... Did the electrician look at the panel? If you have questions, ask for a second opinion, but it's best to pay for good advice. CIL
At this point, your safest route would be to contact the county and tell them what happened. They will come out and inspect the work. They will charge you for a permit and perhaps a penalty. The electrician might get in trouble.
It is probably fine, but I wouldn't hire that electrician again if he did work without a permit. -homeowner
Has anyone heard of a permit expediter? Do you have one to recommend? Was it worth the money?
We are wanting to make some home improvements that will require some permits. Because of the time it can take to get them, I wanted to jump on it for next spring, but I really have no idea what permits we need or how long it takes to get them or what is needed to apply for them.
Since we are going to have to move out of our house for some of the work to get done and will have to pay a rent and mortgage, I am hoping to try and get an idea of when we would actually need to move out, but I am thinking that is all dependent upon permits.
Also, I'm worried that the time we are out of the house might get held up due to permits. I don't think going to the city directly will really give us any clear information. Any advice? Clueless with Construction
Just saw your posting, you shouldn't worry. The Oakland permit process really is a lot easier than you think.
Your best source for help and advice is finding a good local general contractor. Someone who specializes in residential remodeling and renovation. I'd suggest contacting a few well established, reputable ones, with good references and proven track records. The folks here can be a good source for names but local architect/designers can help you as well.
The most difficult part of getting residential permits in Oakland is actually describing to the city what you'd like to do. Pictures are great for smaller jobs, while sketches and drawings may be necessary for larger projects, especially where you'd like to remove walls or renovate your kitchen.
It sounds like you also have some questions about project project scheduling and timeline. Every job is different. Whether you really need to move out for a short time or can live in depends on the scope of work. Permit issues shouldnt make this more complicated. But this is something else a contractor can advise you on as well. Just remember a good contractor isnt just working to complete the project but is also there to help you.
So the best advice i can give is contact a contractor, or several, and explore the possibilities. I'm one but i cant recommend myself. It just sounds weird
Good luck and have fun Archimedes
You are not ready for an expediter and hopefully won't need one, though they are definitely worth it when needed. What you need is an architect and/or remodel designer. Such professionals are experienced in applying for permits.
One thing you have right is to start planning now for construction in Spring. Too many homeowners expect to get drawings and permits too fast. If you start preliminary design work today on a project large enough to require moving out, the permits would probably not be approved until October or November, best-case-scenario (i.e. no Use Permit or Variance).
So the question of when you will need to move out, though somewhat dependent upon permits, depends more upon getting your designs on paper first. You're ahead of the game! You can get your approval well in advance of a Spring start date for construction, then start scheduling and implementing your move. (Add 3-5 months if special permits are required.)
Going to the city directly is not a waste of time, but you're right - it isn't always easy to get clear information. Again, a design professional understands better how to get clarity. An expediter is hired when there are problems getting through the process (i.e. codes in conflict with each other, multiple interpretations of codes, etc.)
Good luck with your project.
There was recently an interesting post about permits in Oakland and what a nightmare it was in part b/c if there was previous remodeling not up to code or without permits Oakland made people re-do the previous work...expensive and a hassle and so people suggested not even dealing with permits.
What experiences with permits in Berkeley have people had? Our house had some remodeling done in the basement by the previous owners that didn't use permits and we now want to get our kitchen re-modeled, would like to have permits, but our worried that we'll end up in a similar situation as those folks in Oakland...any thoughts? Thanks!
With regard to Berkeley I can't say. I have had experience with work being discovered in a home I bought that had been done improperly without permits and inspections. All of a remodeled kitchen was ordered to be gutted to the studs, redone with proper permits and inspections, and a fine was levied for work done without permits. We had bought the home because the kitchen had been remodeled and looked nice. We were fined not the seller.
Under the wood paneling we found electrical work that appeared to have been done by a first grader with no previous experience in electrical work. Nails had been pounded through the romex cables to fasten them rather than staples. No sheet rock had been used so there was no ''fire wall''. It was a fire trap waiting for the right appliance to be plugged in and could have killed our family. It was a blessing we were forced to tear it out and re-do it properly.
As far as doing remodel work without permits--you would have to be crazy to take on that liability with today's disclosure laws. If you ever sold the home and something went wrong or the new owner found out there was no permit (you need one even to change a water heater) you would be fully liable. If it has been inspected the city is liable.
Unless you plan to live there forever I would not risk doing any work without permits. A friend did so and found himself in a bad scenario when the contractor began to do shoddy work that would not have passed code inspection 1/2 way through the job. The homeowner had no recourse with the contractor as he hadn't pulled permits. The defective wiring work was just covered up and now the owner can't sleep worrying whether his house will burn one night.
Hopefully in Berkeley they are honest and decent if you play by the rules and get permits. In Oakland I would wait a year or two until authorities have cleaned house in the building department and the corruption is removed. been there
We need to remodel the kitchen of our 1916 bungalow and I'm hoping to get a few tips on what permits are required. We need to replace cabinets, appliances, flooring, and three windows. I'm assuming we will need a plumbing, electrical, gas, and window permit. Has anyone out there done this that can give me an idea of how much the permits were? Also, our home has had extensive work done by previous homeowners (including doubling the square footage by finishing the basement). Are we asking for trouble by having the kitchen work permitted and inviting inspectors to our house where they could potentially uncover the unpermitted work? Would we be held liable for it? Anon
You are right to be concerned about work done by previous homeowners, but more because it might not have been done correctly than that you will have to pay for their decision to do it under the radar.
The chances of getting in trouble are very minimal, as long as all work you are intending now is permitted. That said, there is always a risk that you could be held liable for it. This is a much smaller risk though than trying to do the present project w/o permits and getting caught for that. Then you would also face much more scrutiny. Good Luck. AB, Architect
My husband and I have a 1926 single family soft story house (living room/kitchen/etc. above garage) in Oakland for which we have been obtaining retrofitting estimates. The room that used to be a garage we are now using as an office; it was converted long before we bought the house and the garage door was replaced with a patio door.
It (just barely) does not meet height requirements. We ripped up the terrible carpet that was there and have been using a rug on a cement floor. The patio door is in need of replacement as is some of the wood around the door (old water damage).
We'd like to replace the door before we re-carpet. From a retrofitting standpoint, it would be better to replace the sliding door with a regular hinged door to provide wall space to plywood/reinforce (or get rid of the door completely). Because we would be doing it in order to make our house more structurally sound (to retrofit), will the city make it easier for us, at least theoretically, or is this just a fool's errand?
The issues are headroom and loss of ''parking space'', although our driveway is long and we would still have room for at least three cars. Is better retrofitting a reason for granting a headroom variance? Because of a window on the other side of the front wall, there is really no way to support the front wall of the house at all, which I understand is not good. Or should we just retrofit the rest of the story and replace the patio door with a new one? We'd still need a permit for that anyway, right? Our worst fear is that the inspector will force us to convert it back into a garage.
Advice/past experience appreciated! Hoping to retrofit
There's now a major lawsuit pending accusing CEDA of using permits and fees charged to homeowners to bolster the failing Oakland city budget. This is illegal according to state law, which is codified, and has been found over and over again in the courts when various cities have tried to buck the law, to say that Building Dept. fees and penalties (intake) must not exceed what it costs for the dept. to carry on its activities. In other words, the Building Dept. exists to serve the homeowner. In Oakland, CEDA officials seem to think that homeowners exist to serve them, and they have been given implicit leeway to bilk citizens of this city.
I could say a lot more about this, but let me close with one piece of advice: If you decide to take the previous poster's advice about doing something without a permit, be VERY, VERY CAREFUL. They have inspectors going around looking for construction and checking to see that it's permitted. There have been cases (again, I know some people personally who this happened to) where they wait until the construction is all done and then make you tear it down, in addition to charging humongous (at their whim, but often tens of thousands of dollars) in penalties, plus interest that starts adding up if you don't pay right away (and the deadlines are unclear). etc.
I can't say enough bad things about Oakland CEDA's Building Dept. They are to be greatly feared. Anon
We are considering a remodel and small addition to our home and heard Oakland's permit fees have recently gone through the roof. We've tried to make sense of the 159 page Master Fee Document published by the city, but every kind of inspection, review, etc. was listed and we couldn't find a definitive answer about costs. Can anyone tell us due to recent submissions/renovations (past 1-2 yrs), what percentage the permit process was for your total budget? K.
It all depends on what you're adding on and renovating. It might be the case that the fee is based on the additional square footage. Do you have plans or have you hired an architect? An Architect would be able to obtain the permits for you as well.
I would suggest visiting the permit department in the morning, wait times can vary - 10mins - 45 mins. They are usually helpful. Also, if you can find an email address for someone in planning/permit center - they would be able to help you. A phone call can also help. I've done it several times for projects and I always get some sort of information. Good luck. anon
First of all, depending on the scale of your addition/renovation, you may have to submit to the city planning department (with their fees) in addition to the building department. Then in additional to the building permit, you are likely required to apply for separate plumbing and electrical permits(one of few cities that charges these permits separate from the general building permit). Then depending on your zone, you maybe required an additional fire permit from the fire department (we got hit by this one).
Our addition/renovation is just above 1000 sq ft, which required a regular planning review (most cases under 1000 sq ft with no variant in zoning does not require planning review) cost just under 10K, about 2.8% of our total construction budget (we design our own remodel so no design fee in the budget).
If you have a pretty good idea about what's being added, it is not a bad idea to go into the city and do a preliminary review with the city to find out exactly what you need for the submitting process, and they will give you some idea on the cost for prepare for multiple trips to the city if you plan to get the permits yourself. Best of Luck, Siqi
Permit costs are divided into two general Categories - Planning Review (use permit, variances, etc.) Building Permits Each has two general Phases - Application fees Permit fees.
Each of the categories will route to a number of divisions or agencies, such as fire, engineering(sidewalks & streets) for approvals during that process.
The planning process is done first. The building process is done last. Along the way there are also impact fees, for different things, such as sewer and school, and trade permits and their fees, such as heating, plumbing and electrical. Most general fees are determined by a value the applicant provides - what is the cost of the project?
It is common to understate the project value, the City has the right to obtain proof of cost, though that is very rare. Finally, there may be agency inspection fees paid to the agency, special inspection fees you pay to a third party. And be aware that anything that increases the value of the home will trigger a reevaluation of the property tax basis at the Assessor's office.
Many of the planning fees are not triggered if you are not changing the outside of the building (addition). A contractor or designer will be able to sort these out and get a more definite cost. Not realistic to use a percentage.
I just moved to El Cerrito and need to change my single pane windows to double ones. I found a certified/licensed contractor and understand that I need to get a permit. The contractor wants me to get the permit (otherwise, he will charge $100 to do so); however, after talking to a Building Officer, I understood that if I get the permit myself, I will be responsible for the renovations, not the contractor.
I am writing to kindly ask people to share their experience (replacing windows / El Cerrito). How long and how complex was the process of getting the permit and having the inspector come? I'd appreciate any recommendations for a building inspector (or officer) to talk to or ask questions. Also, any opinion about who should get the city permit and be responsible for the replacement? I just wanted to save the $100, and my friends told me that it's the contractor's job to get the permit (charging or not) and schedule the inspector's visits. Thanks for any insights! Selena
I don't think you got the whole story. It seems your contractor was trying to do you a favor (saving you $100). The problem is that when a homeowner is the applicant s/he must fill out an ''Owner/Builder'' form and commit to insurance coverages. This is to ensure that unlicensed people, like your brother, are covered in case you are doing the work yourself. If you hire a licensed contractor, s/he is still liable for poor work.
That said, $100 is not much and saves you headache and anxiety, which can amount to much more if you end up seeing a psychotherapist and/or chiropractor! AB
Our 1912 Oakland house is listed with the county as a triplex. We are zoned for multi-unit dwelling. We live in the upstairs. The two other units were formerly in the basement (which is actually above ground with windows all around and 2 different doors out to the driveway). One unit is mostly intact (kitchen, bathroom, room with closet and 2 doors/2 windows), while the other was mostly removed by previous owner (there's still some drywall here and there, plumbing connections, and a toilet, although cement floor and no finished ceiling). As far as I can tell, most of this space is not legal headroom, varying from about 7ft to almost or perhaps legal headroom (unfinished). So, if we wanted to re-create the units, how hard is it to get a variance for our slightly insufficient headroom? Can we be grandfathered in somehow? How does one go about getting a variance?
Hello, I need advice on what to do.I am a single mother in Oakland.I had 2 decks and lots of stairs to my front door re- built without a permit.One deck is above the other and up in the air about 15 feet.Work was finished last November of 07. It appears strong and substantial, but what do I know? Now I am in trouble with the city.I received a ''Notice to Abate''. I am really nervous about getting a owner's permit and getting it inspected because I don't have any more money to pay for whatever the city wants. Guy from the city left his card on my porch and is calling me.The guy I had hired to do most of the work (the support beams and the floor) was recommended by a friend. He started over-charging me and cheating me so I had to fire him under confrontational circumstances (he is unlicensed, and had told me in the beginning not to get a permit.) He was fully paid and had done all except the railings.Size is about 15 ft. by 9 feet.Out of revenge,he reported me to the city.Help! What should I do?I have no money to tear anything out.Paid $27K already.City said railing is too short & no inspection yet.
We live in rockridge and are working with an architect on plans for our house remodel-major remodel-going up (adding two rooms on the top floor and a bathroom) and remodel the kitchen, among other things. My questions are all along the lines of how long should this process take through getting the initial work permits?
1. How long is the variance permit process? You put in your request for a variance...how long until you know it's okayed or not?
2. Design review: How long does this take? Do you just go into the permit office once and they accept it or not-and if they don't then you go away, fix the drawings, and go back the next day or do you have to wait a certain amount of time? Once they approve the design, it it then a go?
3. When does the public approval process happen? After the design review and the plans are approved? how long does the public have to react and what is the process if theres an issue?
4. I am working with an architect who doesn't do cad-he draws everything and seems glacially slow. Does cad really speed things up? Are all architects slow or can a different one have the plans done in 2 weeks rather than the 3-4 months it's apparently going to take this guy to get us our plans to the point we can have the design review?
Finally, any architects you can recommend. We don't have a ton of money but time is of the essence and would like to find someone who is faster but not horrendously expensive. Thanks! tired of waiting in rockridge.
1. You want a variance? Expect a year or more to get through the process with no guarantees of success.
2. Design Review is completely separate from a building permit. The review boards generally only meet once per month. The Building Inspector's office will talk to you on consecutive days. If you need design review and a zoning variance, that's a two step, multi-month process.
3. Public comment occurs as part of the planning review process: Zoning (your variance) and design review, which has more to do with appearance, air, light and view issues. Neighbors can weigh in at any time during these. The public process is over before you can go for the building permit. Generally, there is a 30 day comment period, then the hearing(s). Don't expect to be done with one hearing. The Bay Area is infested with NIMBYs, half of whom are either lawyers or self-styled design experts.
4. CAD does not speed things up. Your Architect may be very busy (possible) or you may have unrealistic expectations about time frame. If he had no other work, and the remodel wasn't extensive, then 2 weeks might be possible. Given your description (the words ''Variance'', ''Design Review'' and Public Review'' are big red flags) I doubt it.
I've been associated with a tear down of an existing house and construction of a new one in San Mateo County where we are in the 2nd year of work, and still have yet to go before the Coastal Commission or the County Building Department. That project has had 3 Architectural firms, a Civil Engineer, a Surveyor, Geotechnical Engineer, Septic System Designer and us Landscape Architects working (not full time by any means) on various aspects of the permitting and design. The Planning Review alone generated 16 typed pages of comments!
Unless you are convinced that your Architect is being non-responsive, starting over from scratch...which is what you would be doing, is a drastic option. Please understand that getting permits in the Bay Area is a huge time sink. Ray
1. The time required for a variance can vary pretty widely depending upon what you are seeking and how busy the planning department is. I would expect a variance to take at least 2 months (likely longer.)
2. Design review can also vary. I would expect 1 - 3 months. The planning department might approve with C,conditionsC. or they might require revisions and resubmission. There is no required waiting period that I am aware of but the re- review of revisions will take additional time.
3. Typically, the public comment process happens during Design Review. Neighbors are notified of your project and given 17 days to comment. If none of your neighbors complain and everything else is OK, you receive approval. If there are comments, you might need to make changes.
4. CAD can speed up the process but there will be a significant number of decisions to be made prior to submitting for design review: Massing, materials, exterior lighting, etc. Issues of views, shadow casting, and parking, will need to be addressed. All of this takes time. 3-4 months might be too long but I suspect that 2 weeks is too short.
Good luck with your project. Bill
We purchased a single family house with a second kitchen. We knew it wasn't permitted, but we were new home buyers and didn't really know what that meant.
Now we need a new heater. We want it done correctly with permits, but we are afraid to let a city inspector in the house because they will find out about the second kitchen.
We need a good contractor who can advise us how to get permits for the kitchen that already exists. We want to do the right thing, but we don't want our perfectly usable kitchen torn out.
Okay, a question normally reserved for shady backroom whispers with friends only, I ask BPN for advice on the following; We live in Alameda, and are wondering if anybody here has sold a house after doing small jobs without permits. ie. small deck, window replacement, that kind of thing.
We are wondering if there is a substantially punitive process for this from the city if/when you sell; some friends say 'don't worry, its chicken-feed', some say, 'they'll take your first-born'. If not in Alameda, experiences in other East Bay cities would be welcome too.
Any work will be done professionally and properly. Having worked in Bay Area construction for years, a lot of the work I was exposed to, I can assure you, was shoddy at best - all permitted. We know you're supposed to get permits, you're supposed to drive 55 too, but the question stands and I'm sure others would like to get feedback on this too. Thanks anon
Hi- My husband used to build decks for a living and would like to add a deck to our backyard- we've heard that the permit process in Albany can be quite slow- has anyone had the experience of building a deck without a permit? Would you recommend that we obtain one or is it kosher to go ahead and build a deck without one? Your advice is appreciated! Curious in Albany
Hi. We own a fixer upper house in Oakland. We discovered that some shingles in a back room were rotting. A nephew and his friend offered to reshingle that area. When they took the shingles off, it turned out some of the structure underneath was rotting too, they replaced the rotting wood. Well the rotting wood was under a window and they offered to change it...so you see how it went. Well, they worked into the evening one day too many, we work evenings too and did not realize they were annoying the neighbors who complained to the city. An inspector came and placed a stop work order. By then the windows were in place and the re-shingling 75% complete.
It turns out the addition was built without a permit. We've been penalized and have to pay double for any permits we get. We have to legalize the whole thing not just the repairs we were making.
We've been told that in the process of getting the addition legalized they will inspect the whole house and we will have to fix everything. We've met once with the housing inspector and he sincerely hopes we don't lose our home.
So you see, we're in a pickle. We did not build the addition and did not know it was not legal. We are guilty of being naive and even neglectful about finding out about the permits (apparently you can't do much of anything beyond paint and roofing without a permit). We will pay for the permits we should have gotten if the double fines don't make it impossible. Does anyone have any experience working through a situation like this without losing their home? What does the double fine apply to, just what we replaced or the whole structure or the whole house, and for how long? Can we be penalized for having an addition we did not build? If we can't afford to do the permits will the city pursue this? Will the fines continue to increase? What recourse do we have? Can they force us to sell our home? Can you recommend someone to help us figure this out? Anon
Second, once you get the lawyer ask about diclosures from both the buyer and seller. I am shocked that no one told you that these additions did not have permits. Someone should have told you and they may be liable for not telling you anything.
Third, it seems to me that you are being forced to remodel. I would be very surprised if you do not qualify for a construction loan. This will help you make sure that the additions are up to code. But you need a good broker that can help you with the transaction so you can afford all the construction.
Fourth, check out www.100plus.info. This is my website. I have a workbook on how to plan a remodel. If you like it send me your shipping info and I will send you one free.
Do not despair. The reason why I wrote the workbook is that I went through a nightmarish remodel. I also thought that I would lose my home at one point. We still have our home and the project was finished. You did the right thing by asking for help. There will be plenty of people that will help you here. A.
I would like to add a bdrm/bath onto my small ranch style home in Oakland. An architect drew up the plans which have been repeatedly denied by the zoning dept. for set back issues. The problem is that the city is requiring a 20ft setback on the rear of the property, which is standard. What is not standard is the shape of my property, it is shaped like a slice of pie, with what would be the "backyard" on the side of the house, so there is not 20 ft in the rear. (The house is placed on the corner edge of the wide end of the "slice".) We have asked that the city consider the backyard similar to a side yard and allow building within 5ft. But they have refused. If I were to build in compliance with city's determination, the addition would completely eliminate the entire garden space of the property. The addition, as planned, would not interfere with any other resident's sun, air or privacy as there are no other houses within approx. 100 ft of the property lines. If the! city would come and see the property they would understand the situation, but I apparently they don't do that.
I guess I am at the point now of requesting a variance. Has anyone gone through this in Oakland? Should I use an attorney? This is really stressful because I am in the process of adopting and need the space but cannot afford to move. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. oaklandgrrl
So apply for a variance. There is never a guarantee of getting a variance, but it can't hurt to ask. Generally, if what you are asking for makes sense, you'll likely get the variance.
I received a zoning variance in Oakland last year. I didn't need an attorney. Your architect should be able to take care of everything, mine did. My situation was a driveway location. Strictly following the zoning rules would have meant locating the driveway (and garage) in the center of the property rather than one side or the other. It just didn't make sense and would have resulted in a really poor design.
In your application, mention the hardship you would endure by strictly following the zoning rules, talk about the benefits of being granted a variance and how it would be a better and more valuable project, how it just makes sense, how you would not be getting anything special compared to your neighbor's properties, how the variance would not create a burden to your neighbors. If there are any properties nearby that have a similar situation, use them as examples. If you can get a letter of support from your neighbors, that can help, too.
If one does some interior remodeling that would normally require a permit to do, does that trigger a reassessment of your property value and subsequently raise your taxes? Tx. Curious Prospective Remodeler
We bought a house in Oakland about a year and a half ago near Children's Hospital. There is an addition on the duplex next door, as well as garage, that is less than 3 feet from our house. Three questions: Does this structures violate Oakland housing codes? Looking around the neighborhood, I have not found any other instance of two houses being so close together. In fact, it seems to me that this garage and addition are built right on our property line. Second, these two structures were clearly hacked together by some amateur. But how can I confirm that the owner did not have a permit? What office do I go to? The proximity of our house to these two structures is of great concern to me. I worry a fire will start in our house (or theirs) and jump the small gap. Third, if these two structures DO violate Oakland codes AND were built without a permit, how do I get the owner to tear them down? Melinda
the postings on whether or not to get permits for building a kitchen were really conflicted. Does anyone have clear advice and experience on the pros and cons of getting plumbing, bulding, and electrical permits to put in a kitchen in a legal duplex (that currently only has one)? Also, is this something that we, the homeowners, have to do or can the plumber/ electrician help us out? rachel
The first question you have to ask yourself is - do you want to keep your legal duplex legal? If so, then I would definitely get a permit for the new work. Don't be scared of the process - it is there to help make sure things are done to certain ''standards''. Some of them may seem silly or unnecessary, but they are developed with ergonomic and safety issues in mind. That being said, the process can feel like a lot of red tape. The most important reason to do it is simply that you will have the credentials you need when and if you sell your property.
However - there are many situations when it is perfectly o.k. NOT to get a permit: IF the residence is a single family property, and there are no other parties involved to screw you in the process, and IF the project is deep within the house where no neighbors will call you on it, and IF it just involves moving one window or door or a non-bearing wall. However, if asked, the city will always tell you that you need a permit for any work, so just don't ask them!
You asked: Do you have to get the permit or can your contractors do it for you? - If it is just new electrical or plumbing, then there need not be any drawings done and it is just a matter of filling out some forms and paying the fee. A contractor can do this for you no problem. If you are planning on moving any walls, or changing the layout of a room, kitchen or bathroom, then you are looking at a building permit and drawings will need to be done to show the proposed work. A homeowner can do these drawings for themselves, or they can have a designer or an architect like myself to do them, or the contractor can sometimes do them. In this case, either the designer, the homeowner OR the general contractor can submit for the permit.
We're planning to do some remodeling and we're wondering whether permits are worth the hassle. Anyone have any advice about this?
After living in a 1911 Berkeley house that was remodelled a number of times without permits -- with a lot of bad effects that we've spent years trying to undo -- I understand why permits are a good thing. We've found an insufficiently supported, caving-in roof, another roof with an illegal 4 layers of roofing (too heavy to be safe), plumbing vent pipes that dead-end in walls, nightmare electrical wiring, substandard ceiling heights, and rooms without any windows or ventilation, among other things.
Also, there's some kind of California law about disclosing the work you've done to potential buyers when you sell. Some buyers may think twice about a house with non-permit remodelling. I know I would.
As for re-sale value, I think you'll find this a relatively minor factor among the many involved in selling a home and one with little or no actual monetary benefit. The home inspector who does the inspection should point out any examples of work that is not up to code and you may be able to negotiate over that. Once you buy a house, whether work previously done was done with or without permits will be largely moot, though again it should be up to code--preferably current code and certainly code at the time the work was done.
As far as working with contractors goes, I find that the ones who like to work without permits are willing to take shortcuts that I find completely unacceptable.
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