County building permit

By From page A5 | October 07, 2013


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I recently had the experience of having the county Development Department modify my plans to replace an old redwood deck with an enclosed patio. The deck was at the end of the house and had seen its better days. The enclosed patio I visualized was a slab on footings, three walls, some windows, door, a roof and the end of the house for the fourth wall. Because the addition would encroach on the septic tank setback I had to pay a licensed engineer to draw the footings. I decided that I would just have the engineer do the entire plan for my enclosed patio. After several trips to the engineering company in El Dorado Hills, I had the set of plans to submit to the county.

Since I was in no particular hurry, I decided to avail myself of the Development Department’s service of having a plan checker do a preliminary check of the plans drawn up by the licensed engineer. I made the appointment, took the plans to have them checked out. The plan checker after reviewing the plans said, “I see nothing wrong with these plans,” or words to that effect. I returned home feeling good about the money spent for the plans.

A couple of months later I started the permit process by submitting the plans and paying a fee. After about three weeks I received a correction notice from another plan checker who informed me that the plans did not meet the code for a sunroom. I sent the correction notice to the company that had drawn them up and waited for a reply. The reply came with the need for additional skylights and increasing the size of the windows to comply with a sunroom requirement.

I don’t understand that if a property owner wants to enclose a patio why the county insists on calling it a sunroom and placing all these restrictions that, as far as I can tell, have nothing to do with the health and safety of the property owner. Anyway, because I refuse to build with my money what the county insists is a sunroom, I am building nothing that requires a permit.

One other thing, because I didn’t anticipate the county reversing its stand, I did not document my meetings with names, dates and times. I strongly suggest that if you are going to obtain a permit to do anything to your property that you document each and every contact with county employees, in as much detail as possible. It seems the preliminary check by a plan checker means nothing, absolutely nothing.

Sometimes we need a push to move us and this is moving me. After much thought and the necessity of digging up some pretty deep roots, I have decided to relocate beyond California. When I moved to California about 45 years ago, it was in my opinion at that time the best state in the whole country to live in. Now sadly, it seems it has become the worst state to live in, particularly for retired folks.


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