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Trouble with permits  RSS feed

 
justin de
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Hello,

I own a narrow strip of empty land in San Bernardino county, Ca. According to the county building codes, to build a house, it must be at least 600 sqft in area, and a minimum of 15' wide, with 5' clearance on both sides. My lot isn't wide enough so I've been told there is absolutely nothing I can do with this land. I want to build a small cabin. I mean small as in maybe 200 sqft. I've scoured the building code and have not been able to find any loopholes. There doesn't seem to be a minimum size building that is exempt from building codes. For awhile I thought I would be able to build a 'detached accessory structure', but have since found out any structure requires an existing residence. I've become quite annoyed with the county on this. I'm considering building a wall (within code) and then just building as I please within. Any thoughts on this? Any idea on loopholes? Thanks.
 
Joe Braxton
Posts: 320
Location: NC (northern piedmont)
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I've no experience with codes other than in NC, but I would think one of the tiny houses on wheels might get around some of your problems. If that doesn't fly, I got nothing but good wishes.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I have heard of people suing the county or zoning entity to force them to pay you for your land since they won't let you build on it. Mixed success.

 
nathan luedtke
Posts: 165
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Do you know your county supervisor or city councilmembers? If you do, or even if you don't, you may be able to request their help with navigating bureaucracy. You may be able to apply for a variance or exemption based on your inability to comply with the code as written. Make sure your plan is solid so that they have a minimum of extra work to do. Whatever you do, keep your cool with the planning desk staff and be kind and helpful with them, even though they can be vile lizards.

I second the suggestion of a tiny house on wheels- I know that Jay Shafer (formerly of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses) has spoken about getting around planning restrictions by using a house built on a standard trailer bed.

Good luck with your project, keep us updated on your progress!
 
justin de
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Thanks for the replies everyone. It seems that every person I talk to has some information to add to my situation. I spoke to someone in the planning department who is having me fill out a pre-planning review application. This will be passed through all the various departments that have anything to do with building, planning, permitting and so on and have them offer their advice. It normally costs $4000+ but for whatever reason, it is free at the moment. So I'm doing that, and also attempting to buy the parcel next to mine. We'll see how it all works out.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I wish you luck...dealing with city/county people is most often frustrating!

I would seriously look at the county's tax appraisal. If the lot cannot, in fact, be built upon, I would think that the taxes should be at their lowest possible value. No sense paying for a 'potential value' if the property cannot be developed in any fashion. You might be due a refund...or, they might see a potential increase IF they permit it to be 'improved'.

 
tom grimley
Posts: 5
Location: Deer Lodge Park, California
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i would request a 'pre-alteration' inspection with the department of building and safety, NOT planning. they will come out for free and offer advice. be prepared and present exactly what you want to do. they will at least answer questions and fill you in on some important vocabulary. i am in SBC as well. feel free to p.m. me.
cheers,
tom
 
roya miller
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Hi! I'm a new member and just purchased some land in Ceaderpines Park. Wondering if this got resolved and if you're still in the area! Trying to reach out to the local permaculture community and get some information. I was thinking about placing an off grid tiny house on my land and start some permaculture practices and systems and was wondering if you had any experience
 
mark joseph
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I'm building a house now in California, they make everything very difficult and very expensive.  Roughly about 10x of what you could build in another state with more relaxed rules.  If someone wanted a tiny home, my advice would be to put up a fence, then build a home on a trailer as was suggested... If the city ever comes over, (and you made the mistake of leaving your fence open) be very nice, tell them it's a tempory residence until you save the money for the build process, offer them some free fruit and veggies.  Then talk about saving the planet and how city really needs do their part and stop sending polluted rain water to the ocean.  This will make them leave you alone.   Because at the end of the day, they are mostly hypocrites who don't want to do any work.  (....OK Maybe 10% of them have good intentions. )   If this puts you in a moral dilemma, click this link and see what they pay themselves.  http://transparentcalifornia.com

 
tom grimley
Posts: 5
Location: Deer Lodge Park, California
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hi Roya !

We've been over in Deer Lodge Park for 6 years and we are at a very similar elevation to Cedarpines Park. We have made many improvements through the permitting process with San Bernardino county and they have been amazing and very helpful. There is a local office in Twin Peaks and if you visit, they are happy to answer any questions you might have.

There is a native plant sale at the Heaps Peak Arboretum http://www.heapspeakarboretum.com/ twice a year and we have had great success with elderberry, monkey flower, coffee berry, scarlet bugler and false indigo. We have swales, raised beds with buried logs and quite a few fruit trees that are producing varied results. I think in the mountains greywater is essential as the summers get so hot and dry.

send me an email if you would like communicate.

and have a great day !
tom

 
Kyle Neath
pollinator
Posts: 160
Location: High Sierras, CA 6400'
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dog hugelkultur trees woodworking
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I second two of the suggestions here:

1. Put it on wheels. For some strange reason, building codes do not apply to structures on wheels in California. For 200sqft, this shouldn't be too difficult or require too large of a truck to move (1/2 ton should pull a ~20ft trailer no problem).

2. Get those property taxes reassessed! If you're paying taxes as a residential property and you cannot build a structure on it, it should be taxed as a vacant lot.

I would not suggest building a wall and doing as you please — especially since you've already contacted the city, and it sounds like you have neighbors. My rule of thumb with those strategies in California is if a neighbor can see it from their house, don't do it. Bonus of building something on wheels: if it doesn't end up working out, you can move your home to a new lot!
 
roya miller
Posts: 11
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Thanks for all the replies!


I know California is one of the worst places to build so I will definitely build it on wheels I've tried to find ways around it but all the permits and regulations seem to price me out of building permanently. I originally thought i could use the CalEarth earth-bag plans that had been preapproved by the county but this appears not to be valid any longer. Thank you so much, Kyle, for the property tax suggestion! I will do more research on that, sounds fantastic if applicable!  there are no immediate neighbors as the property is located off a dirt road with utilities more than 500 ft away at the paved road. so hopefully I can park it there without getting reported. I read about the Twin Peaks office and I will be sure to go in and see what I can do, I guess I've just been intimidated to actually go in there, called about erecting a small shed but it's a no go without an existing structure.  The Heaps Peak Arboretum sounds amazing, thanks for the referral, I will check it out!  Right now rainwater systems and swales will be some of my first projects and I'm a complete novice so would love to see some systems! Thanks again everyone, this site is amazing
 
jim dee
Posts: 28
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Roya,

I'm curious to whether the zoning will allow you to stay year round?
Meaning, some areas/counties that i've looked into will not allow the landowner to "camp" long term, whether that's in a RV or something thing else.
So even if it's on a trailer, i.e. tiny home, one could still get fined, but with no neighbors,  definitely a plus.
 
Jonathan D Davis
Posts: 14
Location: Aguanga, California
forest garden
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We're in a similar boat in Riverside County - just next door. We CAN build on our lot but code enforcement is on our backs about every little detail and now we have to build a house and quickly. We received a polite little notice in March of this year telling us that we can't live or build on our property until we have a "house". We've lived here three years, growing vegetables and honey for market, in a travel trailer with an outdoor shower and independent composting toilet.

The one great choice that I made was hiring a consultant. I asked around our local community and found someone who can really defend against the county government. His fee was a paltry $500 to keep the county off of our backs - and the fee is a flat rate regardless of how long it draws on. All county complaints come through his office and he just fends them off. I would google "code mitigation" for SB county and see what pops. It's the best $500 we've ever spent! If you want to PM me I can send you my consultant's contact info but I'm not certain that he would work in San Bernardino. I think that relationships with county officials are the grease that keeps the wheels moving.

With knowledgable representation you can go to council meetings, private meetings, or (preferably not) to court and not have to worry about filing the wrong paperwork. California is great but does it ever love it's bureaucracy (and the fees!). You can do all of this on your own but I feel more confident with someone who know the building and environmental codes in and out. 

Hold tight! There's a way out of this. You just need to find it and I'm sure you will.
 
roya miller
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jim dee wrote:Roya,

I'm curious to whether the zoning will allow you to stay year round?
Meaning, some areas/counties that i've looked into will not allow the landowner to "camp" long term, whether that's in a RV or something thing else.
So even if it's on a trailer, i.e. tiny home, one could still get fined, but with no neighbors,  definitely a plus.



No, Technically I cannot camp on the property. so living there year round would be prohibited.   I have re4ad that this is very hard to prove an that as long as your neighbors are cool with it. most people seem to fly under the radar with this regulation.
 
roya miller
Posts: 11
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Jonathan D Davis wrote:We're in a similar boat in Riverside County - just next door. We CAN build on our lot but code enforcement is on our backs about every little detail and now we have to build a house and quickly. We received a polite little notice in March of this year telling us that we can't live or build on our property until we have a "house". We've lived here three years, growing vegetables and honey for market, in a travel trailer with an outdoor shower and independent composting toilet.

The one great choice that I made was hiring a consultant. I asked around our local community and found someone who can really defend against the county government. His fee was a paltry $500 to keep the county off of our backs - and the fee is a flat rate regardless of how long it draws on. All county complaints come through his office and he just fends them off. I would google "code mitigation" for SB county and see what pops. It's the best $500 we've ever spent! If you want to PM me I can send you my consultant's contact info but I'm not certain that he would work in San Bernardino. I think that relationships with county officials are the grease that keeps the wheels moving.

With knowledgable representation you can go to council meetings, private meetings, or (preferably not) to court and not have to worry about filing the wrong paperwork. California is great but does it ever love it's bureaucracy (and the fees!). You can do all of this on your own but I feel more confident with someone who know the building and environmental codes in and out. 

Hold tight! There's a way out of this. You just need to find it and I'm sure you will.



THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS IDEA!! That is something I will definitely look into.  Good luck you guys! Your set up of a travel trailer and composting toilet/outdoor shower is basically what I think my options are at this point. did the county find out about you and proceeded to send you the notice or did you have a temp use permit to build the main dwelling and time just ran out?
 
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