Friday, March 30, 2012

One-Hit Wonders: March 2012 terms inexplicably pulling up this blog...
  • bloody irish fight
  • "do you need a hug" hallmark
  • milla's first foot tickling video 1
  • tickling lesbians
  • picture of someone excited
  • old car oil kill tree stumps
  • jerk off conversation
  • daddy beer belly
  • we are machines life is meaningless future is empty

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Home-Improvement Chronicles: Setback City

no, the deck isn’t done yet. yes, i thought it’d be done by now, too, but reality had a different plan, one that involved my neighbor, the block bitch, calling the city inspector on me and another neighbor who was also having a deck built by my contractor, effectively shutting down both jobs in an instant. this was back in december, and hammers have not swung on my property since.

an inspector’s arrival wouldn’t have been a big deal, as all of the work on my house has been done to code, but this one decided to do some snooping, as inspectors tend to. and his snooping led him to take issue with several things that hadn’t even been touched during this remodel, things that had been grandfathered in with the house. among them was the house’s electrical panel, which he insists should be rewired and moved five inches, a very expensive process, to clear six feet from my neighbor’s property as required by LA City code, even though the panel has been in the same spot since i bought the house (and probably long before) without ever setting my neighbor’s house on fire.

he also took issue with the toilet and sink in the basement (neither of which i installed), a relic of the previous owners who housed people in the very small, uninhabitable place. and the copper plumbing that came with the house? yeah, that was never permitted so i need to handle that.

oh, and that deck i planned to build, which was to have the same specs as the one torn down? apparently, that was never permitted either, so any deck built now counts as new construction. and by the way, the City of LA says the hillside i live on is designated as a fire zone, so the lumber will need to be fire-treated and the deck’s supporting posts will need to be steel to accommodate the hill’s gradient.

obviously, this has been a most unhappy development, one that has added several thousands of dollars to the remodel’s total cost. not only will i need to pay for numerous permits for work i never did to my house, i’ll need to pay to have some of that work amended (e.g., moving the electrical panel). plus, there are noncompliance fees, inspection fees, plan submittal fees, and do you know how pricey fire-treated lumber and steel posts are?

after the shock of this news wore off and the compulsion to choke out the neighbor who called the inspector passed, i steadied myself and got down to handling business. first step involved speaking to the inspector, who turned out to be a most lovely and agreeable person. he wasn’t agreeable enough to throw out the dossier that had been created for my house despite my pleas, but he was flexible enough to extend a few deadlines for me.

then i got to the business of finding a good structural engineer, who could draw up and stamp the plans for the city. i must confess that i bungled this task, but i’m blaming this on the fact that i had the plague while searching and my congested head compromised my usual due diligence. the engineer i ended up with — after the first one quit dramatically over a contract dispute — has proven himself to be an epic shithead by being dismissive and patronizing to me throughout the project. (note to the internet: don’t use ATS Engineering in Glendale.)

but given that the check had been cashed and the plans were getting drawn, i was in too deep to restart the hunt, so i tried to work with him and his architect sidekick, who also had trouble remembering every conversation in which a request was made. i tried switching to email-only conversations, but this seemed not to help their collective absentmindedness. (note: Mo the architect could not draw up these plans as the city requires they be stamped by a licensed structural engineer.)

oh, the city. i still do love it despite its many flaws, with the Department of Building and Safety perhaps being its biggest. i cannot count the number of times letters got lost in the mail, phone calls were placed on hold and never returned to, and conflicting information was given. all the while, fees were collected, of course.

as someone whose day job is in compliance, i understand that gray areas exist and allowances must be made for subjective interpretation of certain rules, but my work is still largely guided by a manual that can be referred to as needed. so when i called the city and told them to “please check the code book so i can get a definitive answer” and was told the answer could “depend on the inspector,” you can imagine my dropped jaw and clenched fists.

and some of these codes are truly ridiculous. you practically need a permit to sneeze in your own house in the city of Los Angeles. it’s no exaggeration to say that the only thing you might not need a permit for is to paint, and that’s only because the city has not yet devised a way to tell you that it disapproves of your paint color and is regulating it for your own safety.

for my project, the biggest issue became the yard setback. apparently, front and side yards need to be the same distance from a house and/or any structures connected to it, like a deck, which is difficult when one is much smaller than the other. in my case, my house’s small front yard ended up shrinking the deck from its former 10’ by 20’ size to 8’ by 14’. i also lost the staircase at the side of the house, which connected the kitchen to the washer/dryer in the basement, because it stood too close to my neighbor’s property. this means i now have a door to nowhere in my kitchen that will have to be replaced with a window when construction restarts.

so when will construction restart? fine question. maybe april, may, june, who knows? the plans are now with the city for review, submitted just this week with an expedited status, which (of course) generated a 50% increase in filing fees. once approved, i have to apply for the permits, get an estimate from my contractor, construct, inspect, and then drink heavily to try to forget this whole thing ever happened. maybe after that i can get around to planning a party and enjoying my deck.

in the meantime, i am working like a single mother of five whose house is in foreclosure, bills are past due and job is in jeopardy. please note that none of this is true about my situation beyond the hours worked, which top off regularly at 70 a week. the past few weekends have been spent implanted into my couch, eating takeout with my laptop in front of me and dogs beside me, slogging through two magazine projects, a biannual proof of Cedars-Sinai’s donor list (a 200-page document), audio transcriptions for a new client, and brochure proofing for UCLA.

in short, i am exhausted, but that deck will be paid for, goddammit. i’ve resolved not to take out any more loans. apologies for any blogslacking in the interim. this crazy work schedule should not continue for much longer and i believe (hope?) the worst is behind me as one magazine is shipping to the printer soon and i’ve enrolled the help of a colleague to help me with some of the overflow.

it’s been a trying few months dealing with the city and a trying few weeks working so much, but i’m optimistic that “it will all be worth it in the end” — the cliche i’ve heard way too often through this remodel (which began on aug. 1, 2011, by the way), but one i’m whispering to myself every time i write another check or spend another hour working instead of sleeping.