Shake-up in Planning Department raises questions about county's future

Marty Fiorovich says it happens all the time. When she was designing a home in Larkin Valley, the 28-year architect submitted a soils report required by the county only to find that county planners really wanted something else. Full Story
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Archie Webber

Santa Cruz, CA

#1 Aug 17, 2010
I've been waiting for 6 months to get approval to add a 3ft lattice to an 5ft retaining wall that separates my property from the railroad tracks. I had to post a deposit of $2400;treated rudely by planning staff, charged for their mistakes, billed at rates and time that would make a high priced attorney jealous and forced to post my name and phone number in front of my house for all the world to see. I still haven't received a decision. Meanwhile I can walk in any direction from my house , or drive in any area of the county, and see fences and gates well above my request. The current system punishes law abider and rewards those who violate the law! I should know because I work in law enforcement!!
gail

San Francisco, CA

#3 Aug 17, 2010
The planning department needs to eliminate much of their staff. Agree that they are rude and on a power trip, especially the older blond at the front desk that walks around in high heels. She gave us wrong information and cost us time and money. Hate dealing with them.
funny

Santa Cruz, CA

#4 Aug 17, 2010
These people think wrote:
"There's people who think they can just build whatever they want on the their land, because it's their land," ---- ummm YEAH.
Is somebody a bit commusocialist here? I have a question, why does the Sierra club keep sending me packets of material made from trees? Sierra club was taken over by left wing commie pinkos...they'll get nothing from me.
I'm always surprised to get one of those "join the Sierra Club" packets in the mail. No other organization sends more glitzy, elaborate, high-gloss, expensive and wasteful print advertising than the Sierra Club - they seem to think conservation is for other people.
Westside since 1963

Santa Cruz, CA

#5 Aug 17, 2010
I built my home on the Westside in 1999 and did not have any real problems with the planning department or building inspectors, but I have heard horror stories from others. Apparently they have one inspector how red tagged his bothers house while he was there at Thanksgiving dinner because he was doing a minor remodel without a permit. Yes they need to make sure people are building up to code, but you should not need to talk to them to put up a fence. BTW you can grow a hedge that is 20 feet high and you don't need any building permit to do so. I know because I have done it.
Sandy Wallace

Rohnert Park, CA

#6 Aug 17, 2010
As a Realtor in Santa Cruz County for over 10 years, I have often heard let's just build it to code and forget the permit. The process takes too long and costs to much TIME on a simple project. The builders are up to date on the building codes and in many cases the county is not. Santa Cruz city on the other hand is more of an open door. It's going to take allot to change the reputation of the county building department to meet the needs of local builders and homeowners. I am very hopeful for a change.
SLV Resident

Oakland, CA

#7 Aug 17, 2010
How about having the office open at lunchtime. They close up. Have employees take a staggered lunch.
Franz Kafka

Santa Cruz, CA

#8 Aug 17, 2010
I love the hedge idea.

If I was going to build a new house, I would buy some nice rural land outside of the coastal commission area, and drill a well under permit. I would get an electrical permit for a large well pump, since I will need to irrigate my Christmas trees. After I had water and power, I would fence the land and install a gate. A big gate! I would build a barn with a permit or ag exemption for my "agricultural use". After final inspection of the barn, I would install a septic tank system. Then I would go to San Jose, buy the nicest motor home I could afford, and park it in the barn. I would live there happily ever after, writing off the interest on the land, barn, and motorhome from my IRS taxes. If the county came around, I would show them my permits, my deed, and then tell them to fork off. Ahhhhh. Justice.
dON

Sacramento, CA

#9 Aug 17, 2010
SLV Resident wrote:
How about having the office open at lunchtime. They close up. Have employees take a staggered lunch.
You think they're there for your convenience?

These are THE bureaucrats incarnate!

They look at an applicant the way the Huns looked at a village; something to pillage & burn.
Here For Now

Vallejo, CA

#10 Aug 17, 2010
These people think wrote:
"There's people who think they can just build whatever they want on the their land, because it's their land," ---- ummm YEAH.
Is somebody a bit commusocialist here? I have a question, why does the Sierra club keep sending me packets of material made from trees? Sierra club was taken over by left wing commie pinkos...they'll get nothing from me.
Zoning guidelines are necessary, without them you have no say if your neighbor depreciates your property due to 'doing what ever they want'.
The problem in Santa Cruz was the process, attitude and lack of clarity.
I think its great were getting in some new people with effective experience, now we just have to get some new blood in the santa cruz city counsel, an election is coming up be sure to vote out incumbent.
disabuser

Antioch, CA

#11 Aug 17, 2010
People ought to have a stable and predictable set of development rights associated with their property. The value of property is inextricably linked to what can be done on it at what cost. Yet the existence of building rights can be quite capricious in the county and the government has used the exercise of those rights as a license to extort. Unfortunately the universe of those being chewed up by the government regulatory and extortion machine at any one time is rather small, which creates a political problem whereas the size of a constituency that might assure fair treatment is dwarfed by the universe of selfish people that simply don't care about such things.
Soquel Local

Salinas, CA

#13 Aug 17, 2010
Start the enforcement efforts in Beach Flats where you have hundreds of substandard units fit only for condemnation, not to mention that 25 people typically live in each one room domicile. Building permits should take no more then one week, period, end of story particularly given the huge number of employees at the SC building department. Most projects at other cities are approved on the counter same day.
Soquel Local

Salinas, CA

#14 Aug 17, 2010
Archie Webber wrote:
I've been waiting for 6 months to get approval to add a 3ft lattice to an 5ft retaining wall that separates my property from the railroad tracks. I had to post a deposit of $2400;treated rudely by planning staff, charged for their mistakes, billed at rates and time that would make a high priced attorney jealous and forced to post my name and phone number in front of my house for all the world to see. I still haven't received a decision. Meanwhile I can walk in any direction from my house , or drive in any area of the county, and see fences and gates well above my request. The current system punishes law abider and rewards those who violate the law! I should know because I work in law enforcement!!
While I applaud you for trying to follow the law, remember this adage popular in our community: "Better to ask for forgiveness then for permission."
Redic

Vineburg, CA

#15 Aug 17, 2010
Article comments and business/service/product reviews are the best thing about the internet. The disenchanted are more likely to write but if the overwhelming percentage of feedback is negative, you have a problem.
BPeed

Santa Cruz, CA

#16 Aug 17, 2010
Isn't the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County pretty much at the 'built out' stage already? And wouldn't that mean that a lot of illegal construction has to do with attempts to add on rooms, or build second units, convert gargages, etc., so that MORE people can have the PRIVILEGE of living in one of the most beautiful and one the smallest Counties in CA? Here's what we all hear: I know I built illegally, but "it's just for my aging parents", or "it's just for my (40 year old) kid", and "it's just so I can make some money". "Screw the permit process!"
And pretty soon what do you have in this County?
You have the CRAP they have in SoCal.
monster house

Windsor, CA

#17 Aug 17, 2010
A monster house is being built near me on Dover Dr. The footprint involves a 1-2 foot setback around the property and it towers about 1.5 stories above everything around it.
I attended the planning meeting for it (about 10 years ago) and what is being built seems to be about double the size (in footprint and height) of what was approved.
Two weeks ago I called the planning dept. to ask if someone could investigate the discrepancy between what was approved and what is being built. The person I got on the phone was so totally unhelpful and rude to boot. Apparently, I need to obtain the approval packet, set up an appointment with a person in the zoning department, attend the meeting with that person (not at lunch), and then maybe they will send someone out to investigate. The burden is on the complainer. I just want someone to call the builder or to look at it to see if it is indeed in violation. I'm handing them a violation on a plate and yet they expect me to kill a few days of my work time putting together the complaint.
Lucas

AOL

#18 Aug 17, 2010
Does anyone at the Planning Department have a state license? Anyone?

How about the illegal appeals process? Dose anyone on the County Board of Supervisors have a state license? Well? Anyone?

None of these people are qualified to even talk to a contractor or an architect who are required to have a STATE LICENSE.
Disgruntled in Soquel

AOL

#20 Aug 17, 2010
Hooray!!! The county "planning" department needs shaking up. Going through the permitting process last year was one of the worst experiences of my life. The pre-permitting process was supposed to help smooth out the permit. It didn't. What I found was, as this article stated, lots of gotchas and Oh, by the ways. The permitting process turned what could have been a two week project into a six month nightmare. My contractor who was from San Jose, couldn't believe it. No fun, so I hope that the new person is able to make this unfriendly process into a more user friendly system. I don't really care to relax the rules. I just want to be able to understand fully and follow them acceptably.
BPeed

Santa Cruz, CA

#21 Aug 17, 2010
Lucas: "None of these people are qualified to even talk to a contractor or an architect who are required to have a state license".

Based on the amount of illegal construction in this County, it doesn't look like contractors are feeling the need to talk with anyone in the Planning Department anyway...and who needs a license when you can convert your garage over the span of a few weekends, with the help of your buds.
Wescruz

Santa Cruz, CA

#22 Aug 17, 2010
"Raises questions about the county's future."
What a silly tack on to headlines.
bleh

United States

#23 Aug 17, 2010
Who hasnt heard. Its the property owners land and their right to build a fire/mudslide/junkyard blight next door to their neighbors.

Its OK to build whatever you want, however you want. Just dont go to the county for a permit. And be nice with you neighbors. The county will not red-tag unless a neighbor signs his or her name.

Even then, they county usually wont force the owner to remove the building/work that would have been denied in the first place. So break the law and build what you want. Its cheaper and wont be denied.

If they crack down on violaters, there will be several thousand homeowners and landlords upset that their red tagged and/or illegal building is being unfairly targetted.

I love to hear what their plans are for the thousands of red-tagged homes in SC county being lived in and enjoying the low tax base.

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