Monday, July 04, 2005

The Process - City Planning and HPOZ Board


We took our plans and the material list to our first HPOZ board meeting which was at the home of a neighbor one street over. The architect on the boards wasn't there and one other board member didn't show up either. We passed out the plans and everyone liked them. They all felt that the addition with its flat roof (no one is allowed in our HPOZ to build a second story), and our windows which would mirror the original windows in the house was fine. The Cultural Heritage Board member said we needed to show a Screed mark where the new addition joins the garage so that in the future should people want to tell where the old becomes new it would be easily recognizable . Okay, we could do that. Then we were told by city planning that the back of the property needed to have a fifteen foot set back not five which is usually the case. Okay, we could do that too, but now we were losing footage from the addition. We gave everyone a copy of the plans and left two for the members not at the meeting. We went home knowing that some of the plans would have to be redrawn and we'd have to find a way to add back our lost footage. And of course, we'd be going back to the copy shop!

We gained back our lost footage by moving the wall of windows of the new bedroom out further into the backyard. We made new drawings. We recopied everything and two weeks later we again met with the board. This time the architect who had studied our plans suggested that instead of angling the bedroom across the backyard, we square it up and put in another window facing the old house. We liked the suggestion so we agreed. Again we went home and my husband, Steve redid all the drawings. We recopied all ten sets of plans. Yes, we were becoming quite familiar with the xerox machines especially those that copy large pages.

Armed with our new plans, we had to make an appointment with our city planner, Sandi. On our appointed day, we went downtown to city hall again and met with Sandi. She looked everything over and then sent us over to Building and Safety to the Public Counter. Now I don't know if you have ever been to see the Public Counter person at Building and Safety. It's not a pleasant experience. Plan to be treated rudely and made to wait and wait and wait. First, you take a number and wait for it to be called. Finally, a large man just back from lunch, personally, I think he could skip a few meals, told us to put the 10 sets of plans into a specific order. Then he barked at us to staple them a certain way and finally, he shoved across an ink pad and stamp and we had to stamp each set. When he were done, he pointed towards the end of the room and said, "Pay, then come back." We did as told and soon learned we needed to see another counter who told us we needed to hire an engineer to do structural drawings and calculations. Okay, we could do that. We went back to the first counter and showed him our receipt, he packed all the plans into separate envelopes to be mailed to the board members and the city planners et al. (Just a note here - we had to supply all the envelopes with address labels and postage - everything in ten sets of course.)

Five and a half hours later, we were done. I mean really done. And done in too. I thought to myself that I'd never want to be an architect if I had to deal with the people in Bldg & Safety on a regular basis. (I later learned that architects have gofers for such odious jobs). Anyway, we headed over to Olvera Street for a few margaritas. Might as well, we'd paid for all day parking and it isn't cheap downtown L.A. In my next life, I want to own parking lots.

Could we now get our building permits? No. Now we had to wait 3 1/2 weeks for Sandi, our city HPOZ planner, to give us our COA which is a Certificate of Appropriateness. This COA is needed if you are in an HPOZ as it basically states you have met all the conditions for historical appropriateness in your plans. And we also had to post on our garage, in plain view, a notice of intent to build (you'd think we were applying for a liquor liscense.) This notice is to give the neighbors a chance to complain or object. They had 15 days to object. We'd shown our neighbors the plans earlier. They all had said they were okay with the addition. But you never know if people are going to change their minds when you're not face to face. Would they object in writing? I wondered if I should bake brownies? Would that be considered a bribe?

We'd come so far. We'd started this process in January of 2005 and now it was March. By March 30th, we'd find out if we got our COA. Fiften more days of waiting. What if someone objected? Would the process start again? Would our future be endless days of xeroxing?

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