Monday, August 1, 2011

Robert’s Renovation – Update

Many of you know I am not a fan of nonsensical rules whether it’s from New Home, our healthcare system or government agencies. I love simplicity and although creating both a bathroom and bedroom out of a garage isn’t completely simple, it seemed easily doable. After all, millions of garages must have been converted into living spaces over the years.

Apparently, not always with the proper permit.

Okay, okay. I have a confession to make before going any further. In the interest of full disclosure, my Hubby and his brothers actually constructed a wall in the garage a few years ago when Hubby thought having space for an office in which to do homework for him and the kids (he’s in school too) sounded like a good idea (and no, like thousands of other families, we didn’t get the proper permit for it). The “room” was created but without finished flooring, ventilation or heating and air. There were, maybe, two months out of the year comfortable enough to be in the room so homework was back inside the house being done at the dining room table. The “room” evolved into a work out space (for about a minute) to its current use as a storage space for all puzzles and games and crafts and party supplies and old furniture and (oh, yeah) exercise equipment that I knew ONE DAY I would use again.

Finishing the room and adding a bathroom seemed like a natural solution when we decided to move Robert in with us (not to mention an excellent excuse to sell off that exercise equipment). We don’t have a shower or bedroom downstairs in our house and Robert can’t manage stairs so this seemed like such a simple solution. How hard could it be to finish the room by adding a/c, plumbing and cable?

Apparently, pretty darn difficult if you live in the city of Rancho Cordova, California.

Hubby decided to help out the contractor by investigating the permit fees for garage conversions. He was quickly told garage conversions are not permitted unless there is also covered parking provided for two cars.

Gee, that sounds a lot like my garage. That I’m trying to convert.

I tell Hubby not to worry. I’m sure it’s simple enough to get an exception to this rule (I have since found it is called a “variance.”). Hubby went to the Building and Safety Department today to ask about variances for garage conversions and explains we are creating a space for his wife’s disabled brother. He even explains Robert has epilepsy and that he needs to be cared for and he can’t go up the stairs and we would like to provide a room for him in the garage (Hubby probably told them even more than that because he is a pretty friendly guy).

He’s told it doesn’t matter why we’re doing it. It’s not allowed (and I’m sure they are not nearly as friendly about it as my Hubby). Can we put a cover over our driveway and call it covered parking? Nope. The covered parking cannot be in front of the house; it has to be on the side of the house. Oh, you mean where two sheds, our garbage cans and a good sized tree are? And we have to dodge the fire hydrant in front of our house to get back there? Is that what you mean? Yep.

Hubby asks for the reasoning behind the regulation. It’s so the City of Rancho Cordova can reduce street parking. Well, guess what! It doesn’t seem to be working because our neighborhood is full of cars parked on the street. Drive down any street in our little city and, unless it’s a gated community, there will be cars parked on the street. This regulation doesn’t appear to be solving any parking issues the city has.

How about coming up with a regulation that will keep people from parking on their front lawn (as my neighbor tends to do)? They didn’t convert their garage but they certainly don’t use it to park their cars. If people can store whatever they want in their garage, making it necessary to park in their driveway (or even the street) what is the point of this rule banning me from transforming my garage into a livable space for my disabled brother? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of the government telling people they can’t use their own garage for storage but I also don’t want to be told I can’t create a bedroom in it either without jumping through unnecessary hoops.

I don’t think I should have to go to the extra expense of paving my side yard and installing a car port which will ultimately go unused because we park in our driveway anyway (conversion or no conversion)!

There are thousands of disabled adults on waiting lists across the country to get into a care facility or group homes. Many more are not yet on a waiting list but currently live with family members. Robert is in a care facility now but I am willing to care for him at my house which opens up a space for someone else. I can’t do this until I can provide a suitable living area for him. I cannot do this without a permit (well, I could but it’s risky because the city could actually evict me from my own home for doing so).

What is the simple solution to the simple question of where can my brother sleep and bathe?? There may not be a simple answer but I will not let this go and will not go away quietly. We’re going to appeal as much for Robert’s sake as for the sake of other families struggling with the same roadblocks.

We will file a formal request to convert our garage without providing the additional covered parking and then, if denied, will file an appeal. We can take it to court if that appeal is denied. It’s time to raise a ruckus and I’m ready for it.

And to begin my protest I may just park on the street tonight!


Jane said...

You go girl!!!!!!! Good for you. You fight for Robert and all of us who have disabled children, spouses, etc.

I understand your frustration as I have been down the same road with permits but they allow my neighbor to grow a hedge of bushes on his property and the easement that blocks the view of the street. I was with a friend coming up my street and I almost hit a little girl in the street because you can't see. He also planted trees all along the easement which hang down over the street so low I can reach up and touch them. The garbage truck damaged the water line to the neighbors house because it couldn't get around the cul-de-sac because of the branches.

I could go on and on but will spare you.


June Skalisky Gillam said...

Sending you best of luck and a ton of perseverance ! It took us about a year to jump through all the sac city plus condo permit hoops to build a wheelchair ramp for Jer !

Heidi Alberti & Atticus Uncensored said...

What can I do Trish? Do you have contact info for folks on the building commission (or whatever it's called) that we can write or call?

This is SO wrong, especially in light of last month's Bee story about the county employee in Carmichael who built without permits. Maybe the solution is to become a city/county employee and then you are allowed to do whatever you want (so corrupt!!)

I'll raise hell with you, Trish! Just tell me where to direct my disgust with the city.

Heidi & Atticus
"commentary to give you paws..."

Brandy Mychals said... tape and local government...I feel for you! Good luck...looks like you've got Heidi on your side and she knows how to make things happen! I admire your dedication and loving care you provide your brother :-)

JoAnn said...

Beyond pitiful and pathetic! You go Heidi!! Like that line in the movie Murphy's Romance by James Garner's character, "when I'm pushed, I shove!" And California wonders why no one wants to live there? I'm in another state, outside city limits, and can park anywhere I want to on my property LOL Blessed. We can also do quite a bit of 'renovation' without permits, and if we do need them, they aren't all that expensive and there's not all that much red tape, although we do run into it from time to time. But I, like you, have a tendency to shove back when I'm pushed on a lot of things! ;) Praying for ya and for Robert's family! There's power in numbers ~ hopefully the community can inundate City Hall and anybody else who is 'standing in the way' ~ and git r done!

Matt S. said...

I'm sure you can get around this set back!

In my neighborhood, no cars are allowed to be parked on the street overnight at all. They patrol the street every two hours and ticket anyone parked on the street past midnight! Rules Rules Rules

Make sure when you write your formal request, that you include the fact that you will be keeping the external appearance of the garage intact (not removing the garage door). I would think that they are a just as concerned with the appearance of garage conversions, that just having two more cars parked on the street.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Matt, That is an excellent suggestion and I will include that info in the letter. Our neighborhood isn't patrolled but I have tried to get parking enforcement out when the neighbor parks on the lawn but have been told they don't have enough enforcement officers to respond to calls like that! Argh!

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Thank you for your support JoAnn. If the formal request and appeal are denied, I will rally the troops and perhaps need to attend a city council meeting to get this approved.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Brandy, I appreciate your support! Heidi's a good one to have on my side, for sure. :-) I'll let you know how it turns out.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Heidi, Thanks for sending the link, I hadn't seen that article. Are you kidding me?? I'm going to try to go about this the proper way and will hope the desk clerk and her supervisor don't know what they're talking about (as far as the variance approval). If it gets formally denied, I say we show up to a city council meeting and express our concerns. :-)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

June, I don't know what to say! A year to get a ramp approved? That is ridiculous and creates such a hardship. With the number of family caregivers growing, cities need to get on board with allowing a bit of flexibility with these requests.

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Jane, There doesn't seem to be consistency in these regulations and if someone has to fight, I will do it. I feel awful for the people who can't continue to fight these regulations.

Fiona Stolze said...

Good for you Trish. This sounds like a lot of nonsense to me. In the UK no-one, I repeat no-one ever uses their garage for parking. Everyone parks on the driveway or out on the road (or half on the pavement). I believe that where there is a will, there is a way. And your resolution is such, that I am convinced you will find a way to turn this all around. This is just another little hiccup in the grand scheme of things and certainly not anything that could hold you back. I love your determination. Bless you for everything you do. x

Fiona Stolze
Inspired Art and Living

June Sockol said...

Wow, you're trying to do something to help your brother and the city is sticking to some stupid rules. Yet your neighbors can break the rules and not get into any trouble.

Would it help to go the papers or local tv station and tell your story? Or maybe going to the mayor or city official of your town and seeing if they would be willing to bend rules to help you?

I don't know the cost but can you add an additional room to the first floor?

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Hi, June. When submitting the formal request, I plan to copy the mayor and may involve the press if I don't get anywhere. An additional room would be a lot more expensive than just converting the garage. Plus, I'm sure that would have it's own permitting challenges. :-)

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Fiona, I knew I loved the UK for a reason! :-) You're so right that this is a hiccup and I really think we can get this done. It's a matter of talking to the right people and giving them the right reasons so they'll approve it.

Franziska San Pedro said...

Oh no! I am keeping my fingers crossed for you and I am hoping a solution can be found soon. I love all the support here on your blog, you all are great people :-)

Whatever you need, signing petitions, etc. let me know, I am in!!

Franziska San Pedro
The Abstract Impressionist Artress

Judy Stone-Goldman said...

Surely they don't know what kind of person you are! Inviting you in to a cause on behalf of your brother is inviting the mother bear in--I can feel your ferocity, and I know it will be put to good use.

If ever there were a good cause worth fighting for and a situation deserving an exception to the rule, this is it (apart from whether it's a good rule to begin with). I think with some publicity and public rallying, you stand a great chance of creating the space Robert needs.

This kind of situation is especially maddening because you are willing to help Robert, to take him from a facility and care for him--in effect helping the state rather than asking for more!

I'll eagerly await updates, although I can imagine this may be an extended story.

Power to you!

Judy Stone-Goldman
The Reflective Writer
"Word maven loves--and learns from--ordinary life."

Rita said...

Wow, who knew?! It sounds crazy and it is...the rules they come up with (100 years ago) ought to be makes NO you said ALL you are trying to do is GOOD!!!! The insanity drives me crazy. I love your drive and are stick with it and take it all the way to the supreme court!!! Its just sad that it might have to come to that...I mean seriously, WHO cares if your parking in your driveway ANYWAY!!!! Do they know how ridiculous they sound...I always! You GO! Wishing you all the best.....I will sign any petition you need!!!

Rita Brennan Freay

Trish Hughes Kreis said...

Rita, Judy & Franziska, your support means so much! I may have found my "golden ticket" with a Reasonable Accommodation code (which, you'd think the clerk & her supervisor would have directed us to!). After hours of searching, found this clause and now need to apply for it. Keep those fingers crossed! :-)