“So…Many…People…”

Last week I had a fun day introducing a writer from Sierra Magazine to three of our clients. This is the magazine of the Sierra Club, America’s oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization. They are writing a story about New Avenue covering the sustainability attributes of our smaller homes and the new lifestyle they provide. They wanted to really get to know a few clients as part of the story.

Over the course of a few hours we visited our clients Lorrie Beth and Larry and their good friend Kitty in Berkeley. Lorrie Beth and Larry are building a home for Kitty who is a dear friend and needed a wheelchair accessible home. We also dropped into Susan’s cottage as the framing was going up and our project in Orinda where the client has moved in and only has a bit of decorating and landscaping work left to do.

The writer had a great question for each of our clients – “What did you learn that was totally unexpected?” Kitty answered that she had no idea there were so many people involved in creating a new home.

And the beauty of Kitty’s answer was in her delivery. She added an entertaining extra bit of gravity and pause in her voice as she answered:

“So (pause #1)…. Many (pause #2)… People…(pause #3)”

This lead to a tangent where we listed out the number of people involved BEFORE the construction even began:

  1. Lorrie Beth and Larry – the homeowners
  2. Kitty the main client
  3. Kitty’s assistant/nurse
  4. An ADA/Universal Design specialist to discuss accessibility needs
  5. An architect to create a custom design
  6. A draft person to help the architect create several design options
  7. A good friend who is an architect to discuss ideas and ease some nerves about the occasionally overwhelming process of building a home
  8. A surveyor to confirm the real location of the property line and just how far the fences are off
  9. A planner from the city to confirm what’s allowed and suggest improvements and review the planning permit
  10. The head of the planning department to review the approved planning permit and provide a stamp of approval.
  11. An engineer to perform the structural and seismic calculations
  12. A builder to provide an estimate
  13. A second builder to provide another estimate
  14. A third builder to provide another estimate
  15. An energy efficiency analyst (Title 24) required for the building permit
  16. A building department official or “plan checker” to review the construction documents and approve the building permit
  17. A bank loan officer to write up a loan
  18. A bank inspector to approve the plans and budget so the loan officer and finalize the loan

And then the construction began. That will be another post.

Fortunately, our clients are building second units and that means they are defining their life by having more people around and this leads to a lot of great relationships between architects, designers, carpenters etc… I can’t say we like the bankers too much, though. That’s another post too.

The article is being written now and should be published in a month or two. We will be share the links as soon as it is out.

Contra Costa County and Residential Accessory Dwellings

Contra Costa County allows residential second units in certain zoning districts but the permitting process is downright terrifying here.

Before we get to the terrifying part, here are some of the development standards:

  • Lot Size. The minimum size of a lot with a primary residence and a second unit is six thousand square feet.
  • Second Unit Size. A second unit may not exceed 1,000 square feet, but for lots smaller than 10,000 square feet: Secondary dwellings may have a maximum floor area of 640 square feet.
  • Lot Coverage. In single-family residential districts, the second unit may not cause the maximum total structural lot coverage to exceed 40%

  • Living Provisions. A second unit must provide complete independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation. The second unit may include one kitchen, living room, and dining room, and no more than two bathrooms and two bedrooms.

  • The additional parking space may be in tandem, or the additional space may be in the existing driveway if the additional space is outside the existing setback or side yard.

Those standards are all fine and quite in line with other regions.  The scary thing in Contra Costa County is the “Impact Fees”.   Fees for second unit permits will be in amounts established by the board of supervisors in the community development department’s fee schedule. Second unit866470ZBhixq_display_image2 (1)s are subject to all new development fees, including but not limited to development impact fees, park fees, and assessment district assessment allocations.  For Spring’s Casita in 2012, the summary of fees are approximately $24,821.  However, most of these fees go away if the cottage doesn’t have a kitchen.

  • Building Permit: $3,500
  • Lamorina Transportation:  $3,723
  • Waste Management: $80
  • Drainage Review: $175Fire Review: $215
  • Sewer Impact Fee $7,000 (Noted this is $600 if it is not a “Dwelling” unit)
  • Water $5,500 for a new meter

For many projects in Contra Costa the impact fees will actually add up to almost $50,000.  This is painful for everyone but we do have to agree that you do get quite a bit for those fees (3rd bore tunnel, summer recreation programs, insanely good schools).    Some people who don’t really need a full guest house with a kitchen but really just want an office or pool house with a shower will benefit greatly from making sure they get the permits for something that is not a “dwelling”.

Also, in January of this year the County adjusted their fees.  Verify with the Planning Division and zoning ordinance to confirm your requirements in your zoning district. Learn more about accessory dwellings by learning about our process.

You can contact us for additional plans, budgets or sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

The Duplex and Accessory Dwelling

 

Duplex and Garage
Duplex and Garage

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interested in building a duplex and an accessory building on one Berkeley property, Rivero contacted New Avenue on April 2013.   Here is a copy of the initial schedule of values, approximately $25,0000, for one structure.

If you are interested in pursuing your own accessory dwelling in Berkeley, we encourage you to further review the municipal code for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions.  Some of the current regulations for accessory dwellings include:

  • Lot size requirement: Minimum  lot size is 4,500 sq ft
  • Maximum size: 640 sq ft or 25% of main house
  • Parking: Additional, non-tandem parking space required

However, the City of Berkeley is moving towards amending these restrictions in the near future, allowing for a streamlined and less costly approval process for this project type.

Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements for your home, or call New Avenue!  Learn more about accessory dwellings, remodels and major home renovations by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in pursuing your own home project.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Accessory Dwellings in the City of El Cerrito

Here are a few of the requirements related to Second Units for the City of El Cerrito, though you’ll have to review the New Accessory Dwelling code for 2017 for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions:

  • The maximum FAR (floor area ratio) shall not exceed 750 sq ft or 40% of the floor area of the primary dwelling, whichever is less, except that an attached Second Unit of 400 sq ft in floor area is permitted regardless of the size of the primary dwelling. Up to 1200 sq ft or 75% of the floor area of the primary dwelling, whichever is less, may be permitted with the approval of a Conditional Use Permit.
  • The maximum height of a detached Second Unit is 15 feet. A detached Second Unit may exceed 15-feet in height with the approval of a Conditional Use Permit.
  • The required additional parking space for the Second Unit may be in tandem with required parking of the principal dwelling unit.
Dennis and Lisa's Paradise in El Cerrito, CA
Dennis and Lisa’s Paradise in El Cerrito, CA

Here’s a link to a client story for a recent El Cerrito project.  This home was also featured on NPR!  Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements in your zoning district. Learn more about accessory dwellings by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in building your own backyard cottage.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Woodside and Accessory Living Quarters

Nestled in San Mateo County and filled with ranches and horse properties, the town of ar135976903004569Woodside has done better than some of its neighbors in providing additional housing.

They town planed for 17 low-income units in the last housing element, but 24 were actually built, all of them accessory living quarters.

 An accessory living quarter is a living area that is: (1) within or attached to a main dwelling or within or attached to a detached building or structure, subordinate to the main dwelling; and (2) designed, built or used for human habitation.

Many accessory living units in Woodside are built to be occupied by people who work on a property, to provide rental income or to allow older residents a place age in place, allowing their adult children and their families to move into the main house.

Here’s an overview of the key differences between accessory structures and accessory living quarters.

Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements for your home, or call New Avenue.  Learn more about accessory dwellings, remodels and major home renovations by learning about our process, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in pursuing your own home project.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Metal Roofs vs. Traditional Shingles

We all know asphalt shingles as they are the most common roofing material. You probably see them everyday and almost everywhere.

Composite shingle roofs are a fine product as they are affordable and easy to install. They are made out of a fiberglass base that is covered with asphalt and a mineral or aggregate adds the texture and color. Due to their 15-20 year life expectancy the roof has to be replaced and discarded to a landfill regularly. You’ve probably seen something like this before:

A metal roof will cost about twice as much as a comp shingle roof would, but it will last generations.  At year 15, when you avoid the first replacement of comp shingle roof, you break even.  At year 30 and every 15-20 years thereafter you are saving the entire cost of a new roof.  Just as importantly, the steel consists of recycled material and is recyclable if it is ever removed.  Most metal roofs have a special reflective coating that makes them more energy efficient and qualifies them energy star certification.

We have worked with metal roof network (www.metalroofnet.com) on several of our projects.  Their metal roofs come in different styles such as tiles or standing seam and they come in different materials such as copper and steel.  This gray steel standing seam metal roof is our first project with Metal Roof Network.

A few other metal roof options are listed here:

Diamond Shaped Shingles

Steel Shake Tiles

 

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.


San Carlos Accessory Dwelling

In the draft Housing Element, the City of San Carlos will promote the develocraftsman-exteriorpment of second dwelling units (SDU) to increase housing opportunities. Some of the incentives for secondary dwelling units include encouraging local agencies, districts and utility providers to reduce hookup or other fees to facilitate the development of second units.  The City also aims to modify some of the second unit development standards, such as eliminating the 400-foot distance standard currently required between secondary dwelling units.  Another progressive goal for the city is identifying possible sources of funding for secondary dwelling units and “research potential funding sources for remodels of existing homes to create an autonomous second unit within the existing structure”.   The city will also continue to promote the amnesty program to legalize existing unpermitted second units.

Here are a few of the current requirements related to second dwelling units in San Carlos, though we recommend you review the zoning ordinance for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions:

  • Attached SDU may be 30% of the home’s square-feet in area up to a 1,200 square-foot maximum. Detached SDU is limited to 640 square-feet maximum.
  • A Detached SDU must have a minimum of five feet from all side and rear lot lines. Detached SDU may be located in the rear one half of the lot and have a second floor element only if located over a detached garage.
  • Maximum height is 15’ unless located over a garage, bringing the height limit to 28’.
  • A tandem parking space may also be used to meet the parking requirement for the second dwelling unit, providing such space will not encumber access to a required parking space for the primary single-unit dwelling

Second units are not allowed if there is another second dwelling unit within 400 feet measured from nearest edge of the lot line of each respective or proposed second dwelling unit. However, the homeowner can obtain a waiver for this restriction.  Two other waivers related to the SDU are for the 5’ setback requirement (only for SDUs created prior to January 1, 2003) and window and door openings.

Verify with the Planning Division to confirm your requirements in your zoning district. Learn more about transforming your home by learning about our process, or contact us today if you are interested in building your own second dwelling unit, carriage house or other home project.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Your Home and Water

rain-180117_1280

Leaks, spills, puddles, and high humidity can be your home’s worst nightmare. Water damage can become expensive and laborious to fix and mold can take root. This is a quick checklist for preventing the intrusion and accumulation of moisture in and around your home.

Inside your home

  • Keep indoor relative humidity below 60% – ideally between 30% to 50%. Humidity meters can be as inexpensive as $10.
  • Stoves, clothes dryers, and ventilators are sources of moisture. Keep them clean and unobstructed.
  • When cooking, open a window or turn on the exhaust fan. Clean or replace dirty and dusty filters. Also, when showering, crack open the bathroom window or turn on the bathroom fan.
  • If you have an in-sink garbage disposal, use it regularly to keep your kitchen sink drainage optimal and prevent pooling.
  • Look under your kitchen sink and behind your refrigerator for stains or moist surfaces. There may be a leak or an obstruction.
  • Weatherstripping and flashing around fenestration should be examined and repaired to prevent water and air leakage.
  • If you have a basement or utility room, look at pipes, duct work, or openings in the wall. If there is moisture, something isn’t sealed well or isn’t being vented sufficiently.

Outside your home

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts. Good roof drainage protects your siding and foundation. Rainwater should be drained and redirected at least 5 feet away from your foundation to ground that does not pool.
  • After a heavy rain, walk around the perimeter of your house to see if your gutters and downspouts drainage systems are performing fine. Water can be dammed up by obstructions.
  • Don’t let your water sprinklers hit your home’s siding.
  • Tree limbs and leaves hold moisture. If they are close to the roof, they can hold moisture in your shingles or direct it to your siding and windows.
  • If your shingles are curling or roof tile is cracked or missing, it’s time to do something about it. Water can penetrate your roof and accumulate in your ceiling and walls.

More Resources

 

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Reading Roundup

This is a roundup of articles and blog posts related to accessory dwellings that we’ve enjoyed this week.

 


An Open and Airy Backyard Cottage

From Seattle Magazine

Developers have been drooling over Kate Lichtenstein’s property. Located in a neighborhood filled with small houses, many of which are being torn down, the lot includes her beloved one-story, one-bedroom 1920s bungalow and until recently, a small, dilapidated shed in the backyard. “I get letters all the time from developers wanting to buy it,” she says, “but I think it’s such a unique property and I plan to hold on to it.”…

Continue to article »


A House That’s Sustainable From the Inside Out

From Jetson Green

The Passive House Che has recently been built in a forest in Romania and is currently still being evaluated to receive the Passive House standard certification. As such, it is of course equipped with all sorts of sustainable features, which also include an indoor lawn. It was designed by the local firm Tecto Architectura…

Continue to article »


Regan Gray & George Okulitch’s ADU: A Super-Efficient ADU

From AccessoryDwellings.org

Regan Gray and her partner George Okulitch first learned about ADUs in 2010 when they read a press release about Portland’s waiver of System Development Fees (SDCs) for ADUs….

Continue to article »


The 600 Square Foot Family

From LifeEdited

Vancouver is one of North America’s densest cities with some of its highest property values. When the city’s residents have kids, many travel the oft-tread path from city center to the burbs for more square footage. This was the situation that Alison and Trevor Mazurek faced when they started considering having a family….

Continue to article »

 

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.

Is solar power a good option?

rooftop_solar

For homeowners concerned about energy bills and their impact on the environment, solar power has long been a tempting option. And if you’re starting a major remodel or addition, you can reduce many of the up front costs of installing a solar power system by rolling it into one big project.

While costs have steadily decreased over the last decade, solar panels and inverters remain expensive. How can you judge whether solar power system is a good investment for your home?

A recent study released by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center has good news: according to their estimates, rooftop solar now costs the same or even less than grid power in 42 American cities. And contrary to popular perception, insolation (the amount of sunshine reaching a given area) is not always the determining factor in the cost-effectiveness of solar power – the two cheapest cities for solar are relatively cloudy New York and Boston. Both cities offer tax credits and other incentives that offset relatively low insolation. Albuquerque, which does not have as many incentives but much more sunshine, comes in third place. You can check what incentives are available in your area with the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 10.16.36 AM

But these results come with important caveats.  First, the study assumes that homeowners install a 5 kilowatt system, either paid for upfront or financed with a 25-year loan at 5%. If we assume that a typical solar panel produces 0.75kWh per square meter, a 5 kilowatt system would require at least 70 square feet of south-facing rooftop. If you’re building a small accessory dwelling, your roof may not have that kind of space.

Second, the cost of solar only beats grid power if you use the system for 25 years. Although installing solar panels can increase your property value, if you move before 25 years have passed, your investment in solar may not pay off.

Still, the economics of solar power will only improve with time. Utility rates across the country are predicted to increase in the near future, and the cost of solar panels continues to fall. And for many homeowners, cost-benefit analysis is only one part of their decision to go solar – their impact on the environment is often just as important.

You can sign up and use the New Avenue system for free here: Get Started

Have any questions? We are available to discuss your goals & ideas. There’s no fee or commitment. To request a time for a call, just click here and tell us when to call you.