Jacob Bek, a New York City Architect discusses a Hamptons summer house and the cost of firing the architect

Let me tell you a quick story about a recent client of mine, what not to do, and the serious impacts their early decisions had on their dream home.  These clients, let’s call them Jack and Jill (obviously not their real names), purchased a new summer home in an exclusive neighborhood about an hour east of New York City (The Hamptons). The house needed serious work, but the property and location were great (minutes to town and the beach). “Jack and Jill,” both very successful professionals, and at no fault of their own, had never experienced a building project and didn’t understand the process or role of their architect.

“Jack and Jill” first hired a “design architect” to “design” their home renovation project. I put “design architect” in quotations because this individual misrepresented him/herself as an “architect,” was unlicensed, and therefore illegally practicing architecture. Saying nothing to the design, a professional may had advised the clients that they would be happier, and it would be more cost effective, to simply rebuild the home. Regardless, they continued through the design stage with this individual, and then were forced to hire a second “licensed architect” for the limited purpose of permitting. This second architecture firm was not invested in the project and only preformed their limited scope of obtaining the required municipality approvals.

Then with very poor drawings and documentation the project was bid to three contractors. When the bids came back, the lowest was just over one million dollars, and the highest nearly three. This disparity alone tells you there was something very wrong. Without a professional architect guiding the project, controlling the budget and very poor documentation, there was no possible way any contractor could accurately bid on the job. The lowest bid was chosen and the “design architect” claimed he/she could handle overseeing the construction. Needless to say the “design architect” was not qualified and unable to do so; and half way through construction, the entire job site nearly stopped. The first “design architect” disappeared, the second architect only performed the work he/she was contracted to, and the contractor did not know how to proceed. At this point it was nearly two years into the design and construction process. This was when I was called, architect number three.

Constrained by the previous design and the work already preformed onsite, we halted all pertinent site work, quickly triaged the project and design, and were able to get the site moving again in a few weeks. It took a few more months to truly get the project back on track. The cost (emotionally, monetarily and in time) of not having a professional architect guiding the process was high. The project ended up costing nearly twice the initial bid and was delivered over a year late. On the upside, we were still able to work with the contractor and our clients to deliver a home they absolutely love and will continue to enjoy for many years.

Yes, part of why I tell this story is to demonstrate the importance and eventual savings (time, money and headache) an architect can provide throughout the entirety of your project. However, the main reason why I tell this story is to display the role and importance of your architect as an expert, organizer and professional leading your project, regardless of his or her skill as a designer. Of course it is essential to hire an architect based on his or her past work and design sensibility, but it is equally, if not more, important for your architect to be a professional and person you trust. You’re entrusting your architect to not only design your project and oversee the construction team, budget and schedule, but work closely with you to realize your dream. My personal view is that a very good architect will do just that, but a great architect will allow you to discover and deliver a project far beyond what you could ever have envisioned.

Jacob Bek, R.A. LEED AP
jba collective

www.jbacollective.com
info@jbacollective.com

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San Carlos Second Dwelling Unit

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, read our client stories or contact us today if you are interested in building your own second dwelling unit, carriage house or other home project.

In-Law Studios: A Creative Housing Solution for San Francisco

In-Law Unit
In-Law Unit

Grappling with their affordable housing crisis, the City of San Francisco is evaluating this pressing issue from many different angles. One unique solution is encouraging the development of accessory dwelling units (also commonly known as secondary dwelling or in-law units).   Recently, the Board of Supervisors passed two pieces of legislation that now supports this type of housing:

First, Supervisor David Chiu’s ordinance grants legal status to existing illegal units built before January 2013. The ordinance also prohibits the costs of legalization from being passed through to the tenant.  Recognizing the existing illegal units can potentially add anywhere between 30,000 to 50,000 units to the City’s housing stock.

The second recently passed ordinance was Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation that legalizes the new construction of accessory dwelling units in District 8, primarily the Castro neighborhood. Density and other planning code requirements are waived to support the development of in-law units. To ensure these accessory dwellings meet the City’s goals of offering these units as additional affordable housing options, the Planning Department will monitor the rents and publish a report evaluating the effectiveness of the ordinance.  Other requirements  include:

  •  limiting the maximum square footage to 750 square feet
  • the units must be built within the existing building envelope
  • for buildings that have less than 10 existing dwelling units, only one in-law unit is permitted
  • buildings with 10 or more units are permitted to have up to two in-law units

Now, Wiener is proposing yet another piece of creative legislation to spur the increase of in-law units. His legislation would allow property owners who are mandated to do seismic work on their buildings to add in-law units within their soft-story buildings. This provides an opportunity for the property owners to earn additional rental income that will make the necessary retrofits viable.

As stated in San Francisco’s Housing Element, the housing market continues to be tight and housing costs are beyond the reach of many households. In-law units in existing residential buildings represent a simple and cost-effective method of expanding the City’s housing supply. Click here to learn more about San Francisco’s planning code for accessory dwelling units.

If you are interested in pursing your own accessory dwelling units, reach out to New Avenue at 855-5NewAve or email info@newavenuehomes.com.

 

Redwood City Considers Updates to Regulations on In-Law Studios

Redwood City
Redwood City

Redwood City is working hard to make it easier for homeowners to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), encouraging public participation as they consider potential changes to current regulations.   Based on public comment and input from Planning Commission and City Council from recent study sessions, staff is now considering the following recommendations:

  • Allow the ADU parking space to be in the front, side and rear yard or tandem in the driveway
  • Decrease setbacks from 20 feet to 6 feet for one-story units but remain 20 feet for two-story buildings
  • Allow homeowner residency in either the ADU or main house, as opposed to restricting the homeowner to living in the main house only
  • Increasing the height limit to 20 feet for detached units, and maintaining the 2.5-story height limit intact for attached ADUs
  • Increase allowable number of bedrooms from one to two for properties greater than 10,000 square feet
  • 10 percent lot coverage bonus if the ADU is provided as housing for the elderly or individuals with special needs

There will be at least one additional Planning Commission meeting allowing for public comment and any final recommendations will be discussed during a public City Council session.

As the leading expert for accessory dwellings, New Avenue is excited that these discussions are taking place in Redwood City. To learn more, visit at www.redwoodcity.org/adu

Little Atherton’s Big Housing Market – How Small Homes Strike a Balance

An unincorporated area of San Mateo County, the tiny town of Atherton has a major market for mansions.  In fact, Atherton is Atherton, CAreportedly the most affluent zip code in the nation and is home to Silicon Valley’s tech darlings like Facbook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Google’s Eric Schmidt.  For this reason,  Planning for the required number of housing units has proved especially difficult for this Peninsula community with their limited space for new construction.  By utilizing the expansive lots and existing infrastructure of their single family homes, these accessory dwellings are a practical solution.  Other benefits of these small homes include the valuable opportunity for multigenerational living, supplemental income for owners and affordable housing for renters. Here are a few of the requirements related to accessory dwelling units in Atherton, though you’ll have to  review the municipal code for the most accurate definition, requirements, variances and exceptions:

  • The second unit shall not exceed 1,200 sq ft (doubled in 2010 from previous maximum of 600 sq ft)
  • May enroach into the side and rear yard setbacks by not more than twenty percent of the required setback
  • Maximum height is thirty feet
  • Parking requirements are 1 space per number of bedrooms in second unit

In addition, the owner must occupy either (or both) the main house or second unit.  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.

Chicken Coop or Cottage?

What’s in YOUR backyard?

Do you have an old garden, incessant blackberry bushes, or perhaps a chicken coop?

Chicken Coop
Chicken Coop

Dennis’ mother was happy with their decision and although she wanted a cozy space and a rustic style, even the chickens didn’t care for the coop that had no chance of being repaired.

Formerly a plant dealer and always a green thumb connoisseur, Lisa used the art of gardening to arrange succulents, agave, trees, shrubs, and potted flowering plants along mazy, pebbly paths.

They decided to nest into the luscious landscaping a 600 sf one bedroom, one bathroom, L-shaped small home with a living/kitchen area and a gable roof and loft.  Take a peek at the transformation in action by visiting the client’s story page.  Also, click on the floor plans and loft below for a close-up look at the details of the design.

Loft
Loft
Floor Plans
Floor Plans
Elevations
Elevations

Now Dennis and Lisa have their beautiful new cottage….

El Cerrito Cottage
El Cerrito Cottage

 

1 - Facebook 1

 

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and a great new alarm system:

 

Beware -  cute chihuahua
Beware – Super cute chihuahua

Continue reading “Chicken Coop or Cottage?”

Menlo Park addresses Housing by making it easier to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

  Menlo Park took this opportunity to meet their RHNA of 655 dwelling units by concurrently amending their ADU ordinance. Now it’s easier for residents to build a backyard cottage!  Some of the adopted regulations include:

  • Reducing the required interior side setback to five feet
  • A maximum size of 640 square feet but may be built up to 700 square feet to allow access for disabled residents
  • Increasing the maximum height to 17 feet
  • Allowing parking in required front and interior side yards
The ordinance was adopted on May 13, 2014 and became effective on June 13, 2014.  Visit the City of Menlo more information on the revised zoning code, and for a copy of the amendment, click here.  We look forward to seeing more backyard cottages, in-law studios, private home spas, guest houses, music rooms, art studios and more!
erin
Erin’s In-Law Studio photo credit: Scott Kline
New Avenue did a project in Menlo Park not too long ago. Check out Erin’s story.

 

Mona’s Backyard Casita – Plans and Progress Shots

This 609 square foot tiny house fits two bedrooms comfortably. The house has level surfaces throughout, radiant floor heating, a living area fan, spray foam insulation in the roof and tile throughout. Universal design elements were incorporated to improve accessibility and comfort for the family.

New Avenue started this project in October 2012 and completed it in February 2014. This time period is everything from idea to the ribbon-cutting.

Simple line rendering
Simple line rendering
Floor Plan
Floor Plan
Small House Roof
Roof Plan
The backyard before everything
The backyard before everything
Framing Construction
Framing Construction
Plywood, Framing Construction
Plywood, Framing Construction
Framing Small House
Framing Construction
Construction - Moisture Wrap
Construction – Moisture Wrap
Radiant Floor Boiler in Framing
Radiant Floor Boiler in Framing
Living Area Preview
Living Area Preview
Small Kitchen
Small Kitchen
Bathroom Sink
Bathroom Sink
Toilet and Shower Pan
Toilet and Shower Pan
Outdoor Shot
Outdoor Shot
The Cottage - Nearly Done
The Cottage – Nearly Done
Along the fence - daylight
Along the fence – daylight
Evening Shot
Evening Shot
Fencing at Night with lighting
Fencing at Night with lighting

New Avenue is a platform that connects homeowners, architects and designers, and contractors in an integrated project delivery experience that makes adding small homes and accessory dwelling units easier. Interested in transforming your home? Check out a newavenuehomes.com.

Santa Cruz Open House of Mid-Construction Backyard Cottage, Saturday July 19th, 12-2pm

Santa Cruz ADU
Cedar custom 1x4" fabricated and rabbited on site

Tour a 1,000 sq.ft. accessory dwelling under construction on Saturday, July 19th from 12-2pm in Santa Cruz.  The drywall just went up, so it’s a perfect time to get a sense of the size and flow of a beautiful ADU, with all the finishes still up to your imagination! Kathleen and John are building this home for Kathleen’s father.  The space has a 2-car garage, loft, full kitchen and lots of storage space for this active couple’s paddle boards, surf boards and bicycles!

New Avenue representatives will beElevations on hand answering any questions you have about our process and how projects like this work.  Feel free to invite your friends and family. Simply click here to RSVP and get the address.

Stay tuned for invitations to more open houses and events like this one. Please call us at 855.563.9283 or email info@newavenuehomes.com with any questions about this project or one you might have in mind for yourself.

Award-Winning Green Builder, M.S. Builders, Joins New Avenue; Santa Cruz Project Breaks Ground



New Avenue recently enlisted Marc Susskind’s Company, M.S. Builders to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Santa Cruz.  The project, a one-level 500 sf dwelling with a 2-car garage, broke ground last month and is already halfway complete, thanks to their management and expertise.

  New Avenue has recently noticed a pent up demand for accessory dwellings throughout the bay area region.

“MS Builders is an excellent addition to the team,” states Kevin Casey, CEO and Founder of New Avenue.  “Their extensive experience with ADUs, custom homes and green building ensures we are delivering a quality product for our client.”

MS Builders is a foundation to finish building team, providing all of the parts from start to finish ensuring that each project is completed in a timely and efficient manner.  They built their clientele entirely word of mouth, having solidified their reputation by treating each project and client with the same respectful approach with a focus on quality, economy and efficiency.

Marc has been building for the past 20 years and has been a licensed general contractor since 2001, the year he founded MS Builders.  MS Builders has received numerous awards, including Fine Homebuilding’s Best New Home, Santa Cruz Straw Bale House, 2012 and four Santa Cruz Green Building Awards for various projects within the City.  MS Builders has been building ADU’s in the City of Santa Cruz since the new ADU ordinance was adopted 10 years ago.

For more information about MS Builders, visit http://ms-builders.com.