Sunday, March 02, 2008

An expensive house

To understand this story, you must know it takes place in California.

A close relative has purchased some land and wants to build a house on it. Since it is unimproved farmland, she and her husband have to 1) build a road; 2) put in wiring to attach to the electric grid, under the road; and 3) install a phone line, also under the road. No telephone poles, of course, they're unsightly. I don't know what the other stuff is costing, but the least expensive item on this shopping list is the phone line, @$40,000, give or take a few thou. She won't tell me what the rest of it is costing, rightly fearing that I would have a heart attack.

For some reason, the local authorities--planning board or whatever--have never granted permission to build this house. It's been five years since they bought the land. The New Jersey solution--pay somebody off--is not available in this case. They have had to hire a lawyer to plot their course through the planning and permitting stage.

The deal-breaker for me is, this is in a so-called "scenic area," which means that you have to use approved materials and paint your house in certain approved colors, and no others. The house can't be too tall, or too short. God forbid that Californians out for a scenic drive in the country should encounter a--gasp--purple house. The shock! The outrage!

Back in the sixties and seventies, enlightened people used to sneer at the soul-destroying conformity of suburbia, where every house was the same, and no doubt filled with Republicans. There were even songs about it:

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

You get the idea. When other people do it, it's ticky-tacky, when Californians do it, it's scenic preservation.


Tat said...

Miriam, that was the song we were listening to on record-player in my English class in 5th grade! In Tatarstan! (I won't insult you with further geographical pointers - you're the librarian). To learn the correct pronunciation!

I'm so feeling your close relative's pain. Although nothing raises outrage quicker than radical idea of allowing people to build what they want on their own land - seemingly, from both the socialist Democrats and regulation-in-the-name-of-tradition loving Republicans.

miriam sawyer said...

Tat: The worst of it is, my relative and her husband think this is perfectly okay.

Anonymous said...

It`s really said that in the 21st century it could happen you are totally dismissed by the authorities, in addition you`ve invested a lot of money. What is the most annoying that you don`t want to carry out impossible things just to build your own dream home. As a Toronto realtor I`ve met some similar cases however they weren`t as difficult to solve. I would suggest to keep your patience and persistence and if its possible concerning your budget as well keep on in this struggle it will bring its own reward.

Steve Burri said...

I think of that song and the 60's disdain for conformity every time that credit card commercial comes on that shows a smooth running scene that is screwed up by someone trying to pay with cash or a check.

jim said...

*I* wouldn't want to live under that kind of arrogant elitist repression. But if the relative and her husband "think this is perfectly okay," they should have the freedom to do so.

Aside from that however, if I remember correctly, the Pacific Legal Foundation, gleefully goes after the kinds of appalling bureaucratic excesses alleged here.

PLF is a nonprofit property-rights legal-action and advocacy organization, home-based in Sacramento (often called Scrappymento).

I say "alleged" because - please note - we've only read one side of the story here, and even that one is only by hearsay from an anonymous original source. There can be LOTS of hidden gotchas, on BOTH sides of this issue.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

People who are used to tasteless coffee imbibed in smokeless coffee shops full of health food ads cannot be saved anymore.

Shoot them and bring in some new stock, I say. Even if my near and dear happen to inhabit that place.