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Tropico Perspective: Permit process should go digital

May 20, 2011|By Michael Teahan

We are in the middle of moving from our perfect little 810-square-foot home with a to-die-for view in Adams Hill to a larger home just south of Montrose.

If I were a little younger, I might tackle some of the remodeling work without making it legal, but this house has history and comes with 72 pages of permits since 1940. I like to bend the rules sometimes, but with that record and the prospect of Glendale gadfly Barry Allen trying to take undercover photos of our naked kitchen, I thought it best to play this one on the up and up.

For the most part, doing everything with permits wasn’t too stressful, though there were a couple of close calls. When reforms to the design review process gave staff the authority to approve minor remodels over the counter, no one was really sure how that would pan out. My experience thus far is that they are pretty serious about making sure that homeowners and contractors do the right thing and offered help to point them in the right direction.

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We had to produce plans, elevations and photos to demonstrate that we weren’t going to ruin the neighborhood by taking out a window. I actually appreciated the sense that if I were pitching a vinyl window, I might be slapped clear into the parking garage.

The mechanical permit process was harder to comprehend. Our project was supposed to be a simple kitchen remodel, but simple wasn't on the menu. It was like going to the mechanic for a tune-up and driving away with new tires, brakes and a rebuilt transmission.

I don’t understand how a house that has sailed through 70 years of California earthquakes with nary a crack needs to be upgraded to 2011 Tokyo standards, but this house will not tip over if even Godzilla sits on it.

Even with more than $1,500 in permits under our belt (so far), I am certainly no expert in navigating the permit process, but I certainly have a few ideas on how to improve it. One of the advantages of not running for anything is that I can throw around big ideas that would make life easier for anyone working with local government and give little thought of how to pay for it. Then again, unfunded promises haven’t stopped politicians yet.

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