January 2006

Today we hired a Civil Engineer and a Landscape Designer/Coastal Resource Specialist!

I don’t know if you guys have been reading in the news paper about construction slowing down and such…well I can’t say I see that here in Southern California. We are at the point where we need to hire a Civil Engineer to put a grading plan together for our site and it has taken us weeks to even get call backs from a lot of these people. Upon receiving a call back from one company, I was told that it would be 2-3 months before they would be able to start on any work!!

For those that don’t know what a Civil Engineer does…It’s my understanding that it’s their job to put a grading and drainage plan together for the home site that meets the counties requirements. This plan basically lets the county know how much dirt is going to be removed, pushed around or added to the building site to create a proper building pad. It also entails designing a drainage and erosion control system so that water flows through the property in a way that will minimize any possibility of structure or property damage to our property or those surrounding it.

Steve also pointed out to me:

“Grading plans are also what the grading contractors bids and what the winning contractor follows. If changes are made in the field by the grader for any reason (ease of construction being the usual reason), the changes are also supposed to be depicted on the plans and re-approved by the project engineer, the plan check engineer and geotechnical consultants as well.”


After a few more calls this week I was able to find a Civil Engineer that came highly recommended and had the time to fit us into his schedule. When I talked to him he was very enthusiastic about the project and seemed like a genuinely nice guy…great…I can’t wait to get started!

Due to the fact that we are in an area governed by the California Coastal Commission, we also need to hire a Landscape Designer to prepare a “Conceptual Landscape and Fuel Modification Plan”. Because we are in an area that is covered with environmentally sensitive habitat (ESHA) we have restrictions on the natural vegetation that we are allowed to remove during the building process…as well as what kind of vegetation we are allowed to put back in. On top of the environmental restrictions…that whole area of Malibu and the Santa Monica mountains is a fire hazard area, so the landscape plan has to be approved by the Coastal Commission as well as the Fire Dept.

The Landscape Designer/Coastal Resource Specialist that we hired has a particular expertise in this part of Los Angeles County and when you are dealing with entities like the California Coastal Commission and the Fire Department for environmental and fire safety issues it pays to hire the best.

Once we have the completed grading, landscape and fuel mod plans we will be ready to put those in a package with our already approved Los Angeles County Regional Planning stamped house plans and our soon to be Health Department approved septic system plans and submit the whole bunch of them into the California Coastal Commission.

Every day it gets a little closer!

It seems Steve is finding some innovative uses for this site. Instead of having to mail or drive a bunch of documents around to people or agencies involved with our project, he’s starting to just direct them to majorearth.com…a huge time saver!!

Here is what Steve just emailed me:

I called the County Geologic Reviewer the other day. It was just your usual touch-base, “Hey how are you doing? I’ve got this project coming down the pipe have you changed any of your submission requirements since the last project that I should know about?” conversation….

And she started to tell me that it was all still case-by-case and she would have to see what we were doing kind of thing…. At which point, I had her pull up the majorearth.com, and she was able to look at all of the plans, as well as the extensive collection of site photos. I could tell that she was blown away by the wealth of information at her finger tips. We were able to have an amazingly comprehensive initial conversation, that I wouldn’t have been able to have without mailing her a huge packet of documents…. or driving down to beautiful downtown Alhambra. The only way that things could’ve possibly been better is if we had a pdf of the geotechnical report available on the site. But, given that the area is known for having exceptionally hard volcanics, that wasn’t even really an issue.

I could tell that she was completely blown away. I also could tell that she was enjoying being a part of the new technology. She seemed to be having fun just perusing the site. It reminded me of the time that I cracked open my laptop to show a planchecker a fly-through movie of one of the more complicated hillside room additions that I did that the planchecker was having a hard time visualizing. I think the only way things could’ve been more futuristic would’ve been if we went to work that day in solar-powered hovercrafts and had 0 calorie / 0 carb Dove Bars for lunch.

A bit more progress to report. Steve took our plans down to the Fire Department yesterday and was able to get our Fire Dept. Coastal Commission approval.

This basically states that our plans show we have room for a fire truck to get into our driveway and also have the proper turnaround to get it out. It also states that we have proper access around the house as well.

Along with the Health Dept. approval for the septic system, the Fire Dept. approval was another that we needed before we can submit our whole package to the California Coastal Commission.

Here’s a blurb from an email Steve sent regarding the process:

The Fire Department Plans Examiner ran his planometer around the main residence and determined that we were providing the required 5′ minimum width, 300′ maximum travel distance “Clear To Sky” from the required Fire Department turnaround. He determined that we were in compliance. And he issued the “COASTAL COMMISSION APPROVAL ONLY” for access. We then discussed the items that would be required to receive the Building + Safety Final Approval.

Exciting stuff!