Monday, May 17, 2010

The Hiatus and the Frustration

The work on both houses has been temporarily sidelined, due to visiting family.

Tom's parents, Carol and Carter, cane for a visit last Thursday (Tom's 55th birthday), and were here until Sunday. We took them by both houses (the Delaney House still in its original position, and the Cheney Cottage, still sitting in a field in Albany in two pieces). They were pretty amazed at all the work we've done, and all the work we're doing. They will be back on Saturday, when we're having a big family party, and then leaving for Massachusetts on Sunday. So last weekend, and next weekend, all the work has stopped while we are visiting.

When we were at the Cheney Cottage, I found myself getting angry at the City of Berkeley all over again. The house has been damaged: first by the additional move, and then by sitting in the field during all the rains. Although we have tried to keep the two halves of the house covered, rain water has gotten in and damaged the house. The coffered ceiling in the living room has been damaged, as has the plaster in the dining room. The floors of the second floor are also damaged by the weather, and the house has been left neglected for several weeks. Once again, the City of Berkeley, which claims to support historic preservation, has put this house at additional risk because of their petty bureaucratic nonsense.

We are protesting the City's decisions on several fronts, including wanting a surety bond, wanting us to do borings on the lot, and of course the demolition permit that we had to pay for, even though their rules say we don't need it. With each little chip at the project, the city of Berkeley makes it more and more difficult for us to complete the project, and more likely that we won't be able to restore both houses.

Yet they continue hassling us about various unimportant details. Because we have chosen to go through the permit process, we get the feeling that we get to be the recipients of all the pent-up frustration that so many other Berkeley residents avoided by doing their work illegally. Many people have commented that no City inspector would ever go to 62nd Street without cause, so it would be extremely unlikely that we'd be caught if we decided not to get permits. But we chose to use the process, and continue to be punished for it.

We have proposed to the City Council that they set up a Commission on the Building Department and Permit Center, to: review the processes; make recommendations for streamlining the permit process; find examples of other cities that have more efficient processes; and develop an appeal process for draconian measures of the Permit Center.

Bob and Ray, the stump grinders, with piles of redwood mulch, and Sox the dog

Meanwhile, there has been progress. The stumps have all been ground down, and the front yard is piled high with redwood mulch. The lot is ready for the houses to be moved to their new locations. The houses are ready to be moved. All we need is for the City to issue us our damn permits. We don't expect this to happen for at least a couple more weeks, however.

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