Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Permit

Two weeks ago, my architect submitted the drawing to the City of Portland for review. Two weeks later, we got our plan review meeting. I asked my architect and builder to both be there. I told them I would keep my mouth shut for fear that I may something stupid. The architect was to take the lead, since they were his drawings and he knew them better than anyone. My nerves caused me to shake.

This meeting was three months and $3,500 in the making. I probably shouldn't have been so nervous. If there were problems, we only had to address them in a permit revision to be approved. Nonetheless, I felt nervous.

The lead planning reviewer had first reviewed the permit that morning. Having had them for two weeks, I  had thought that everyone would have already reviewed them. But, the plans couldn't be reviewed by the structural engineer until the planner signed off on them.

At 1pm, we sat down in with the reviewers, who ushered us in; no smiles. The planner reviewer looks over the brims of her glasses, and said that the ADU was 860 sq ft. It needed to be downsized to 800 sq ft to pass her planning review.

In describing their math, she mentioned quickly that the stair space was counted twice, once for each floor. I had to open my mouth to ask whether I understood her correctly. She confirmed what she had stated. To this, I explained that we had been told differently. My architect then said that he had an email from a planner stating that stairs were not counted twice. He seemed to brush off the critique.

Though she found this apparently glaring error, she said that she saw no other problems with it. This was a relief, because I felt pretty confident that we would be able to prove that the structure was very deliberately designed to be under 800 sq ft according to the stated rules.

Next, if/when the plans past planning, they still needed to be reviewed by the structural engineer. Once they're through structural, we'll get the permit.

So, it had been two weeks already, but even if we had passed planning immediately right then and there, they would still need about ten more working days to complete the permit process. We hadn't gotten a straight answer about that one, so this was news to us. I had assumed that we could potentially walk out of there with a permit in hand, but this wasn't the case.

That evening, last night, my architect sent out a brilliant, humble and short email with a dimensioned drawing to show the sq foot calculations. He attached the email that he had received from the city stating that the stairs would not be counted twice.

This morning, the planner replied to my architect in a e-mail, "I concur with your measurements", she wrote , "So I can sign off on the permit."

It was music to my eyes.

Structural, Bring it. :)
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