Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Room With a View

Maybe it's not geometrically correct, but I still think it's pretty cool!

Latest Three Dee

Here are the latest 3D renditions, featuring accurate topography, a garage built into the front of the basement (is it doable? Don't know yet!), and 2' high basement windows. These images are taken from a fly-through 3D version of the house that I'm building with Home Design Studio for the Mac.

It's not meant to be ease-y!

I now finally have my survey and my soils report, and predictably there's some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it's 'feasible' to build my LV Home on the lot - there's about three feet of topsoil, and under that is bedrock. The house will require either pier and grade beam foundations or, if we bury the basement into the hillside (which is what I intend to do), spread footings, which I assume would be less costly. So far, so good.

The not so good news is that our surveyor found out PG&E own an easement for the aerial power lines that hover above our lot. The upshot is that, instead of placing the front (south) corner of the house at the 15 foot front setback line, we will have to move the entire house 10 feet further down the hill, to a PG&E 25 foot setback line. It's a tight squeeze as it is, so that means we'd need to either rotate the house back about 12º away from the optimal view of the ocean; or get a variance for the rear 20 foot setback from Pacifica's planning department, so that we can encroach around 6 feet; or get permission from PG&E to ignore their easement; or chop a little off the corner of the house!

Of these options, the first is our least favorite, because we want to keep the view - that's the whole point of this site! The second is apparently very unlikely, and is also very expensive: the Pacifica Planning Department will charge us $4000 just to apply for the variance, which they won't support, and which they think we are unlikely to get. Choice number 3 is our favorite, although as you can imagine, dealing with PG&E will no doubt require the patience of a saint and several valium. Option 4 is a last resort, but I think it's doable, and it might look OK if we make it a feature rather than a bug!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stakes All Around!

Things are starting to move! On a rainy Sunday morning I met Ed at the lot and we checked out the surveyor's work. We now finally have the property corners and the setbacks marked. We cleared a shit load of brush and established lines of sight so that Ed could bang in some stakes on the marks and run lines. We also marked the corners of the house, and it looks like it will just fit within the setbacks at the correct angle (turned about 35º NNW) to face the ocean. At this point it's unclear whether or not we'll be able to fit in a garage or carport next to the house - that's still TBD.

Very grateful to get some help from someone I don't even know, Bill Drury, who is clearing his own lot in San Rafael with the intention of building an LV Home, or something similar. Bill kindly volunteered his time and spent a couple of hours helping to cut down and clear shrubs. Thanks Bill!

Next step is to meet the surveyor at the lot and have him give us exact spots for the four corners of the house, and then we'll run lines and got a more accurate idea of how everything looks. We should get the actual survey map by Thursday, and the soils report some time next week.

In the meantime, I'm still getting quotes for the windows, and compiling a window and door spreadsheet, which I'll share with the LV Home Yahoo! group at some point soon. The best quotes have been from 1st Windows in LA, very reasonable prices for Milgards (50% less than my local quote!) and Jeld-Wen. I also now know that, if I want to have four full height 9' aluminum sliding doors at the back of the house, my main choices are Jeld-Wenn or Bonelli's, as neither Milgard nor Blomberg make them that high. The Jeld-Wen sliders are around $2500.00 each, while the Bonelli's are double that, at $4850.00 each. In the interests of completeness, I'll add that 9' Fleetwood sliders are nearly double that again, at $8918.00 each. I presume they are made of gold rather than aluminum.

Numbers in a nutshell: Milgard windows and doors all around for $10,753; Jeld-Wen all around for $17,140; Blomberg all around for $31,721; Bonelli's all around for $34,595; and Fleetwood all around for just over $60K!!! I'm leaning towards the Jeld-Wen, if I can get a good close-up look at them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Talbot in the Morning

This morning Ed (my contractor friend) and I met with the surveyor at the lot, and it was the first time I'd seen the place in morning light. It was breathtaking...

Sunday, December 7, 2008


This weekend I've spent waaaay to long working on a 3D fly-through version of the house using Home Design Pro for the Mac. It's worth it, though, because after measuring out the lot and the setbacks and creating the 3D design, it looks like there's room on the lot to build a separate garage, and it doesn't look too bad next to the house.

The advantages of building a separate garage are that we won't need to change Rocio's plans (every change is expensive!); we can drop the basement lower into the hillside, which gives the house a much nicer profile; we don't have to deal with easements to get access from the bottom of the lot; and we don't have to build a long driveway. Also, we'll get the benefit of a full 1200 sq ft basement.

The cons? Well, it doesn't look all that attractive, does it? And I still have to build a second foundation and a garage!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Moving along, slowly

Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, it's time to get everything moving along. The soils report is underway, with borings being taken right now, and today I signed a contract and mailed a deposit check for the site survey, which should happen on Friday.

The soils report, which is being done by Michelucci and Associates, will cost $4000.00.
The site survey, which is being done by American Land Surveying, will cost $3400.00.

And I have to say, I am very happy with those quotes, as I thought both surveys would be considerably more expensive.

Meanwhile, I'm still investigating windows. I got a quote from Bonelli's, who make high end windows here in San Francisco, for $34,595.00. That's... how can I put it?... a lot of fricking money. Nevertheless, I'm going to take a look at their products on Friday morning. They also quoted me $17,938.00 for the four sliding patio doors at the back of the building, and around $5250.00 each for oversize sliding patio doors that are 9' high - the height of the building.

I'm thinking that perhaps I could use these 9' Bonelli windows for the entire back of the house, without transoms. Matthew and Allison did this to their house in the Hudson Valley in New York State. I could then use cheaper windows - perhaps Milgards - for the rest of the house. Just a thought...

Still wondering what it takes to get a quote for the roof. In this crappy economy, why is it so hard to get anyone to return your calls, or follow through with a quote? Bewildering...