Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Water Water Everywhere ...

The highlight of my day: I flooded the entire front of my housemate's home with toilet water, tried running to the rescue (of what, I'm still not sure) and hit the slippery tile in my Born boots with such force that I plowed into my 6'3", 280-lb. husband, took him to the ground and knocked my head off the floor.

It was the highlight, though, because when the city of Salinas reviews your building plans and tells you that you're going to need to install a sprinkler system on a renovation project that has only a $140,000 total budget, you really can only go up from there.

I'm on vacation this week. I've been told vacation is supposed to be relaxing. For the most part, it has been. It started last Wednesday when my husband drove me to Mineta-San Jose International Airport, kissed me goodbye and sent me to the adult version of craft camp. I spent three-and-a-half days at Ft. Worden, in Port Townsend, WA, at "Artfest," run by the husband-and-wife team of Tracy Vaughn Moore and Teesha Moore. I made stuff. I hung out with women (and a few men) who also made stuff. I ate good Thai food. I nurtured my inner child-or some bullshit like that. Mostly it was fun; I learned a few things, met some great people and created some cool stuff. But I have trouble relaxing. I think I came pretty close though.

Sunday was No. 1 son's birthday. The little hosehead turned 16. I remember when he was cute and little and didn't talk back. Now the mothers of his female classmates refer to him as "delicious" and he wants the keys to my car.

But yesterday, the day of the Great Flood, we also got comments back on our plan submittal for House226. Chuck was reading along and then he came to the Fire Marshal's section, the one that said "you want to build three units, you get to install fire sprinklers." He asked the planning department about sprinklers before we even set down this road, and they said, not needed. (Apparently they were talking about some other plans, plans that exist in another dimension or something like that.) The fire marshal said the Redevelopment Agency told us we would need sprinklers--they most assuredly did not. But here we are and we need sprinklers before we can pull the building permit and get to work.

The fear factor came in yesterday when someone told us a system would run about $50,000. That is a show stopper, a mail-the-keys-to-the-bank show stopper. That would take one-third of a budget that's already up against the wall. We mostly sat around stunned last night, but Chuck reasoned that there are too many people with too much to lose on this deal--our FHA consultant, for one, and our contractor, for another.

The contractor bid, and the consultant approved said bid, without any consideration for sprinklers. The FHA consultant today? Less than helpful. Default is certainly an option, he said. And so is making sure his license is suspended, I thought.

We tried to figure out a way around it. What if we went down to two units? What if we made it a single-family? The city wants multi-unit housing, yeah, but it wants this house painted and fixed up and generally deblighted more, doesn't it? Chuck ate a valium the dentist gave him for an upcoming procedure, and followed that up with a beer. I made meatloaf and tried to be chipper, but then I flushed the toilet and walked away from it, only to find myself covered in toilet water an hour later. I woke up about 6 a.m. today and spent the next few hours panicking.

My husband could build a nuclear reactor out of spare parts in the garage, but this confounded even him. There was a lot of sitting around and holding his head in his hands today, as one unhelpful email after another came in. That's when I decided to visit my new hero, Salinas Fire Marshal Tom Wiley.

After going through the situation with Wiley, and being told the RDA had told us about the sprinklers (uh, no they didn't) I asked him how much we could expect to pay for the sprinkler system. He said $1.25 a square foot installed. Cheaper if we do it ourselves. "It's just orange plastic pipe and couplings."

"You mean, it's not $50,000?" I asked. And that's when he and his cohort, the plan checker on the fire side of things, giggled like teenage girls. "Who told you that? We're in the wrong line of work."

$1.25 per foot comes out to about $5,300. We can work that into the budget. I have to get plans to the various local fire protection companies and see what's what. I also have to get in touch with Cal Water Services Co. to request a bucket test and see if they can go off of our existing meter. I tried doing that today--they're supposedly open until 5 p.m., but the woman who answered the phone today said they closed down at noon today. And she giggled nervously when I asked to know why.

If they can't use our existing meter, it could be pricey, Fire Marshal Wiley said. But it's still doable.

"I wish you would have come and talked to me yesterday," he said. "We're not here to throw up roadblocks."

There is not enough sedation in the world to completely eradicate the suck that was yesterday. Chuck is still pretty grumpy, because we've gotten the royal runaround from everyone but the Fire Marshal. And we failed at the most simple thing, a thing you think we would have learned after our business debacle: always, always get it in writing.

But I'm not giving up on this one without a serious fight.


  1. This stressed me out. I (think?) it ended happily, but how's your head?

  2. I'm quite happy to be a renter, thankyou. But good luck, anyway -- glad to read that it wasn't $50k!


  3. That's cute that you think Chimpus Maximus didn't talk back when he was little...


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