Friday, April 16, 2010

Stop Calling, Stop Calling I Don't Wanna Hear Anymore ...

First, watch this. It's incredibly charming and will put you in a mood better than the one you're in now:

Last Tuesday marked the one month anniversary of submitting our plans. One month, we were told by Plan Checker Joey, was about how long it was taking to turn the plans around between the three departments--planning, fire and engineering--doing the checking.

Joey finished in three weeks, with a list several pages long of changes the city required of the architect. Fire similarly was done in about three week, and we all know what they wanted. Architect Josh turned Joey's list in about a week, while also getting the proper cuts and drawings we would need to find a fire sprinkler company that would actually answer the phone when we called and not treat us like complete chumps because the think we have more money than we really do. (As an aside, those rumors about the economy making businesses more responsive because they need the work, and local government entities being more responsive because they've come to realize the value of a taxpayer base? Complete bullshit. But I digress.)

Where were we. Planning? Check. Fire? Check? Engineering ...

Where was engineering?

When I was freelancing full-time, I wrote one and sometimes two stories a week about Salinas. I got to know some of the city folks fairly well, including the head city engineer. So on Wednesday about 5 p.m., I called and asked to speak to said engineer and threw in my affiliation so he would remember me.

He was in a meeting, the very nice lady on the phone said. Would I care to leave a message?

I would, I said. I gave her my name, my number and asked her to write down the following exactly as I said it.

"Please tell him I said, 'You are sucking my will to live.'" I told her. She giggled and said she would pass on the message.

Two seconds later, my phone rings. It's another woman from the engineering department who in a very cautious tone asked what my message was regarding. I told her, 226 (street name redacted so crazy and not particularly bright stalkers have a harder time finding me). She said she would give him the message as soon as he was out of his meeting.

Ten minutes later, my phone rings again. Engineer: Hello, how are you, why am I sucking your will to live?

"226 (street name redacted, yada yada)," I told him. "Yes," he said, "I just got the draft last night, but the name on them is Chuck M(complete last name redacted, crazy stalkers, see above)."

"Yeah," I said. "I'm Mrs. M. And you're sucking my will to live."

Engineer said that completely unrelated to my call, he was taking the plans home that evening. They then would go back to the junior planner (not quite sure what she's been doing the past month) and if they were clean, they would be ready on Monday.

Which is good, because our living situation is becoming untenable. (Not mine, really, because Roommate Todd, a completely intense person when it comes to his professional life as a coffeehouse owner, is a most laid back roommate around. Feed him once in awhile and he's happy.) But Chuck and the boys, who are living with his mother owing to the cat allergy thing, are having a different experience.

I know it's not unusual for adult children to move back home with their parents due to the economy. I left for Northwestern when I was 17 and with the exception of a few weeks here and there, I never lived at home again. Chuck left for the Naval Academy about the same time, and with the exception of a day or two here and there, the U.S. government owned his ass for the next nine years, with me taking co-ownership halfway through.

That was almost 20 years ago. I know it's stressful going from living by yourself to suddenly having your adult son and two grandkids living under your roof. But the stress is getting to everyone.

Our friend Larry shakes his head at our situation. "Your life has become a sitcom. Professional woman moves in with gay roommate, her husband and kids move in with his mother, and your best friend teaches homies how to quilt." My life has become a sitcom--a really bad one.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Reality? Check.

By the time this is over, I'm really going to need sprinklers, because I'm going to need to build a meth lab in the basement to pay for all of it and I don't want a little chemistry accident to burn my house down. That's right, people-I'm breaking bad.

The city of Salinas, the California Water Services Co. and the state of California: I'd like 10 minutes alone in a room with you and a fire hose, because you people have quite the little racket going. Other people ticking me -- pretty much anyone exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen who has ever picked up a hammer, and anyone who lives indoors.

Since the Holy Week Sprinkler Debacle began, I have gotten conflicting messages from everyone. The fire marshal said the Redevelopment Agency told us we would need sprinklers; they most definitely did not. Someone telling you your project requires sprinklers is not something you just forget or blow off. Because had they said it, it would have been included in the scope of the work that defined the budget--the one the contractor drew up, the one the FHA consultant approved. The Fire Marshal told me to call the Water Company and request a flow test to determine whether or not we needed a new meter (kaching! that's another high four figure outlay!) and the Water Company guy laughed at me and said, you need a fire protection company for that! (And he said it with a "duh" in his tone. Nothing ticks me off more than someone giving me a "duh" tone. I've got teenage sons for that--I don't need it from a professional in the course of doing his work.)

So we started calling the fire protection folks last week. We plan on getting bids from three companies. What I've found so far is that they base their bids on the number of sprinkler heads required--one guy told me he averages $210 per sprinkler head, and another told me he averages $150 per head. The $210 guy gave a quote of $8,700, I need someone closer to $5,000. (He also said we needed 11 heads in the basement apartment--a space that is only about 700 square feet.) Nobody can give me an accurate quote until our architect (the only one involved in this I don't want to kill quite yet) sends the correct plans showing the side cuts and the lighting plan.

Why I want to take a fire hose to the state of California is mixed into the middle of all of this. A half dozen people so far have told me that installing a sprinkler system is something a drunk monkey can do. A friend whose husband is an undercover narc told me he spent his teenage years installing systems for his dad, a residential developer, and that her husband offered to show us how to do it in an afternoon.

The problem is that under state code, you can't hire a sprinkler expert to design a system and then do the installation on your own. Whoever designs it installs it. It's possible to find an engineer to design a system, I think, but if they're going to charge $3 or $4k for it, there seems to be no sense in having someone design it and not install it.

This house has been a complete and total blight on Old Town Salinas for more than a half decade. It's been worked on, foreclosed upon, bought, worked on, foreclosed upon, and on and on. It's boarded up and waiting for us to start work. If sprinklers are part of the work, so be it.

I want to get everyone--the planning folks, the fire folks, the FHA folks, the water folks--in one room and give them a message: We are going to do everything right on this to the greatest extent possible. But I am going to move into this house no matter what. The whole "better to ask for forgiveness than permission" doesn't apply here. I'm asking permission until they prove their unwillingness to give it; I am not going to ask for forgiveness. It's really almost time to get out of my way.