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.


  1. No, not your basement. You want an RV for that particular job.

    Overlapping bureaucracy, with a side of snarkiness? That blows, Mary.

  2. Well, the problem here is that if you want to install a fire hose in your basement, you are at the very least going to need a new meter and a much larger intake pump. Oh, and four-hundred-ninety-three separate state, county, and city permits, including "Use of a fire hose in a non-crowd control situation." Costs: Fire hose--$486; meter and other hardware, $758; permits--$46, 983.50 (asssuming everything is submitted correctly the first time). This also assumes no dead bodies--which would involve toxic waste disposal.


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