I don’t have a good idea for naming / ordering these posts yet. “Episode” sounds really epic, but that’s what first came to me. Maybe I’ll think on it a little more.
Yesterday was a really fun day, although fun is sort of an odd way to describe a series of meetings with city employees charged with upholding various statutes and codes and bylaws and standards. But I went into the rest of my day with a bit of a swing in my step, so I’m going to call it a success.
Our first meeting was in the Cultural Resources Department. We showed the Historic Preservation Planner our site plan, site section, and images of the building model, as well as pictures of the immediate alley context around the site of our proposed garage. We’re hoping to build a two-story garage that will house an in-law suite above (or possible rental unit down the line). With a four foot grade difference between our yard and the alley, almost half of the interior height of the first floor garage won’t even be visible from the house, so even a full two story structure is going to feel shorter from the backyard.
We drove around the alleys in our neighborhood last weekend and took photographs of Model Examples of existing two story garages (that were originally carriage houses) in the neighborhood. There are a lot of them, and there are quite a few on our own block, so building one on our property is not going to stick out like a sore thumb.
We were pleasantly surprised in this initial meeting that we didn’t get any pushback on what we are proposing. (Particularly the second floor on the garage or the proportion of windows / openings in the new addition.) Our house’s facades are classified as “private facades” vs. “public” or “semi-public”, so even though you will be able to see a portion of the addition from the neighboring cross street, because we are the second house in from the corner, we have fewer regulations on the final design of the addition.
We also discussed approved materials for the addition and the garage. There’s a fairly short list of approved materials, but we do have the option to propose different materials for review, so we’re not limited quite yet. Approved materials in the district are brick / brick veneer, stone veneer, scored stucco or sandstone, or 4″ wood lap siding. Not included on this list are many of the exterior materials I talked about in this post. But that’s okay – we’ve got a starting point, and over the next few weeks we will start to make some decisions on these.
After the Cultural Resources meeting, we hung out for awhile on the fourth floor, waiting for our appointment in the Zoning Department. City Hall is a really beautiful building, but we decided that it could use a few seating areas outside of the offices.
We headed in a few minutes early to our zoning meeting, and the reviewer we met with was really helpful. He had pulled everything we needed to discuss based on my phone conversation with him, and we were able to cover all the potential issues in just over thirty minutes. Here’s a brief outline of those issues:
- Addition on west property line : Notarized maintenance agreement from west neighbor
- Garage on west and east property lines: Notarized maintenance agreement from both neighbors
- If we can’t obtain notarized maintenance agreements (basically permission to access the side of our building from their property for maintenance issues), then the project doesn’t stop, it just has to go in front of the Board of Adjustment. (We’re trying to avoid this hurdle – it’s expensive and time consuming.) We have very good relationships with both neighbors, so this shouldn’t be a big issue. It’s the just the logistics involved in getting everything signed and notarized.
- Garage Height: Notarized statement from both neighbors if above 12′ and below 18′. If it exceeds 18′ then it has to go to Board of Adjustment. (We have preliminary approval from Cultural Resources to do a living unit above the garage, and we are currently in a multi-family zoning area so that is okay! So we’ll have to see how the height works out. It’s an average of the height on four sides and we have a 4′ drop at the alley, so that is to our advantage. And the parapet wall doesn’t count on a flat roof.)
4. Cultural Resources Preliminary Review – Materials and Site Plan.
- Yesterday’s meeting was an informal review, but we’ll have to submit our final schematic package for approval, with materials listed.
We left City Hall, stopped into a neighborhood coffee shop for a minute, and then headed off in separate directions for the rest of our work day. But we sent virtual high-fives and dancing lady emojis via texts throughout the day, and decided that it’s pretty fun to be the clients we are working for!