Now I’m no expert, but I have gone through developing two properties, bought as bare land in the Mendocino Coastal Area. I can say I was shocked and surprised each time by how difficult and challenging this was. I’am in no way a legal representative of these building laws, but having dodged through this I’d like to help some others if I can with my experience only.
If you are up for a more moderate challenge, buy a property that has an existing building, septic, well and power on it. Remodeling and adding on to an existing building is much cheaper and easier.
But if you are like me and are up for a bigger challenge, or you just can’t find what you are looking for out there, you might be thinking of buying bare land.
If you buy land in coastal commission jurisdiction, you are looking at a minimum of three years to be able to break ground and start to build. Before you can apply for a Coastal Development Permit you must have a site plan with almost all of the development you want to do on this plan. Then you need house elevations and floor plans, a septic system design, botanical study- which is only possible a few months of the year. Then forestry dept. permit with all access roadways figured in. Possibly geological studies and archeological studies. Solar power design or a engineered design from the utility company for electrical service. Whew, are you overwhelmed yet ?
But, there are many properties that have exemption areas in our Coastal Area. This is a link to a map of parcels on the south coast http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/Coastal_Zone_South.pdf
The shaded areas on this map show parcels that have Categorical Exemption Areas. If you want to build a regular single family dwelling, including a barn, garage, wells, septic and appurtenant structures. You can do this WITHOUT going through a Coastal Development Permit if the improvements are all going within the exemption area. There is an application that the county has to approve the verify the Categorical Exemption that it is not within I think, 100′ of a waterway, and that it does not have more than a 20 degree slope. Here is the link http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/CatEx_Conds_-_08-28-92.pdf. I think you could ask a planner before you purchase a piece of land to verify the Categorical Exemption. Once you fill out this form, it is only good for three years. You have to at least have obtained a permit for the work within this time. If you want to build a second residential unit, guest house or family care unit ( granny unit 1000 sq. ft. and a kitchen, certain requirements are necessary for this temporary permit ) you need to go through the Coastal Development permit process.
I do not speak as any expert here and I’m only trying to be helpful, please double check every thing you do with the county. But maybe this can help people to swim through this complicated system and develop beautiful properties in this wonderful area.