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
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. 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. With 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.
Navigating class K , or Rural Residential permits is a bit complicated, yet well worth it. A very well written law, Class K allows you to build using recycled, upcycled building materials and alternative methods of construction http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/Class_K_Ordinance.pdf . Including milling your own wood and not needing to have it graded. Possibly being able to avoid having to do the energy calculations, if you are heating only with renewable energy, solar or wood heat. Modify you plans as you build, with written notification . Live in the structure as its being built. Most structures can be drawn by the owner, and don’t need to be engineered. Only one inspection at the end if you want, or you can still get multiple inspections. It’s a law based on safety as the criteria, safety for the occupants. So handrails, fire and co2 detectors, legal GFI protected electrical circuits in the kitchen and bathroom still need to be to code. A lot of the building code goes back to 1976, so has more leeway than the current National Building code.
You have to live in an unincorporated area of Mendocino county. It’s meant to be for an owner builder’s primary residence, so it can not be built to sell, or to rent for the first few years anyway. Class K can also be used for additional structures on the property as well, within zoning restrictions.
This building we are building using logs . Cut and peeled on our property here. We were also able to use recycled windows making our building cost substantially lower.
I posted this last week, but some of you didn’t figure out that the book downloads for free. Even though supporting this wonderful author by buying the book is fantastic.
All of Gene Logsdon’s books are really informative and helpful. Read them !
The Man Who Created Paradise
I stumbled across this book many years ago. It got me so excited, I ran out and bought ten more copies and gave them all away. Then I bought a few more a few years later and gave them away again.
Read this inspirational book of community and regeneration.
The Man Who Created Paradise
Gene Logsdon, Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, and of course Polyface Farm owner, Joel Salatin are all writing about what’s wrong with our agriculture and food systems, and how to build small farms. That large systems, especially in a biologically complex situation, don’t work as well as small systems. Oh, maybe they initially produce more, let’s exploit the soil resources. But then, the worn out, washed away, soil is pumped full of chemicals to continue to produce. The small farmer who cares that his soil continues to produce, applies compost, organic matter to replenish what was taken out. Ending up with hopefully a better soil in a few years. Also usually a more productive smaller acreage .
I can’t make an apple pie without thinking of my brother. He decided one year to master an apple pie. This was also the year he stayed home to try to win Dialing for Dollars . Some of you will remember this show that called random phone numbers and if you were there you could win money ! This was also the year we would sing Janis Joplins, ” Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, my friends all drive Porsche’s I must make amends. Worked hard all my life Lord, no help from my friends. Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.”
Anyway Dan had an idea of how a perfect apple pie should be. The apples should be a large part of it. So he stacked Apple slices so high the crust could barely contain them. They would cook down to a thick wedge of well cooked lightly sugared delicious Gravenstein Apples.
I’m pretty sure we also tried different thickeners, or no thickeners. We definitely loved flour for the best pie making sauce. I don’t remember if he struggled with the crust…but it was good too. I loved my job as taste tester.
Today my pies made with our Pink Pearl and Fuji apples we grew here. The Pink Pearls added a wonderful pink color to the pie as well as a tartness. Baked in our brick oven, the pies are delicious. Harvest is here and reaping this bounty is a blessing.
When I was twenty I visited a garden and saw an older woman up in a large tree pruning. I vowed at that point to climb trees in my forties. Now that I’m mid- fifties, climbing bigger trees doesn’t feel so comfortable any more. I can’t believe I’m admitting this. Today pruning this twenty foot fig tree I’ve pruned for the last five years, getting up in the higher branches just didn’t seem like a good idea. I did most of it anyway.
I think it’s the first time in my thirty five years of gardening that I wondered why I never considered a desk job… That’s saying a lot isn’t it ? Maybe I just need to learn how to give over some tasks… But I can tell you gardeners, if you love it as an occupation now, you’ll love it even more as the years go on. Gardening has so much diversity and constant learning experiences . If you want to be challenged, it will do it.
I like the part in this article that likens buying food shipped from around the world, to getting a delivery at home from a energy efficient Hummer, air conditioning on full blast and all the windows rolled down.
The single most important way we each can save our planet from Climate Change