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Re: [TowerTalk] Bay Area Structural Engineer Needed

Subject: Re: [TowerTalk] Bay Area Structural Engineer Needed
From: jimlux <>
Date: Sun, 13 Mar 2011 09:33:11 -0700
List-post: <">>
On 3/12/11 11:25 PM, Kevin Normoyle wrote:
> I would question whether the "special use" requirement is really valid. Since
> they didn't know about ham radio, how can they be right that it's a "special 
> use" ?

Special Use is a "term of art" in the land use planning business. 
Basically, it's what they say when ever you are doing anything other 
than "standard", and antenna support structures, towers, etc are all 
One might also need a special use permit for a fireplace in your 
backyard, if it has a chimney. Or to build some sort of quasi permanent 
structure (anything with a foundation). Putting in an outdoor kitchen 
with a sink and plumbing might require a SUP  Swimming pools often 
require a SUP.

$500 isn't all that high.  Here in Thousand Oaks, a generic special use 
permit is around $1200-1300, and hams get a special deal of $600.

There *is* a cost to the city to handle these (as well as to you).. 
there's the whole notice/hearing thing, typically, because it's not 
cookie cutter, so someone in the planning department actually has to 
look at the plans in detail, figure out if there's going to be hiccups.

  *Someone* has to pay for the time of the people doing that, and these 
days, that someone is the person requesting the work: the would-be tower 

ALso, bear in mind that the fees are not that unreasonable in the 
context of the cost of the job.  If you're putting in $15,000 of 
hardscape and improvements, the city figures that keeping the fees under 
10% is doing fairly well.  They don't figure in that you might be using 
volunteer labor, a used tower you've had for the last 30 years, etc.

> looking at the city of martinez (your area?) muni code, they have special 
> rules
> for telecom, but specifically exclude amateur radio towers, cb towers, and
> television antennas, for residential as long as it meets all other zoning and
> regulations. That makes it sound to me like ham radio towers are not "special
> use" in general.

Definitely.. but you need to check.  Ask them nicely at the counter to 
show you why you're a special use.  Take notes, listen attentively, do 
not argue. The counter person rarely has the authority to deal with it 
in a meaningful way... and you might just be in a situation where you 
really do have to have a SUP, as the local jurisdiction defines it.  If 
so, your plan is to find out how to make sure that the process goes as 
smoothly as possible.

> If you get into a discussion where you say what you're doing is complicated, 
> you
> can get led down the path of soil report, then structural engineer, then 
> special
> rebar inspection (I'm not kidding!)..and all that happens is you write checks 
> to
> N successive licensed professionals, who actually do almost nothing for you
> other than provide a paper trail. Better to spend the money on actually doing 
> a
> good job on the project.

Well... as one of those licensed professionals, I like to think that 
what I do brings value to the end user.  But I'll readily concede that 
it's easy to get sucked into a morass of complexity.  Perhaps that's why 
hiring a professional up front is worth it?  They'll know the local 
processes, know what is special and what isn't, and know the right and 
wrong way to describe what you want to do.

This is in the nature of the sign in the mechanic's shop for their rates:
1) If I do it, $25/hr
2) If you tried to do it first, $50/hr
3) If you insist on helping, $100/hr

While that's an overstatement, many pros in many fields will be happy to 
let you do part of the work to save money  (my A&P mechanic was happy to 
let me spend my time, instead of his, undoing and reinstalling all the 
zillions of screws holding on the access covers for annual inspection).

However, it's also true that in a highly regulated and proceduralized 
area with high "hassle from the enraged citizenry" factor (which is what 
building and land use permits are), there's definitely a right and wrong 
way to go about the process.  Unfortunately, the "easy" way is generally 
not documented, and the "official" full-up procedure is the "hard way". 
  It's all a matter of a succession of "Do ABC or as XYZ official 

That's why you want to ask that pro that you hire whether they've worked 
in the jurisdiction before and what experiences they've had.

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