Monday, July 28, 2014

Last year, J built a gorgeous home office for me.  We were expecting Hannah, I needed a place to work, and he wanted a building project.  So he leveled out a 12x16 area in the back yard, which took a lot of digging, concrete and bricks to make a retainer wall (since our backyard is a huge hill, so the home office is on much higher ground than our house), and got to work.  We got giant windows from a guy in Fresno.  We got floors at Ikea.  The whole thing was, and is, an awesome space to work.  It looks out over the trees, and in the winter when it snowed, it was so cozy up there, watching the world turn white.  Plus, as an added bonus, we put cats up there once Hannah was born.

Everything was great.


We didn't get a permit for it.

No big deal, everyone told us.  You don't need to permit that.  If you ever sell the house, they'll just permit it then.  The son of the guy who owns the house next to ours (and is rarely there - it's a vacation home for him, and we've seen him twice in 7 years), and is a contractor, told us that as long as we got along with our neighbors, it was fine.

So apparently in April, the owner wanted a home equity loan on the house, and sent an assessor up, unbeknownst to anyone.  We still had construction debris in his driveway (again, the son told us it was ok), and our Jeep was parked there, and the home office violated setback laws.

The guy calls the County, and they came out in mid June.  The code enforcement officer saw how many cats we had, also a no no.  Plus, the cat house Jonathan built in 2011, on our deck (which was there when we bought the house) is apparently on his property.

We were given 30 days to tear down the cat house, rehome 8 cats, and get a building inspector out to see what to do about the home office.  So we spent most of the next three weeks frantically finding homes for all the cats (successfully, thanks to a wonderful cat sanctuary on the mountain that was able to take the ones we couldn't find homes for), and then J spent a week tearing down the shed.  We had a brief respite when we sold the Jeep, and were waiting for the inspector to come.

He came today.  And the home office needs to come down in 2 weeks.  Apparently the inspector was heartbroken telling us.  Told Jonathan it was a gorgeous building,   And we could have tried to drag it out, but then he probably would have made a giant fuss, and forced a lien on our house.  We just want it to be over with, so we're tearing it down.  Well, Jonathan is.  I'll be working part time the rest of the week so that he can have the afternoons free to deconstruct.

It was strange, going up there today while Hannah was napping.  All the furniture was out, and he was ripping up the floors.  When I was pregnant, I used to sit there with him and read while watching him build.  The night before we had Hannah, I was up there reading magazines on my ipad, and I posted on facebook that I was craving whoopie pies.

Now it's deja vu all over again, only I'm not pregnant, and the house is coming down, not going up.

Lessons Learned:
1) get a permit on everything.  It's not worth it to try to cheapen out and risk having to tear down your work.
2) see above.
3) even if your neighbor is an asshole, if you have a permit, they can't do anything.
4) move away from the assholes

So we're taking this all as a big sign that it's time to move back to Pennsylvania.  It's been on our minds for a while, but after this, I just feel like the rug got pulled out of us so suddenly, and I don't feel safe here anymore.  The neighbor was up the day before the County came, and he stormed up our steps ranting and swearing, and called J a "fucking degenerate" while I was feeding Hannah 3 feet away.  Classy.  Oh, and he's a licensed firearms dealer.  Good times.  Out of nowhere, we had to get rid of our cats under pressure of them being taken away by animal control, and pieces of our home were coming down.

I'm officially over this mountain, and California in general.  We're going back to PA next year.  Where there's history.  And people don't drive quite as crazy.  Now we're in Full Speed Ahead on this move.  Doing it with a toddler is going to be interesting.  The fun is starting with pulling down this building, and on Saturday I have a table at a local flea market, where we're starting to get rid of our stuff.  I've become much more ruthless.  "Do I really want this," has become "do I want to move this across the country."  Much easier to say no to that.

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