I think we’ve been pretty transparent that our renovation expertise level is neophyte at best. And, if it hasn’t also been abundantly clear, what started out as the senior special at Red Lobster has turned into a multi-course dinner at Trois Mec (the powder room is definitely the amuse buche). Dear friends, we are way, way out of our depth.
As such, we have taken on projects ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Mostly the latter. Case in point, our latest adventure with approval of our architectural plans.
TD Here. I looked up the myriad ways to get city approval on expansion plans here in Torrance-by-the-Sea (I didn’t). Rather than recount policies and procedures you don’t care about (and I didn’t bother to read), allow me to summarize:
1.) You submit plans to the city and in six weeks (if you’re lucky), you gain approval and/or notes on what must be changed in order to receive said approval. I envision these notes are the result of some hybrid of a high-school-with-money popularity contest and a clandestine gathering of the leaders of Torrance’s five families (and yes, I will continue to make Godfather references until my wife sits through at least one of the films).
2.) Something called over-the-counter. This is a little more like an American Idol audition. You show ’em what you have and they tell you on the spot what’s wrong (it was a little pitchy, dawg). You make the changes and bada-boom-bada-bing, you’re approved.
We (or rather our architect) opted for Door #2. The verdict from the Torrance elders was, and I swear I’m not making this up, if we could get three of our neighbors (as selected by Tattaglia’s – the man lost a son after all) to sign off on our plans, then (and only then) the groundhog will see his shadow and there will be 8 to 10 more weeks of renovation.
Tangent Alert! Somewhere in our jam-packed storage unit there’s a photo of 2 or 3-year old me prior to the first time I ever went Trick-or-Treating. I seem pretty nonplussed by the whole experience. I’m indoors sitting on my empty Trick or Treat bag, decked out a red windbreaker with the hood up because my costume was . . . wait for it . . . Little Red Riding Hood! Many years (yet surprisingly no therapists visits) later I asked my Mom why she cast me as the heroine in a fairy tale about a cross-dressing wolf. She said, “Well, we had the jacket. And you were 2, so you were only going to your grandmother’s house anyway.”
Mom’s meta Halloween story aside, I’m still not entirely convinced the city elders (Hyman Roth, Moe Greene and Fredo, of course) aren’t hazing us. But, we “had the jacket” so to speak, and, with rolled up plans in hand and limbs akimbo, we set about our task. We traipsed through our new neighborhood like humble missionaries in search of candy from strangers ranging from practical to complete, knocking on doors prepared to ask, “Good day, have you heard the good word that we’re remodeling Via Corona?” .
The first autograph sought was that of our next door neighbors – the ones who were so entertained by the mini-jackhammer fiasco. They are the publishers of School Transportation News (yes, that’s a real thing). It was a slam dunk. Good thing too because we had no counter-argument planned if they played hard to get.
Next came our neighbors from across the street. He does some kind of consulting for Ferrari (again, not making this up). Once more it was the Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham Bam I Am Jam. RIP, Chocolate Thunder.
Third came the neighbor below us and across a street as the crow and/or house flies. If the big one ever hits, Via Corona will roll off its hillside perch and come to rest in his back yard. Fortunately, the owner is a surgeon (Shannon stalked him online in case we needed to ambush him in his place of business), so talk about right place, right time, huh? Anyway, the good doctor lives at the terminus of a winding uphill driveway that I summited once on foot, only to find he wasn’t home. Probably just as well since I had no sherpa alongside to ask for the goods while I was doubled-over, wheezing from the ascent like an expiring burro.
On a subsequent trip (I drove up the hill this time), he offered little to no resistance to my request. As I glanced around his Miyagi-esque back yard while mentally prepping for the perfect 97-point turn I was about to execute to begin the descent, he did ask, “If I have plans, will you sign off on them?” To which I replied, “Dude, I can’t even see your house from mine. Absolutely.” Pretty sure that was the only time he’d been called “Dude” that day. Maybe ever.
We now present the sum total of our expansion plans: 184-square feet of living space, an updated and expanded deck and a Juliet balcony off the master.
That’s it! That’s the list of permit-required hassle that’s taken far more than the anticipated “couple of weeks!” Talk about a long run for a short slide.
Thanks to Shannon’s sparkling budgeting skills, we have yet to encounter a major cost overrun on this project. I fear the micro-expansion may be our Waterloo. The existing deck must be destroyed to build a foundation for the expansion and the new deck also requires sinking another caisson 18-feet into the Earth’s crust. Of course, the Juliet balcony requires two Italian teenagers from warring families before the inspector will sign-off, but that’s not important right now.
Destroying stuff is fraught with potholes and obstacles. This may ultimately be where the other shoe drops, starting with “you’ll never believe what we found under there” and ending with me spending nights on end saying, “Hello, and welcome to Wal Mart” to pay off the debt. If not, we might just be home free. And since nothing about this home can be connected in any way to any modern definition of the word free, what I mean is we’ll only have given up the GDP of a small municipality to make Via Corona habitable.
On the plus, side there are some positive developments:
1.) As of today, we’ve entered our move-in month. Now, before anyone gets too excited, let’s be clear. We are moving in to what will presumably be the finished upstairs. Or, more likely, a bathroom with a flushing toilet and some place to put our bed (we can always shower with the hose in the front yard). This means we’re about literally to live through the kitchen, room addition and deck construction. And then there is the exterior work. We’ll be lucky if the house will be finished by December. At any rate, prepare your excuses now for the weekend of September 24. “Gee, I could help, but I don’t want to” is a completely acceptable answer in this case. We feel the same way.
2.) Presumably because of #1, we are seeing visible progress which we will share with you in the weeks ahead instead of spending 1,000 words talking about 3 people signing their names. It’s happening people. It’s actually happening!
Or so we’ve been told.
Want to read more about our renovation adventures? Go here: Via Corona