This picture is from New Year’s Day when we ran up there to check out how the property was handling the rain. Was it one big mud puddle? Had the dirt road up to the top of the hill survived? And the good news was that everything was draining well, no standing water. A tree had fallen across the dirt road and still being city folk, we did not have the chain saw in the back of the truck.
The house on the hill was always envisioned as a place to retire to, so we’ve been in no real rush to complete the project. Take our time, make sure everything is right. It’s a good thing we feel this way because the project is going really really slowly.
We’ve descended into the morass of septic tank placement, window placement for adequate winter lighting, whether stove hood technology will allow us to put the stove on the center island, refrigerator selection, and should we have a wine closet? The architect and his assistant have completed a preliminary design review with the Marin county planning department. And there weren’t a huge amount of surprises here. As the arborist told us last summer, the planning department is going to tell you that you can’t cut down any trees (we have hoped to thin one particular clump of pine trees to improve the view), and they did, but that’s not strictly true. As part of the construction process, we will have to have an arborist prepare a vegetation plan for fire safety and you can get some trees cut down as part of that process. We going to have to redo some of the geological and percolation tests because they’re sixteen years old and the percolation tests (for the septic tank) were done before that clump of trees we want to thin grew and you don’t want to put the leech lines where tree roots are going to disrupt them.
Another interestingly sticky point was the guest cottage. Because we’re planning for a small kitchen, it’s considered a second unit which will require us to have more parking. But we’d already planned a two car garage and a two car covered carport and we have to have this large paved area for the fire truck turnaround. And the second unit has to be of a minimum size. (And I’m not sure what that minimum size is at this point.)
All checklist items are just things to work through. We’re right on the cusp of starting to bring in the army of consultants to prepare pre-construction reports. I’m sure that’s what I will talking about in the next progress report.
But the big problem at the moment is that the architect has come back with a preliminary price tag that exceeds what I wanted to pay. He’s estimating $600 a square foot (and including the garage and carport in that square foot calculation). But we have not begun to talk materials and maybe we don’t build the guest cottage. (Though everyone I’ve told that to has said, “NOOOOOO, not MY guest cottage. You gotta make that work.”) Dropping the guest house would, according to the architect’s estimates, drop the price by $300,000 to $400,000.
We have a builder that we’ve signed up, so I’ve asked if we could get some back of the envelope, rough estimates from him. It’s probably time to have the talk about material trade offs. $600 a square foot seems high, but it’s a virgin site that needs infrastructure brought in, the hill needs to be sculpted with large equipment.
On the lighter side, I have signed up for a beekeeping class because the world needs more bees and I now have a place to put down a hive or two.
Previous progress reports are here: