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In an amazing bit of coincidence, the universe chose to have johnpalmer working in an office in the same building I hang out. This will be a lot of fun, and poor Jez will be envious (I'll send photos).

Work life is getting way too busy. I am now regularly overbooked on meetings, and though Friday was open, by this afternoon I was double booked yet again. Sadly, I will have to miss my lunch appointment with johnpalmer as I now have a meeting that runs through lunch. Ah well, next Friday when I return from Tokyo.

Temps are climbing, we ar ehaving glorious clear sky days, beautiful for riding the bike trails.



My temperment:
busy bzzzy
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On February 28th, 2005 07:56 am (UTC), insomnia commented:
Hello over there. I'm a fellow LJer who discovered your LJ during a bit of Googling, only to find that we know some of the same people! Odd, that...

I'm one of three people in a polyamorous household. One of our goals over the next few years is to get (and live on) a piece of property somewhere around Boulder Creek, possibly turning it in to some kind of retreat or possibly a nonprofit retreat for pagans, etc. As such, I wanted to contact people like you to find out a bit of what that entails... I have seen ads out there for land that looks beautiful, but actually building houses on a parcel of land in the Santa Cruz mountains appears to be a difficult and often rarely approved undertaking.

What issues did you run into regarding building on your property? Are there some structures that are easier to approve or that you don't need approval for? Was there a reason why you went with a straw bale house and a yurt, for instance, rather than other structures?

Above all, under what circumstances can a person live comfortably on a bit of land without having to take on another job in order to afford it? I really don't want to do the high tech / dotcom thing indefinitely if I can avoid it, and I'm hoping to find a way not only to purchase a lovely property, but to make the property renewable and somehow able to mostly pay for itself. Any ideas would be appreciated...
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On March 6th, 2005 01:10 am (UTC), elimloth replied:
Good heavens, I almost missed this one. Odd? Doubtful, for the world is more intertwined than most believe.

On building and properties in Santa Cruz county, especially in the Santa Cruz Mountains: this is the most difficult county to build in because of two major factors - Santa Cruz county is devoted to maintaining a low-growth profile to keep the place from being paved over with buildings. They do not want to become the next Ventura county. The county has a matrix plan that is analogous to the urban growth boundaries, though unlike UGBs, even urban sites are controlled. The matrix sets limits on the minimum size a property can be divided (40 acres in the rural areas), and the number of buildings on have have on a property. The county is also subject to earthquake, mudslide, and water regulations, and so building costs are usually much higher than average. The Santa Cruz Mountains have beautiful vistas and lands, most of it protected by natural circumstances: unstable terrain, limited or no road access improvements, limited or no septic percolation and limited or no water and power access. Mix in a deep magic in the land as well as logging operations, and all these attributes make for an interesting and challenging endeavor to find a piece of land suitable for your needs.

Building permits are expensive, around $10 per square foot. Septic perc tests are about $2000, a septic installation $5500 for a '3-room' tank. If a house is being built on a hillside or on any place that has geological considerations, a geotech and geological survey can run up to $10,000 each. So, building on raw land will be an expensive undertaking. I was lucky and privileged in that my high tech job rewarded me with the ability to take on such a project.

I built a straw bale house to cut down on the use of wood in its construction. I also chose straw bale to significantly reduce the cost of heating and cooling; using straw bale, I could build a passive solar heated home with a much smaller heating system for the winter cloudy days.

Issues: surprisingly, I had few issues building with straw since strawbale construction is listed as part of the uniform building code in California and many other states. The main issues were typical of any construction: septic percolation, road access (meeting grade limits), water (that was more about dealing with the local and corrupt water district), fire safety (sprinklers - required in all new construction), earthquake requirements.

Trying to be renewal is doable but it is not less expensive than standard construction. Stick homes represent a standarization of materials that leads to low cost construction. About the only way to make a home using green construction techniques less expensive than the standard is to do most of it yourself (or have friends help). Finish work is the bulk of the cost of construction.

If the land accommodates solar access, build passive solar to handle most of your heating needs. You could add photovoltaic power generation but it is pricey and most of the solar credits have ended.

You might consider buying a place with existing structures then retrofitting it with better insulation, etc.

As for the yurt, it turned out to be an expedient way to extend the mobile home I lived in while construction was in progress. It now is a meditation and guest room.
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