Open Forum: Remodeling Headaches in San Carlos?

June 4, 2014


Remodeling Boom.

One of the byproducts of a booming stock market and a strong local economy is that San Carlos homeowners now have the confidence and the financial resources to start investing in their properties again.   And they are doing it in droves.   Whether it's a new kitchen project that was delayed by the recession, or a completely new dream home being crafted from the ground up, we are in the midst of a remodeling boom that we have not seen in nearly a decade.  You almost can't find a street in San Carlos where there isn't some evidence of a remodeling project that's underway — and just as many, or more,  are in the pipeline.

This is obviously great news for architects and contractors, who usually take it on the chin quite hard during down economic cycles, since home improvement projects are the first things that get shelved when money gets tight.   And it's good for the overall real estate market that the housing stock is being updated and improved in San Carlos.  Many of the homes that you see in San Carlos were originally built in the 1940's and 50's, and many are sorely in need of updating.

In those respects, the remodeling boom is all good.

Permit Overload?

Tackling any significant home improvement project is a time-consuming venture — especially when you play by the rules and get the required permits and approvals.  I've been through the process already on a major remodel, so I know firsthand how much review needs to be done by the planning and building departments in the city before you get the stamp of approval to proceed.   And the building code and review process has likely gotten even more stringent in the past 14 years since we finished our project.   Like it or not, it's a necessary step in the process that helps ensure that everything is done properly.

When it's already a complicated and time consuming process to begin with, and then the workload suddenly increases almost exponentially,  it's not a stretch to see a logjam coming in the approval process — especially with a City staff that has been decimated over the past decade by endless rounds of reorganizations and budget cuts.    To accommodate the crushing workload, the City has been forced to outsource much of the permit review and approval that it used to handle internally.

Taking into account that it's not expected to be an easy or quick process, I've still heard an inordinate amount of complaints from exasperated homeowners over the past few weeks about getting their projects through City Hall.   Whether it's simply turnaround time to get everything approved, or the seemingly unreasonable corrections and demands that are being placed on their projects (or both),  there seems to be a certain level of discontent right now in the City of Good Living.

Is this perception founded, or unfounded?

Open Forum:  Share Your Experience.

This post is not intended to throw any one person or department under the proverbial bus.   It's simply a forum to share your experience on your remodel project — both positive and negative — so that others who are in the pipeline behind you can benefit from your experience and advice.

So, short of having an open microphone to voice your opinion, use the comment section below to share your experience with others.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to comment!

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  1. Withheld on June 4, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    The process of obtaining a building permit in San Carlos is not only difficult, it is nearly impossible. Not only does it take many months to get plans approved (even though they employ an “outside” plan checker at your expense), but they can and will change the rules on you either mid-stream or even after your project is “approved”. The planning and building department in San Carlos do not communicate with each other making the problem worse. Their counter hours are 9-12 and they are always gone on Friday.

    The “design review” process allows for anyone to derail your best intentions for building the home of your dreams. A jealous or angry neighbor can put your plans on hold for months, causing severe financial hardship and stress.

    I would *highly” recommend not rebuilding/remodeling in San Carlos, unless you have unlimited patience and/or resources. The system is broken and no one is willing to fix it.

  2. scott on June 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    There have been a couple if sales recently with approved permits. How much of a premium do you think that adds?

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