getting a building permit in DC

    I'm helping a friend who lives in the District of Columbia replace a back porch that was damaged in a storm. She is being hassled by the building permit issuing agency.
    Are there people on this group who have experience with this agency and can give some tips on how to deal with them?
    TIA
                Peter
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peter wrote:

have her contact them and play by the rules... its real simple.. its funny when people dont get their way with others or departments they claim they are hassled... they just dont want to follow the rules.. have her understand this and she will not have any trouble... its as simple as that.. hope this helps....
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peter wrote:

What the hell are you talking about?
--
Liam


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wrote:

    She has been playing by the rules. She submitted all the proper forms, all the proper drawings, all the necessary paperwork. The plan meets code. There is nothing the matter with the plan.
    The agency asks for irrelevant information that has nothing to do with the soundness of the structure. Instead of asking for all information at once, they ask for one more piece every time she goes. She has been there 20 times already.
    This is obviously harrassment.
            Peter
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Unfortunately, Peter, this is normal in a lot of jurisdictions. Your friend is dealing with a government bureaucracy and is banging her head against a well-ingrained good-old-boy system.
We have the same problem out here on the left coast. Specifically, the county of Santa Barbara. Any time an owner/builder comes in with a permit application, the county nitpicks him to death, and they do it much the same way they're doing to your friend in D.C. They'll grudgingly give your application but not take the time to explain how to fill it out properly. Naturally, most weekend do-it-yourselfers will make a few minor errors or not understand a section completely. So, back they go with the application and a few hundred dollars. The county will read it until they come to the first thing you did wrong, and send you home to fix it. You come back days or weeks later and resubmit the application, which they read a little further until they find something else you did wrong. Bam. Back home you go. Over and over again.
It's not uncommon to visit their little fiefdom, as you say, 20 or more times over the course of weeks or months before they start the process all over again.
I personally know one guy, a professional cabinet-maker and carpenter, who's been trying to add a 10-foot extention to his master bedroom for well over a year. He knows what he's doing but the county keeps coming back with one more thing he's got to fix. He still doesn't have a permit. Last I heard, he had to send the drawings to an independent engineer to fix a sheer problem on one corner of the bedroom. It's gotten so bad out here that the county grand jury has been called in to fix the broken system. I hope they nail a few government scumbags by the balls but chances are nothing substantial will improve.
There is basically only one sure way to deal with the county building department around here, and that is to use architects, engineers and general contractors that already have ten or twenty years dealing with the system and know how to slide a project through with relatively few delays. An owner/builder doesn't have a prayer.
Those of you who live in jurisdictions where all you have to do is draw your plans on a napkin and pay some suit ten dollars to get a permit don't know what you're talking about. In my area (and in Peter's), getting a permit is the biggest hurdle to jump; WAY more stressful than wiring a 3-way switch, in the dark, with the power on.

Yep. Pure and simple.
-chib
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wrote:
[snip]

Guess I'm glad I live in Arizona. Needed to plumb a gas pool heater. Went to the permits department in Scottsdale with only pictures of my meter. Fellow behind the counter drew the proper diagram on the back of the application including type of fitting to use in each location, and then issued the permit. Even told me what to rent and how to set up the pressure test for the inspector. How's that for service?
...Jim Thompson
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You may also be getting the "old boy's treatment" because she is a woman. If a man went in, in work clothes, and chatted with the "boys" about problems in the trade, and sucked up to them with a few coffees or something, often things go faster, but with a woman, they want to impress her with their precise knowledge and ability to find problems that may not exist.

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wrote:

    This thought occurred to me. Other matters similar to this might come into play also. I wanted to see if others had the same experience witht he same office.
    Thanks.
            Peter
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peter writes:

So far so good.

Such as?

IME, that's 15 times too much. When I got a permit from Arlington County I had to go back a second time for an "undocumented requirement." which, though undocumented, was valid. My engineer drew up the footing replacement plans on 3 sheets of 8 1/2 x11" paper. The permitting office is used to dealing with architectural-size paper and, as the clerk pointed out to me, my plans would quickly be lost. Solution was to go to Kinkos, get a sheet of architectural paper and staple the plans to it. Problem solved.

No - just usual DC government practice I'm afraid.
The mayor's office has a consumer complaint hotline, and he's on WTOP radio once or twice a month with a call-in show, you might try either of those. Or have your friend talk to her Council representative to see if there's some expediting can be done.
One thing - make up a checklist of all documentation submitted and each trip's excuse for not issuing the permit on the spot for ammo.
Some of my pals do construction in the District - usually the upscale sections, since the poorer neighborhoods aren't worth the hassle of dealing DCRA.
Best,
Marc

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On 20 Nov 2003 09:02:07 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (MrAoD) wrote:

    This is a good idea. I'll try to help her get the documentation together and try this. Thank you.
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peter wrote:

How is she being "hassled"? Was the damage insured? Got a contractor, bids? The place to start would be to get at least two bids from reputable contractors, with references from people you know, licensed, insured, etc. Not that difficult. Then let them get the permit. If it is a DIY job, the city may have design standards you can use. Our city has them online, as well as instructions for the permit process and the forms needed.
DC? Nice place to visit :o)
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snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net wrote:

You know. Roughed up when she comes into the office, punched, kicked, strip searched., etc.. Just the normal hassle stuff..
--
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Hasseled, you mean the inspector wants a safe porch and you know more than him.
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Exactly why do you need a permit to repair something?
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(Childfree Scott) writes:

1) It's a structural repair. Even if it wasn't required it's prudent to get a professional review of structural work. 2) It's D.C. Anything not expressly allowed is controlled. 3) It's a structural repair. Almost any jurisdiction which issues construction permits for *anything* requires a permit for structural, electrical, or plumbing work.
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