22-Mar-2012 (Thu)
Wherein five weeks vanish and nobody's overly concerned.

Remember back on Feb 13 when I said that our stack of bullshit paperwork had finally moved its way from gathering dust at the Planning department to gathering dust at the Building department? And so the three month countdown before Building was expected to actually do anything had begun? Well, apparently that was bullshit. Days after I was told, "It's at Building now", Planning called back and said, "Oh, just one more tiny thing and you're done..." Then we did that, and a week later, "Oh, just one more tiny thing and you're done", and repeat a few more times, and five weeks have vaporized. So maybe -- maybe -- it will actually move to Building by March 23. I guess I won't know for sure until some time has gone by without Planning calling back and saying, again, "Oh, we haven't sent it yet, because there's just this one more thing..."

And when I freak out about this, everyone acts like I'm crazy.

Some amount of construction has started upstairs. I was out of town for a bit more than a week and expected to come back to see framed-out bathrooms upstairs by now. But no, instead I see some stacks of cut plywood and not a lot else.

At this point, there's basically no chance we'll get our second building permit, the one that lets us cut doors in the wall and build the upstairs bar, before July. Even assuming the bathrooms are finished by then, which is far from a foregone conclusion. So if the rest of the construction takes four months -- which, given the small amount of work it is, sounds more than reasonable, right? But, ha ha, I've done this before, I know "reasonable" has nothing to do with it -- well, that would put us in November. So then it only takes another one-plus of these inexplicable, useless, passive-voice, responsibility-dodged delays like this latest random five weeks of hurry-up-and-wait to cause the new space to not be open for New Years Eve.

That's, you know, kind of a big fucking deal.

Yeah, it's only March and I can already see NYE slipping away because I live in a city so hostile to local businesses that that's actually a thing.

And we've been at this since FEBRUARY 2011.

What the fucking fuck.

Anyway. Here's some photos:


14 Responses:

  1. kimberley says:

    as one who's suffered through some bureaucratic things like this... call them every day. if you don't get a live person or a return call and it's getting towards the end of the day, call again. the more of a pain you become for people, the more they suddenly become able to expedite processes. it sucks, but it often works.

    • Yes, this. Making a nuisance of yourself is one of the few ways to get incompetent customer service reps (which is what city hall bureaucrats are, really) to get off their ass and do their job. It sucks up valuable time, but if it causes them to actually get your permit out from under the table leg where they've been storing it, then it might be valuable time well spent.

      • jwz says:

        Do you seriously think that after 12 years of this, that's an insight I haven't had? Seriously?

  2. Matt K says:

    After reading about your trials and tribulations with the SF town hall and contractors over the past ten or so years, I am completely amazed that you haven't stroked out or gone on a killing spree at this point. You have a reservoir of patience that is impressive, to say the least. I don't know how you do it.

    But I've always liked the mixtapes, for what it's worth....

  3. tjic says:

    Serious question: how can you run a business and still be in favor of the whole constellation of left-of-center regulatory state stuff?

    I'd think that this would turn even a Marxist into a bomb-throwing anarcho-capitalist...

    • Travis Fessler says:

      I think this has a lot less to do with political affiliations, and a lot more to do with bad ideas from petty people with a little bit of power.

      • tjic says:

        If you're saying "Bible thumpers can create intrusive government just as well as Prius drivers", then I'm 100% in agreement.

        So perhaps I should edit the comment and remove "left of center" from the question.

        My serious question remains: jwz gets f-ed over by government again and again and again, and I'm tempted to say "Jamie, I don't think you come here for the hunting".

        ...or, at the very least, to say "doesn't it strike you that you NEVER get the good government or jet packs that you were promised, and ALWAYS get the 'fill in form 27B-stroke-6' regulators ?"

    • barrkel says:

      I have a theory that USians get extra poor service from their government because it's a cultural trope in the US that government delivers poor service. Both the citizens and the civil servants know that the worst is expected, so it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But SF sounds even more dysfunctional than average.

      • tjic says:

        Certainly the idea of a state space with multiple equilibria sounds plausible - I look forward to reading your doctoral thesis. ;-)

      • dave789 says:

        Your ideas intrigue me and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      • tablechair says:

        Frank Fukuyama wrote about this in January:

        I would argue that the quality of governance in the US tends to be low precisely because of a continuing tradition of Jacksonian populism. Americans with their democratic roots generally do not trust elite bureaucrats to the extent that the French, Germans, British, or Japanese have in years past. This distrust leads to micromanagement by Congress through proliferating rules and complex, self-contradictory legislative mandates which make poor quality governance a self-fulfilling prophecy. The US is thus caught in a low-level equilibrium trap, in which a hobbled bureaucracy validates everyone's view that the government can't do anything competently. The origins of this, as Martin Shefter pointed out many years ago, is due to the fact that democracy preceded bureaucratic consolidation in contrast to European democracies that arose out of aristocratic regimes.

        • Vaci says:

          I can assure you that British bureaucracy is no more competent. In fact, our planning system is the very acme of intransigence.

  4. DoctorMemory says:

    I'm not sure which is the uglier scenario: that Southern Station have figured out how to do an end-run around the permitting process and bury applications that they don't like, or that this really is the average level of incompetence of the SF permitting/building/planning office.

  5. Ian Young says:

    Wouldn't it be easier to write mailreaders for a living?