13-Jun-2012 (Wed) Wherein the Apocalypse has been averted!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have our construction permit!

This is our architect, Jason. He is smiling because that giant roll of paper sticking out of his bag is our finalized construction permit.

On Monday, we got signed and stamped by the Fire Department, then that same day, our architect hoofed it back to Building for more signing and stamping, and then it went to another phase that nobody had mentioned before called "Quality Assurance". I was hoping that this was the part where they ask me to fill out a survey asking how well I felt I had been "serviced", but no, that's not a thing that happens. Apparently "Quality Assurance" is the phase where someone else puts a stamp on the form saying "I see that there are sufficient stamps on this form." Then today, Jason was finally able to run around with the stamps and meta-stamps and get a permit issued!


As to the looming apocalyptic requirements from last week: 1) They agreed that yes, we can have two doors with a pole between them instead of a single set of double doors without a pole; and 2) the thing about replacing the wall just kind of... went away.

Our architect and Permit Expediter sat in a series of meetings with FD, and apparently the solution that they reached that everyone agreed with was that, while the wall between DNA Pizza and the muffler shop is not a two-hour wall, the wall between DNA Pizza and DNA Lounge is a two-hour wall, so... that's good enough.

If this doesn't make sense to you, then we have something in common. If your next thought is, "I'm certainly not going to argue with that, I'm just going to say 'That sounds great' and take the win," then we have a second thing in common.

These are not the droids I am looking for. I can move along. Move along.

One bit of fallout from this wall thing is that they want the doors in the wall to have electromagnetic hold-opens on them, so that if the fire alarm goes off, they swing closed by themselves. Which is a pain in the ass, but, whatever. These doors were already required to have panic hardware on them (push-bars) which are ridiculously expensive, so the doors were already going to cost like $2K each. The magnetic bullshit will make them be more like $3K each. It sucks, but it's great compared to how things were looking last week.

Here's a classic moment they described to me about how these meetings go. Our guys are sitting on one side of the table, and a bunch of folks from Fire are on the other side. Things seem like they might be going ok, and then one of the Fire guys gets a look in his eyes like, "This can't be right, let me think... AHA! I've just thought of some new way to fuck your shit up!" What he says out loud is, "AHA! You need a Neighborhood Equivalency something-or-other!" I still have no idea what that is.

Our Permit Expediter says, "Ok, where do I get that form?" "Downstairs." "I'll be right back." Ten minutes later, he comes back with the completed form, and a check.

Then the guy from Fire throws up his hands and says, "Whoa, I don't usually receive those, you know, this is all kind of unusual, you'll have to talk to my boss about that." "Who's your boss?" Then our Expediter says, "Oh I know him," whips out his phone, "Hey, are you in the building? Great, I'll be right down." Ten minutes later, he comes back and hands the guy the signed and stamped form. "Anything else?"

That's the kind of bureaucratic badassery that I like to hear about!

Here's another good one:

There's a stairway going from the sidewalk to the second floor of the pizza place. It has a door that opens in. They tell us that all doors have to open out, so we have to turn that door around. But wait! Doors have to open out, but doors can't overlap the sidewalk by even an inch. So we have to build an alcove and move the door back. Fine. There's still room for a landing at the bottom of the stairs after doing that. But then someone looking at the plans says, "Oh, this isn't wide enough, there needs to be room to the side of the door, so that someone on that landing in a wheelchair can open the door."

This is a door that opens onto a flight of 22 stairs going up, and nothing else.

"Well, it's ADA, the law's the law, what can I do," says the bureaucratic flunkie.

Had anyone asked me that hypothetical question, my answer would have been, "You can use some common sense and approve the plans anyway, because that makes no kind of sense at all and you're not a crazy person." But that's not how bureaucrats work. There is no chance they can get in trouble for saying "no", so that's what they do. They have no incentive to make things work. I'd think that incentive would be, you know, "not being a crazy person" or "having pride in one's work" or even "basic human decency", but hey, what do I know.

Our architect got around that one with some paperwork and a Jedi Mind Trick or two. But come on.

Also today, we had our sound test by the Entertainment Commission. Back in February we had our hearing where they approved the expansion of our Place of Entertainment permit. After that, we had to get Fire and Building to agree to that as well, which they did, and the sound test on the new space, which we just passed. So at this point, it's down to the paperwork on the EC's side, and we'll have that permit in a few weeks.

All that's left now is ABC.

But those guys love us, so I'm sure that'll be no problem.

28 Responses:

  1. aehiilrs says:

    I was really impressed by that guy's hair, but then I saw that it was just a tree.

    • Sheilagh says:

      oh! it was like .. little PEOPLE dancing on his head! kinda Björk-merry in their head-tapping dance...

  2. Alowishus Devadandr Abrcrombie says:

    Brilliant. I love it. Best news I've heard this week. Congratulations, fellas.

  3. Patrick Berry says:

    I know this is a pain in the ass of epic proportions for you, but following the story is amazing...in the occasionally agonizing way.

  4. Jeremiah Blatz says:

    Solution to melting polar icecaps: hire jwz to shovel back the tide. He has demonstrated talent in this area.

  5. Frederick Roeber says:

    Note that even though you have a permit in hand which appears to permit you to do work, there's still a two-week period in which anybody can appeal your permit to the SF Board of Appeals. Should someone do that, your permit is automatically put on hold while they schedule the hearing, which can easily be many months out.

    While it's on hold, you may do nothing. It's tools-down, walk-away, nothing.

    If you're right in-between the "demolish the old {wall, ceiling, ...}" step and the "quick replace it before {it rains, business needs to open, ...}" step, you're stuck.. you're not even allowed to put up site protection.

    The policy of the SF Board of Appeals is to "encourage neighbors to work this out and come to a settlement themselves," i.e. they know it's extortion and they don't care.

    • I will accept $10,000, cashier's check please, in exchange for not filing that appeal tomorrow. I don't even live in SF, but do you really want to take that risk?(Wondering what OP was thinking by bringing this up before the Appeal period expired. Never do that! Someone's always bored on the Internet!)

  6. Cow says:

    I thought Jason had the most amazing hair *ever*...until I clicked through to the larger image and saw he was just walking in front of a tree.


  7. Grey Hodge says:

    Frankly, it sounds like the Permit Expediter was worth 100% of what you paid, after reading that. Badassery indeed.

    • DoctorMemory says:

      Seriously. Does that man have a website? Or does he just sort of appear when his ninja senses detect the need?

  8. Ken Kennedy says:

    Holy Hell...this is like the rules for Calvinball. But I'm glad you are kicking ass and taking names. I need to make a trip to SF just to see the new construction.

  9. Erich Friesen says:

    Congratulations. Jamie. I am San Francisco for a couple of weeks I should stop by. As an Architect who has dealt with this stuff for about twenty years I can tell you that your situation is by no means unique.


  10. Rick Cooley says:

    You think you win with the door leading to a stairwell, and then some lawsuit troll in a wheelchair comes along looking for anything that could be an ADA violation, and then the next week, you get a letter from a lawyer saying you can pay him $5000 or he'll see you in court.

  11. Joe says:

    "I was hoping that this was the part where they ask me to fill out a survey asking how well I felt I had been "serviced", but no, that's not a thing that happens."Yelp!

  12. netik says:

    Congrats, man, this is great news.

  13. Neil Girling says:

    Congrats! I'm so glad to hear the permit apocalypse was avoided. That was some extreme bureau badassery there.

  14. aczarnowski says:


  15. Owen says:

    But is it more or less fun than rewriting OpenGL as OpenGLES calls?

  16. nooj says:

    Whoooo, great!

  17. agreg says:

    I am really glad to hear it, it seems like a victory. I hope you think of some way to use your experience to help change the system.. though that would likely take time and effort and lots of money.

    Good point about bureaucrats only saying no.

  18. The magnetic door closing mechanism makes perfect sense. People will pass out in seconds because of smoke poisoning, so it might happen that nobody will be able to close that door manually, which means people pass out and subsequently die in two rooms instead of one.

  19. That is some welcome good news, congrats.

  20. AWESOME!

    Among the things you and I have in common, not understanding that BS and being willing to accept it are two.

    "Permit Expediter" is the most ridiculous parasitic profession I've heard of yet. I mean, I respect that the guy kicks ass at his job, but it's insane that his job even exists.

    That ADA requirement for the door-to-stairs in the pizza shop is obviously for our forthcoming robot overlords that run on treads but can also manage stairs. Duh!

    And, clearly, nothing could possibly go wrong with the ABC. So long as you keep your checkbook handy.

  21. Sheilagh says:

    What does the tiny caption on the Permit Expediter (Artist's Impression) say? "something something we're dealing with a bureaucrat here"?