Archive for February, 2007

Real Craftsman Homes

After deciding I would make an offer on the property, I needed some design ideas. Although I spent some time at Vromman’s checking out some cool books, the best source of ideas are found on the street. Pasadena, Altadena and Monrovia all have some very nice examples of Craftsman style homes.

Hopefully, as I get to the design phase we will find ways to incorporate some of the interesting architectural elements of these homes into my project

LaLoma LaLoma Side View Craftsman Home 1
Pasadena Craftsman 2 Pasadena Craftsman 3 Pasadena Craftsman 3a
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February 22, 2007 at 1:51 pm Leave a comment

Back to City Hall

After spending several hours drawing I suppose I was destined to buy my California Bungalow, but I wanted to make sure City Hall would at least in prinicipal agree with my plans. So back to Monrovia’s City Planning Department. Illy was polite, she didn’t laugh at my drawings. Nonetheless, she pointed out several errors or potential challenges I would face with my plans.

The first problem she pointed out was the setback for the porch. I really wanted to add some visual appeal to the front of the house. And manu of the neighborhood homes had these nice porches. I thought a wrap around porch would be a nice addition and in keeping with the Craftsman style. Unfortunately the house was already at the limit for the main structure, and adding a porch would be a challenge unless I could show that a 4 or 5ft porch was consist with the setbacks for other immediately adjacent homes on the street. The rule as Illy explained it to me was that I needed to measure the porch and main structure setbacks for the first 8 homes to the right of mine (since it was on the corner). The way I would calculate what the city would let me add is to throw out the measurements for the two homes which had the smallest and largest setbacks. Then the average of the remaining six would give me the measurements for how far the city would let me extend my porch.

The next step was to get the measurements for the houses. I went to Home Depot and purchased a laser distance finder for about $30.
Sonic laser tape
I really hoped this tool would save me the hassle of using a measuring tape to get the distances. Unfortunately, it was not reliable. I tested the device using a known reference measurement (my Bungalow’s setback) and only about half of the time would I get the correct measurement. Unfortunately, I could not identify the source of the inconsistency, so I would recommend you save your money and stick to the measuring tape.

I measured the setbacks the old fashioned way; using a tape measure. As I was taking my measurements — one of the neighbors came to their front door and inquired about about my strange activity. I explained that I was taking measurements and he said ok and went back inside. I expected the cops to show up any minute but they never did. I must have some pretty mellow neighbors — definitely a good thing.

The othe problems Illy pointed out had to do with my setbacks for the garage and second story. These were problems that would require some refactoring of the design but were not insurmountable. Based on my investigation it appeared the city would approve a porch addition of just under 5ft. This was enough for me to finalize my decision to make an offer on the property.

February 22, 2007 at 5:50 am Leave a comment

Next Step – Making Plans

I still need to decide whether I want to make an offer on my California Bungalow. Before writing the offer, I decided to mock-up some plans to get a quick read on whether I could build anything interesting on the property. So I ran to the art supply store to pick-up some graph paper, a good mechanical pencil and ruler. Blick Art Materials on Raymond and Green in Old Town Pasadena is a pretty cool store. If you’re in the neighborhood it’s worth checking out.

A few hours and a half an eraser later, I had a sketch of my plans and a computer drawing of a whole new look for this neglected California Bungalow. Here is my initial sketch.
Craftsman Bungalow

February 21, 2007 at 4:23 am Leave a comment

Day 2 – A Trip to City Hall

Well after finding the home I needed to decide quickly if I would make an offer on this neglected California Bungalow. At a cramped 1,060 sq ft, I immediately knew making this house comfortable would require adding some sq fts.

Next stop, the Monrovia City Planner’s office. There I met a delightful woman named Illy Lobaco. She was very helpful. She pulled all the permits on the property, dug up some old drawings and provided me a set of building requirements/setbacks etc. for the property. I learned a ton. I highly recommend that you make a trip to the city to learn about your prospective property.

Here is the contact info for the City of Monrovia Planning Department

Phone #: 626 932 – 5526

Hours: Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The interesting things I learned that day are as follows:

  • property setbacks (The minimum distance (in plan) by which a building must be separated from the property line) are different for corner lots. So, even though this house occupied a nice corner lot the setback requirements are larger than mid-block lots
  • detached garages can be on the property line but attached garages require a 20ft setback. Combine the garage constraint with the unique cornder lot constraints and you quickly have an interesting puzzle to solve — how do you maximize sq footage, while meeting all of the city’s requirements
  • up front planning saves a lot of headaches later on — some of my assumptions about what I could do were wrong. Illy our friendly City Planner related stories of broken dreams for people who did check the city requirements before they bought their project
  • February 20, 2007 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

    Day 1 – A Chance Meeting

    Let me introduce you to my project. I found this house on my holiday break as I was cruising neighborhoods scoping out the real estate inventory. I had just stopped to look at an old Victorian down the street when I happened upon this California Bungalow.

    Project Bungalow

    So why did I pick this house. Price was the most important reason.  At just under $500K, it was a house I could afford to work on — servicing a large debt on an old home that needed work just didn’t seem like a good idea.

    This house was essentially a blank slate; it’s old but not historic by any means. So my thinking was I could turn it into something interesting without having to feel guilty that was defacing a home with architectural significance.

    Finally, it appeeared that the home’s problems were primarily cosmetic.  I may be proved wrong but that was my hope.

    February 20, 2007 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment


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