JimAlsup

Undergrounding Utility Compliance

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Hello,

 

My city in CA has an underground utility requirement for additions of a certain size. Our desired plan potentially falls over this 50% rule, but we'd like to avoid the est $30K under-grounding cost.  The city doc states this (below), but note the use of the term "floor area" which is not well defined.  The building department tells me this means livable floor area (garage not counted), but no where in the building department docs or web site is this term defined, nor could they provide me anything in writing.  The same term is used by the planning department and they define it as including the garage area.  Email to the building department manager has gone unanswered.  A definition including the garage would get me 60 more sq. ft. which would meet our goals better.  Not that my garage is not 120 sq ft, it just bumps us up to another requirement limit of 750 sq. ft.

 

Building Doc Reference:

"9. ELECTRICAL PLAN
➢ Provide size and location of all electrical panel installations. All
New Construction, relocated service panels or additions exceeding 50% of floor area, excluding basements and/or additions of 750 square feet or more shall have all utilities installed service lateral. (Underground). *See municipal code section 12.68.020." 

 

Planning department reference:

"Floor area is the space enclosed by four walls on each floor of a building. It is measured to the outside edge of the exterior walls and includes halls, stairways, service and mechanical equipment rooms, interior courts, garages, carports and enclosed accessory structures. It does not include basements."

 

Searches for this term in the CA building code didn't help me find a definitive definition.  I really doubt such a definition would be whatever the city department wants it to be.

 

Thoughts?

 

Thank you,
Jim Alsup

 

 

 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, JimAlsup said:

Thank you,
Jim Alsup

Jim, you mind first detailing the type of addition, is it detached, what is the current conditioned floor area excluding garage and what is the existing garage floor area and then what is the proposed conditioned floor area and then the proposed additional garage?

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21 minutes ago, JimAlsup said:

New Construction, relocated service panels or additions exceeding 50% of floor area, excluding basements and/or additions of 750 square feet or more shall have all utilities installed service lateral.

FYI:

In areas served by existing overhead facilities, all new service drops shall be installed underground from the most convenient existing pole.

 

and this one may help:

 

Residential properties that are served by utilities located in rear yards on standard lots with frontage on only one public right-of-way shall not be required to underground existing overhead services.

 

from this link: click me!

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also, do you require a new service? is this an ADU where the owner has requested new service?

can you just install a sub-panel to satisfy the owner req's?

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Rene,

 

It's a small addition of 650-750 sq ft to an existing home where power lines run across the street (thus the high potential under-grounding cost).

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3 minutes ago, JimAlsup said:

Rene,

 

It's a small addition of 650-750 sq ft to an existing home where power lines run across the street (thus the high potential under-grounding cost).

ok, this does not require an additional service drop, unless owner requested or you are relocating service drop, and you can do a service upgrade without triggering this requirement

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Rene,

 

It all comes down to the 50% rule.  The limit for this project would be 690 sq ft with the definition of "floor area" that does not include the garage.  With the garage include we could go up to 890+175, but that puts us over the 750 sq ft rule.  So if I can convince the city that the definition they are using is not well defined and they should allow the garage in the calculation, then we could go up to 750 with the addition and not pay for underground utils.

 

Thank you,

Jim

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Every project I've ever done in Los Altos has used the Planning Dept. definition for floor area, and I would certainly go in with that attitude. However, interpretations change, so there is seldom any certainty. Technically, the Code says that a "substantial improvement" (which would trigger the upgrade) is any addition that costs more than 50% of the "market value" of the existing structure. However, "market value" is pretty nebulous. Some building departments use 50% of floor area, but I've also had building departments use a depreciated value for the existing structure so that even a kitchen remodeling in a small, old house would trigger the upgrade. Welcome to the Bay Area.;) 

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32 minutes ago, JimAlsup said:

Rene,

 

It all comes down to the 50% rule.  The limit for this project would be 690 sq ft with the definition of "floor area" that does not include the garage.  With the garage include we could go up to 890+175, but that puts us over the 750 sq ft rule.  So if I can convince the city that the definition they are using is not well defined and they should allow the garage in the calculation, then we could go up to 750 with the addition and not pay for underground utils.

 

Thank you,

Jim

I see this as interpretation, I don't see anything in this municipal code that states that it would require a new service, just that any new service must be underground if the project falls under this criteria....

meaning that if you can leave the existing service and it is suitable for your addition you will not be required to install a new service..

whats your take @Richard_Morrison ?

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Rene,

It's not about "new service", it's simply about needing to underground the existing service or not.

 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, JimAlsup said:

Rene,

It's not about "new service", it's simply about needing to underground the existing service or not.

 

 

 

not so:

"Section 12.68.020 Undergrounding utilities. It is the intent of the city to ensure that all new utility services and relocated existing utility services, are placed underground, including additions and/or tear-downs of fifty (50) percent or greater to existing buildings, excluding basements. Therefore, the following shall apply:"

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Richard,

 

Thanks for the feedback.  The two departments (building/planning) occupy the same building and even the same service desk area.  They claim they each have/use their own definition.  :-(

 

 

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Do they include the Garage in the FAR? IF so, then it is most certainly Floor Area.

 

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In Santa Cruz there is a similar rule for fire sprinklers.  If the garage is attached you can count it in the square footage. Detached structures don't count.

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