About the Colony

When building permits should be denied

Special to The TribuneApril 28, 2014 

Lon Allan

THE TRIBUNE

I read a story in The Tribune earlier this month that certain officials had noted the “potential for a large catastrophic failure” of that 600-foot hillside above a neighborhood near the community of Oso, Wash.

Another report stated that it “poses a significant risk to human lives and private property.” In fact, county officials there had considered buying out many of the property owners who already built homes there, according to the same wire service story.

Instead, however, the county issued building permits for the construction of seven homes even after a major slide approached the neighborhood in 2006.

More than 40 individuals died as a result of that major mudslide.

There is already a battle over who may be liable for the mudslide tragedy.

I think it has to lie with those who issued the building permits.

This type of thing happens far too often.

Even here in Atascadero there are cases where it just did not make sense that a building permit was issued.

For example, when the bowling alley was allowed to be constructed so close to the creek bank (because they couldn’t make it fit otherwise) there was a report that suggested the bank would give away if allowed to build there. Sure enough the bank failed as Atascadero Creek undercut the building.

Just several hundred feet away, the city allowed a brewery to be built so close to the creek that the outdoor creekside seating can’t even be used today; it is unsafe.

Many local residents were outraged when the City Council tried to impose creek setbacks here few years ago, many citing a violation of their “property rights.” So the city leaders backed away from trying to keep buildings safe from high water along Atascadero Creek.

I saw one tiny house moved twice as the Salinas River sliced off the land on which it was sitting. The homeowners in River Gardens lost much of their backyards in a major flood in the 1970s. Sycamore Road was underwater for a brief period, and they had to create an emergency crossing over the railroad tracks for those living in the River Gardens neighborhood.

I’ve always believed that every legal lot is buildable. Friends in the construction business, however, say that isn’t true; you can engineer a home to withstand whatever threats are there.

So we keep issuing building permits where it isn’t wise to do so. Fortunately, Atascadero restricts building homes on our hilltops.

We keep approving major commercial and residential projects even as we discuss a real shortage of groundwater.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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