May 16, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Two-Year Permit Approval Nightmare Finally Ends For Santa Monica Resident:

For more than two years, Santa Monica resident and home developer John Youngman has been battling the city for approval of his water recycling system at 303 22nd Street.

Last Friday afternoon, the nightmare finally came to an end, but Youngman says the delay caused by the City’s permit approval system and internal city staff rivalry has cost him at least $50,000 and put the project several months behind schedule.

The saga started in 2009, when Steve Bilson of ReWater Systems filed the original permit on behalf of Youngman. Bilson was hired as the contractor because he had successfully obtained a permit for an identical ReWater system at 222 Palisades Avenue without any hassles just weeks prior.

The permit was for two environmentally friendly “green” water systems. The first was a grey water system that captures, filters, and reuses water from the shower, tub, bathroom sink, and laundry for an underground drip irrigation system in the yard. The second was a storm water system that collects rain from the roof and is stored in a 5000 gallon underground tank, which is also used in the yard if the grey water system runs out of water when the irrigation system kicks-in at midnight.

Since City staff had previously issued an identical permit to Bilson in just two months, Youngman hoped he would have the same success, but it could not be any further from the case.

“The only part of the state code that had changed since then that was relevant to this system versus the previous system was that the grey water emitters can now be two inches deep versus the previous nine inches,” Bilson said. “Because the code was essentially the same, and the system was identical, permitting this system was easier for the city’s plumbing plan checker, Shane Peters, but it was not easier for their public works plan checker, Kit Dallarte.”

The original permit lodged in early 2009 was a paper application, which was the city’s former way of doing business. However, amongst all the delays, the City’s ePlan system came into action on Nov. 1 last year, where all permit submissions had to be submitted electronically.

“Kit (Dallarte) approved the complete ReWater system from Public Work’s perspective back then almost two years ago.” Bilson said. “What screwed everything up was an internal rivalry between Kit and the more citizen-friendly Shane (Peters) in Building and Safety. Kit would not accept Shane approving anything that Kit unilaterally decided was under Public Work’s jurisdiction, despite the meeting of virtually everyone in the city involved with this permit whereby everything for the permit had been ironed out.”

Bilson said Shane Peters eventually asked him to split up the ReWater system application into two parts and draw the system as two separate systems. One drawing would fall exclusively under the plumbing code, and would consist of what is traditionally considered plumbing stuff (pipes inside the house), and the other drawing would include everything else that Kit Dallarte considered under his purview, which was everything outside the house including the irrigation system, Bilson said.

Bilson said this was bizarre for a couple of reasons.

“First, the entire grey water irrigation system code including everything outside the house is found in the state plumbing code; there is really no good reason for Public Works to be involved in this type of permitting to begin with,” he said. “Second, splitting the system into two drawings was a facade, as the ‘plumbing’ aspects of the system are inseparable from the ‘other’ aspects of the system. I don’t know how you show a functional system if a pipe connecting the grey water filter to the underground drip irrigation system can’t connect on the drawing?”

With the ReWater system artificially “split up,” neither system depicted could actually work in the real world, but those two drawings were what it took to satisfy Kit Dallarte, according to Bilson.

“The one and only problem with that facade was that Kit then found the drawings to be incomplete,” Bilson said. “Whether later he spaced out and forgot that he’d demanded those two drawings, or later determined that he didn’t want to admit he’d demanded those two drawings, he eventually wrote notes to the effect that the drawings stunk and put those notes on the city’s ePlan program.”

The next problem was that neither Bilson nor Youngman were ever told Kit Dallarte’s notes had been entered on the ePlan program.

“We weren’t looking for them there when we were trying to locate them to determine the problem, and didn’t know to ask people to look there until recently,” Bilson said. “Another problem was that ePlan does not notify one city staffer when another city staffer makes notes that halt a permit process, and Shane did not realize what Kit had said or done in his new notes, because Kit wasn’t talking with him anymore. Perhaps the biggest problem was that Kit would not return anyone else’s phone calls either, until very recently.”

Youngman said he was frustrated with delays, saying it had slowed him down “two to three months” and when converted to a cash value, “at a raw cost, we’re probably talking $50,000.”

“(City staff) don’t seem well versed with their own system, they don’t understand it that well, I don’t know if they’ve been properly trained, but it seems to be very confusing for them,” Youngman said. “The real issue that I see, is that there is very little incentive on their part to learn it, to help you out, to speed things up, it’s kind of like ‘it doesn’t work that well, it’s just going to take longer’.”

He said what made matters worse was the fact there was no recourse for city employees if they held up projects.

“These people are very independent, very powerful,” he said. “I have no idea how they get hired and fired, I don’t think they ever get fired, but it’s just so frustrating because months go by. It’s zero downside on their part for inaction, and it costs me a fortune when they don’t follow through and do what they say they are going to do.”

Last Thursday, Bilson said he met with Mark Cunoe, Kit Dallarte’s new boss, and explained to him the entire situation. On Friday at about 4:30 p.m., Cuneo called to say the permit had finally been issued.

Ron Takiguchi, a City of Santa Monica building official, said two years far exceeded the expectations that the City wanted to permit something.

“Since grey water was somewhat new, the requirements were not fully known by the applicant, on both sides,” Takiguchi said. “I’m not pointing fingers here. This is a system that was custom, and an item that had to be detailed very much. It wasn’t a simple grey water system.”

He said the ePlan system still had improvements to be implemented to speed up the permit approval process.

He said he was currently in discussion with the software vendor to explore the option of a parallel review, meaning that each separate entity within the city such as the Fire Department, Building Safety, Public Works, Transportation, Planning, could process applications quicker than the current “serial review” system.

The “serial review” system does not allow one department to upload its new notes/plans until all other departments are all at the same stage.

“A plan has to go to several different city departments, so the applicant would have to wait until all departments are finished before they could upload the next version,” Takiguchi said.

The ePlan system currently does not cater to Macintosh/Apple users, as it only accepts Internet Explorer, another problem Takiguchi is working with the vendor to fix.

While this particular nightmare may be over, Bilson is concerned that Dallarte is still working for the city as he may have “an axe to grind,” and Bilson worries this particular type of nightmare can happen again to anyone who tries to obtain a permit.

Keep Up-To-Date With The Mirror:

Follow The Mirror on Twitter: twitter.com/SMMirror

Follow The Mirror on Facebook: facebook.com/SMMirror

in News
Related Posts

1221 Ocean Avenue Complex Sold For Record Price

May 16, 2022

May 16, 2022

Sold for a record price of $330 million. By Dolores Quintana The Irvine Company has sold 1221 Ocean Avenue to...

Office Construction Is Starting To Rise In Los Angeles

May 15, 2022

May 15, 2022

Property vacancies are still affecting growth.  By Dolores Quintana In March, the Los Angeles Metropolitan area had 3.2 million square...

Santa Monica City Council Selects Doug Sloan as New City Attorney

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

At its meeting this week, the Santa Monica City Council appointed Doug Sloan to serve as Santa Monica’s next City...

Landmark Theater Closing in Former Westside Pavillion

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

Theater will close at the end of month By Sam Catanzaro The Landmark Pico theater at the former Westside Pavillion...

Community Policing at the Heart of Beat Four

May 11, 2022

May 11, 2022

The Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO) Program thrives through community involvement and collective work. Today we hear from Officer Aaron Alpert...

Santa Monica High School Among Top-900 Schools in Country

May 10, 2022

May 10, 2022

SAMOHI ranked 829 out of over 18,000 total schools By Staff Writer Santa Monica High School is among the top...

Pico Marketplace Changing Small Businesses Access to Retail Space: Santa Monica Beat – May 10th, 2022

May 10, 2022

May 10, 2022

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes.* Pico Marketplace Changing Small Businesses Access to Retail Space* Grunion Fish Seen...

Video: Westside E-Scooter Injury Rate High Than National Rate for Motorcycles

May 10, 2022

May 10, 2022

The Westside’s injury rate for e-scooters is higher than the national rate for motorcycles, a new study has found. Learn...

Douglas Sloan Set to be Santa Monica’s New City Attorney

May 9, 2022

May 9, 2022

Sloan would be first permanent person to hold post in two years By Dolores Quintana  The next Santa Monica City...

Santa Monica Releases 2022 Homeless Count Results

May 9, 2022

May 9, 2022

Number of unsheltered individuals increases 1 percent in first count since 2020 By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro The City...

Amazon Bringing 1,000 News Jobs to Santa Monica

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

Company signs a lease for a 200,000-square-foot space at the Water Garden  By Dolores Quintana Amazon.com intends to create 2,500...

LA Considering Emblem Program to License Cannabis Stores

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

Program would help Angelenos distinguish between licensed and unlicensed cannabis vendors and safe cannabis products By Dolores Quintana Members of...

Meet SMPD Beat Three Neighborhood Resource Officers

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

The Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO) Program is based around the concept of community policing and collective involvement. Today we met...

McKinley Elementary School Awarded California Pivotal Practice Award

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has announced that McKinley Elementary in Santa Monica has been awarded the California Department...

UCLA Study Offers Strategy for Freeway Congestion Pricing That Reduces Burden on Low-Income Residents

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Claudia Bustamante/UCLA Newsroom  Among transportation experts, congestion pricing is the gold standard policy for managing traffic on freeways and highways....