Demolition is the tearing down of buildings and other structures. It is a process that clears the old and makes way for the new. While the general idea behind the mechanical procedures is not alien to most of us, the legal procedures can be. When you’re preparing your property to add a backyard cottage or accessory dwelling unit and demolition is involved, there are a number of things you’ll need consider. Even though you, the homeowner, may not be a contractor, learning a little about the administrative aspects behind demolition can better inform you of the opportunities you can create for your home and property.
These are a handful of demolition photos from Susan’s Cottage. The garage was taken down to make room for the backyard cottage. Workers with jackhammers, mallets, shovels, and wheelbarrows deconstructed and demolished the structure and trucked the rubble away.
The first place you should look for demolition information is your city’s website. If not that, then county’s website. If not that, then visit your municipality’s Department of Planning or Building Department and talk to someone and get referred to some literature. Unsurprisingly, different locales can face different regulations. Someone living in Orinda, CA, for instance, will encounter demolition considerations different from those in Oakland, CA, even though the cities are just half an hour apart.
Let’s have a look at what a San Francisco homeowner can find out with a little bit of Googling: I googled “san francisco residential demolition” and the my second search result was most relevant. Looking through the New Building Construction/Demolition – Residential page of the San Francisco planning department website, for the sake of illustration, covers the following (some may not be applicable depending on your project) on the topic of construction and demolition:
- Maintenance of architectural character of different areas of San Francisco
- Zone use, height limits, yard setback requirements
- Neighborhood notifications processes, public hearings
- Historic significance consideration
- Environmental impact
- Parking spaces, removal and protection of trees
- Impact fees, inspections, permits
Fortunately for this homeowner, this website is comprehensive. It has checklists and steps for all the permitting needs.
My next search was “berkeley residential demolition”. The first hit was from the City of Berkeley website on building demolitions. The researcher is advised to apply for a J Number, which is an asbestos report, from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District before applying for a building permit, which must be submitted by appointment. The City of Albany has similar procedures (PDF). If you’re a California resident, you can find your city’s website on the State of California building department directory. I presume other states have a similar resource. Getting the green for demolition comes with fees. (This is a tiny chunk of the other project permit and inspection fees.) It can probably go unsaid, but the fees will vary depending on the project. Demolition is only a small part of the planning and construction process. If you want to start a small house project, New Avenue will help you research, navigate through legal matter such as these.