View from the Porch

View from the Porch

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moved Blog to WordPress

Moved blog to here.  I think it's a good move.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No answer from park

No acknowledgement from the park today.  No answer by the deadline of 5:00 pm yesterday. No courtesy call to say "we need more time".  No call to the builder.

Official complaint filed with the State of California Mobile Home Ombudsman today at 11:00 am.

Friday, October 12, 2012

To tree, or not to tree; for me, it's not a question

Thank you to all who have commented on my letter.  Especially my daughter who says I am WAY too wordy.  Ok, you've got me there.

The builders probably thought it was verbose, too, but don't know me well enough to say so. Monday, they suggested that I seek the services of an arborist to evaluate the tree, to see if, in fact, our hunch that it needed to come out, was based on any thing solid.

I asked a good friend who had been in the nursery business if she could recommend a registered arborist.  And that she did.

I sent the arborist the pictures I had taken, and her initial assessment was that the north pine was in distress.  We drove up to the site on Wednesday, and she took lots of pictures, her report is below.  I just got it tonight.  

Findings for: Pinus radiata and Platanus acerifolia

1. The Pinus radiata (Monterey pine) in question is located between the
existing Platanus (Sycamore) and the second pine along the Road sidewalk. The tree is approximately 35 feet tall with a DBH of 15 inches. The dripline of the tree extends approximately eight feet beyond the trunk.

The inspection found several defects with the pine.
Photo 1

a. There is root scarring on the southwest side of the tree along Road due to the tree planting to the close proximity of the existing sidewalk.

b. The trunk is absent of root flare and existing roots are girdling the trunk which indicates poor root structure and eventual tree failure.  (See photograph 1)

c. Existing plastic barrier around the trunk and ground, plus concrete walk prevents the tree from adequate irrigation and rain water.  (See photograph 1)

d. An early presence of Ips engraver beetle viewed from existing holes and oozing sap on the west side of the tree. (See photograph 2)

e. The trunk of the tree has a visible bow at the trees mid point. (See photograph 3)

Conclusion: The pine in question at risk for tree failure due to the girdling and damaged root system and recognizing that ips beetle is aggressive will cause certain death to the tree.

Photo 3
Recommendation: It is recommended that the reported Pinus radiata be removed prior to any new construction at the existing site. The existing pine to the south should be protected if targeted by as climb tree. No gaffs are to be used on said tree.

2. The Platanus acerifolia (Sycamore) is located closest to the south entry of the court. The tree is approximately 14 feet tall with a DBH of 6 inches.  The dripline of the tree extends approximately three feet from the trunk.  

The findings indicate that the Sycamore appears to come from sucker 

growth of an existing root system. The tree trunk is weak and shows signs 

of poor development as seen with cracking, sun scald on the west side of 
the trunk. (See photo 4).  The growing conditions and space is undersized for this type of 

tree. The tree will uplift the existing sidewalk and driveway if permitted to 
continue grow in its current condition.

Photo 4
It is recommended that the Sycamore tree be removed due to the poor  quality and existing growing conditions.

Unintended consequences:  I figured the sycamore (which I thought was a liquid amber) was fine, but apparently it is in worse shape than the pine (which is a Monterey, not Scotch).  The Arborist also said she saw signs of potential beetle infestation of the south tree, but it was at the early stages, and was concerned that if she recommended all the trees be removed that would not make a good case.  She believes that once the north tree is down, they'll see the problem with the south tree, and either treat it or remove it.  But that's a job/battle for another day.

I really and truly do not  understand the owners intransigence on this.  Their answers, through their representative, have been a flat "no removal".  No reason given, no explanation for the denial, no nothin'.  The cost of removal, while less than $700, is, in the larger scheme of things, small potatoes relative to maintenance issues in the park.  As I said previously, I have a couple of ideas as to why, but neither make practical sense.

On the one hand, I'm kinda grateful; I probably would not have spent 3 days researching Mobile Home Residency laws and housing codes relative to mobile/manufactured homes, thereby increasing my knowledge, and understanding my rights as a tenant.

Of course, on the other hand it's "cut the damn thing down, already!"

So then, rather than the overly wordy letters I've written in the past, this is what I will be hand delivering on Monday.  I've asked them to respond by 5pm Tuesday.  If their response is to the negative, then I will exercise my rights under the law as stated in the letter.  

For the past six weeks, since I purchased the older home located at XXX I have been attempting to work cooperatively with park staff and builders of the new manufactured home I am putting on the lot space XXX.

I really am looking forward to living at the park and don’t believe that what I am asking for is in any way incongruent or inappropriate for the park in general, or site in particular.  Before I purchased the property, I asked about removing the 35’ Monterey pine trees on the lot, as I believed they had grown so big over the 40 years since planting, that they overwhelmed the site.  I was advised by the manager that, you, the owners were reluctant, if not unwilling, to cut down any trees in the park.  I can understand that, from an environmental and aesthetic perspective.

On September 12, 2012, the first time a preliminary measurement of the lot was taken with park staff and me present, I asked Dick, again, about the removal of the tree.  Your manager's representation to me of the park’s policy was that it would not remove trees, unless there was a problem with them, or posed a safety hazard.

Since that first visit, two contractors have visited the site and have commented on the tree, and yet, the owners of the park have steadfastly refused to remove the tree.

Notwithstanding your manager's representation that the north Monterey piner is healthy, during the many times I have visited the lot over the last month, and looked at the tree close up,  I have become uncomfortable about the shallowness of that tree’s root structure and the way it leaning.  I engaged the services of an arborist to inspect the tree.  The report is attached.

Please accept this letter as:

(a) a formal request to remove both the north Monterey pine and sycamore trees described in the arborist report, pursuant to Section 798.37.5, of the 2012 California Mobile Home Residency Law which states: “With respect to trees on rental spaces in a mobile home park, park management shall be solely responsible for the trimming, pruning, or removal of any tree, and the costs thereof, upon written notice by a homeowner or a determination by park management that the tree poses a specific hazard or health and safety violation.  In the case of a dispute over that assertion, the park management or a homeowner may request an inspection by the Department of Housing and Community Development or a local agency responsible for the enforcement of the Mobile home Parks Act (Part 2.1 (commencing with Section 18200) of Division 3 of the Health and Safety Code) in order to determine whether a violation of that act exists”

(b) notification to you, as owners, that there exists a known hazard, relative to insurance liability issues.

The park staff has been very helpful and the park is well run. Those are two of the many reasons I wish to move there, and have been looking forward to building a small home of my own for the first time.  That will be my home for many years, and I want to feel safe there.

I believe it would be in both our best interest to have the arborist's recommendations followed.  For me, my safety concerns would be alleviated, and for you, it would be easier to remove the damaged trees now, while there is no home on the site, and it would eliminate a potential insurance liability concern.

Please respond to this request in writing (an email will suffice), to me, by 5:00pm, Tuesday, October 16, 2012.

Thank you for your consideration.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Their way or the highway.

Some good friends reviewed my edited letter;  I included cites from California Title 25 - Housing and Community Development, Mobile Home Park Installation Regulations and the 2012 California Mobile Home Residency Law, both of which had excellent information relative to my issues.  I forwarded it to the builder. They spoke with the park, who advised that there was absolutely no compromise to be had from them.

1.  The tree must stay
2.  The only size home they will permit on the lot is 24 x 50

The builder was at a bit of a loss to explain why the owners are so reluctant to cut down the tree (as no reason was given for that decision), suggested I not send the letter and see about asking an arborist to evaluate the north tree.

No letter sent, and after some networking, I found someone to evaluate the tree this morning.  There will be a written report tonight, which I will take up to the park tomorrow.

The preliminary findings are:

1.  The South tree is healthy and should remain in place.

2.  The North tree is in decline.  It appears that the root structure, at some point in time, was trimmed to keep it from damaging the sidewalk. That has weakened the tree.  The thin and scraggly limb growth and the way the tree leans is a direct result of the trimming of the root ball in the  past.  The trimming has also made the tree vulnerable to rot.

Then what? 

What if the park owners don't give a damn (which I don't think they do) and say, so what?

1.  Do I go forward and build something that while, for the most part would be ok, but isn't what I really want? Then move somewhere else later?

2.  Put a cheap home on there and sell it quick?

I have a couple of thoughts as to why I think the park owners are doing this, which I won't list here, but I don't think any of them have to do with me, personally. However, I  want  to thank them for turning something that I felt to be a joyful experience, into a nightmare, that is costing me double rent.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Retail therapy

At my favorite knitting group this morning a couple of my dear friends and fellow enablers knitters mentioned that Macy's was having a 50% furniture sale in Novato, and as I really need a sofa, might be good to check it out.

Boy howdy, were they having a sale.  Look at what I found, Ma, and it followed me home (or will when I have one).

Nice wide seats (I think the problem with my current sofa, that was mom's, is that the base seat width is too narrow ... you kinda slide off), and comfy but not soft, and it's tall enough so that (unlike the first sofa we had that was a 70s, low-to-the-ground sectional we call "the grabber") it's easy to get out of.  Covered in easy-to-clean microfiber, and I'm special ordering the sage color.  It was 60% off original.

It will be about 6-8 weeks before it's delivered, but the way things are going that may be about right :(  As the very nice salesman assisting me and I were getting down to the  part about delivery, I mentioned I was moving to a senior community, he asked where, I said Sonoma, he said he and his wife had moved to one there as well, I asked "Oh, where?" and he said "7 Flags".  At which point I said "howdy neighbor".   Had a most interesting conversation, and while they've only been there a little over a year, he concurs with my impressions of the place, and he and his wife love it there.  He did understand the issue about the tree, and while he has no say, agrees that it should probably come out.  So, yet another nod from the universe that this is a good move.

So then I wandered over to the rug department.  I'm looking for something striking that can go with the furniture, but not too expensive.

So, if the floor looks like this:

And walls and ceilings look like this (stark white ceiling and baseboard, a light ecru wall):

And the sofa and my "comfy chair" basically the same dark sage green:

Wouldn't this be a Fabulous area rug?  I didn't buy it, but am having serious thoughts about going back to get it.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

I can't see the forrest for the trees.

Met with Shawn Thursday.  He is Sterling's "house whisperer" for want of a better term.  He's the guy that looks at a lot, figures out what size house can fit there, measures it, squares the corners and then determines where the ordered house should be sited.  He's been doing this work for 42 years, and this site plan will be one of his last, as he is retiring after the first of the year.  Usually, he's involved much later in the process, but because of the odd shape of this lot he came up to size up the lot and then advise Dave what size home can be placed there.  It's usual that they work off the footprint of the home being replaced, but because mine was so old and little, that wasn't working.

It was a very frustrating morning, as the park staff was there to say what I couldn't do.  If you look at the park from Google Earth, all the homes on lots similar to where mine is located (right side, entrance to cul-de-sac) face a certain way; the way the park wants it sited.  But, because of the odd shape of the lot, the corner-to-corner distance for the park's preferred placement, is a lot shorter than the front to back (street to cul-de-sac) distance. The front to back placement would give me plenty of room for the size floor plan I want. But they won't approve it.  Oh, sure, I can ask, but all the comments made by park staff when I said I would ask, gave me to believe it ain't gonna happen.

Then, another surprise; I'm told that the set-back from the street isn't the 3' I was advised earlier, but 6'.   Now I went up and down the street, and there were many homes that were only set back 3', and in traveling through the park, the same set back has not been consistently, or rigorously, applied.  The reason I was given was that there has been a change in park management (from what I've observed all for the better), and those inconsistencies all happened before the new management and the tightening up of application of park regulations.  Although any mention of a 6' set back is not in the copy of the park regulations that I was given.  For me, the really aggravating part is that those many homes in the park, inconsistently done, have had those inconsistencies grandfathered in. And that puts me between a rock and a pine tree.

Park staff kept telling me that wanted to work with me, to make it "happen" the way I wanted.  Yeahsureright, as long as I do it their way.

Shawn and Dave are working on two floor plans that I should get later this afternoon.  One smaller and one bigger.  We'll see.

The good news is that Shawn agrees with me that the pine tree I want out, should come out.  The park guys are still adamant that it shouldn't.

I am writing a letter to the park, to be hand delivered Monday, formally requesting removal of the tree. Letter is at the end, and if any of you have suggestions send 'em on.

Plan A For Siting of house (what I'd really like to do, but know that I will be doomed to failure).

Write a letter, pointing out all the inconsistencies of home placement in the park (and I've seen most of them), suggesting that where I wish to place the home is, while not in the configuration of those homes situated on lots in the same location at the entrance to a cul-de-sac as mine would be,  it is neither unsightly, nor out of character with other home placement within the park.  In fact the siting of my home would be facing in the same direction as the homes next to me on either side.  Additionally, with the front to back placement, one of my neighbors in the back, will actually have an enhanced view of the vineyards.  Therefore, the decision by Park Management to not allow me to site my home in direction of my choosing, providing that it does not take up more than 75% of the lot, seems arbitrary and capricious.

Plant B For Siting of house  (what I'll probably end up doing).

The one concession I want from the park is the north pine tree out.  Period.  End of story

If I have to agree with their siting of a smaller house than what I want, with the house placement direction they want, I'll suck it up and agree.  BUT in exchange, I want the tree out.  Only they don't see it as an exchange.  Do I start of the tree letter by stating my points in Plan A?  Or will that just piss 'em off?  How do I get them to take the tree out, by thinking that "she's being cooperative, and taking our site plan, rather than another plan we don't want"?

Here's the letter, any suggestions to help get my point made, and accepted, would be greatly appreciated, and thanks to Willard for his earlier ideas:

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Tuscan Magic

In the fall of 2006 (late September to mid October), I was lucky enough to visit Italy on a trip with other fiberistas and their spouses.  We stayed at an AgriTrouismo in Umbria, and traveled in and out of Tuscany visiting hill towns and places of renown.

From Llama farm near Umbertide to valley

I was struck by how much Umbria, Tuscany and (to a lesser extent) the Veneto seemed like Northern California.  No wonder when Italians came to California in the late 1800s they choose to settle in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, as it must have reminded them of the home they left behind.

I've been going up to Sonoma almost daily, and there is a spot on Highway 116 after you pass by the Sonoma Raceway (used to be Sears Point, then became Infineon Raceway), after you drive up a gentle hill, and coming down that hill you feel like you've been beamed to Tuscany.  The vineyards, olive and cypress trees, as well as the stone Wineries just make it feel that way.

I met with the site planner from Sterling this morning, along with park personnel and it was a very frustrating day.  More later.

For now...take a deep breath, and pretend you're in Tuscany.