Once when we were much younger, Steve and I bought the house we’re living in now, a tiny, uninsulated, one-story bungalow surrounded by a lot of land, a quarter of an acre to be exact. We had our work cut out for us, and we proceeded to work on the house for the next six years. First off, we needed plans for the city building department, so we hired a young architect in San Francisco who proved to be quite good at providing us with a fine, detailed set of plans. The building department wasn’t satisfied, however. They wanted a soils report before any further steps could be taken.
We called around and discovered that soils engineers were charging a mint for a soils report. They were accustomed to working with large companies and developers, not us puny homeowners with one-story bungalows on a quarter of an acre. They didn’t scale back their costs for a small report, so we continued to search and inquire of friends and acquaintances. Finally we found our dream soils engineer! His name was Mr. Dulanski (name changed to protect the evil), and he had been trained and licensed in Europe. He was not regarded favorably in the Bay Area by local U.S. engineers, but his price was right so we asked him for a report. He came to our property, stuck a pole in the ground, withdrew some soil, took a few photos, (one of them managed to snap a deer in the background), and wrote a soils report for the building department.
The plans then went ahead with one big, fat requirement: we must drill 32 holes 12 feet deep into our hillside to assure stability of the second-story addition we were going to add onto our little bungalow. Hillside Drilling came in and tried, but ran into bedrock at about 3 to 5 feet. This is actually very good news, because bedrock is nice, stable ground to be on, particularly in an earthquake.
Finally, the holes were drilled, and then sat and filled with water during a very rainy season. That winter, we unfortunately got on the wrong side of the soils engineer. The Building Department expressed doubt about his report, and we conveyed that to dear Mr. Dulanski. When it came time for him to sign off on the drilling for the city permit, he wrote a scathing report that would have stopped all plans at once. And we had paid him a mandatory $300 in advance in full in cash. So much for our dream soils engineer; he was a wily old fox in sheep’s clothing. We filed the report in the trash can, hired a regular engineer, and got the okay. Stage one, with many twists and turns, had been accomplished and we had the permit in hand.