Peter read some of the discussion in a previous thread and wrote out the following history and thought. I welcome his thoughts, and even agree with some of them. I disagree with others, but when I have the time I’ll place my responses into the thread with everyone else. It’s a long piece, most of it under the fold. Also, some of the sentences appear to have been chopped short, and that may be a formatting conversion issue. I’ll compare what’s below with what was sent to me later and correct them manually. I’ve already done that with a few sentences, but I can’t finish until later and I think the essence of the writing is below.
Let me start by saying that it troubles me deeply to see Bonnie Blackberry and Dan Taranto spoken of in such terms, by bloggers whose ignorance seems to me to be equaled by their arrogance. Bonnie and Dan are two of the most intelligent, selfless, and tireless public servants it has ever been my privilege to know (and work with). You who so facilely demean them have no idea what they have done, for you among so many others, over so many years.
Riding such a high horse makes it hard to see what’s actually down there on the ground. So here’s a little history, for what it may be worth. One person’s version, of course.
I moved to SoHum in 1971. My wife designed a charming little house and I built it. At the outset of the process I applied for a building permit but I let it lapse when I read the fine print and discovered that the house could be abated (bulldozed) because it didn’t conform to the Uniform Building Code; for instance it used recycled lumber, and my electrical outlets weren’t the proper distance apart (they didn’t exist; we used kerosene lamps for the first fourteen years). I also discovered that the Building Department had no interest in flexibility. So my house was illegal, and this was worrisome since I planned to live out my days here.
In 1979 I was asked by a County supervisor to join the Citizens’ Advisory Committee on the Housing Element (CACHE). I knew Dan Taranto, who was heading up the committee; as we were both owner-builders and had both had similar difficulties with the Building Department (at that time separate from the Planning Department) and since we knew that there were quite a lot of other folks in the County in a similar situation we decided that the “alternative owner-builder” should be considered a legitimate component of the county’s housing stock and should be properly represented in the Housing Element along with several other categories of owner building. (The CACHE Subcommittee on Housing Regulations conducted a survey of building permits which indicated that the many forms of owner building accounted for 65% of home building activity in the County). I was the Alternative Owner-Builder representative on the CACHE committee, and the upshot of our work in that specific area was the Alternative Owner-Builder program, which has something over three hundred houses under its umbrella and which is, I’m happy to say, currently accepted by the Planning/Building Department as a legitimate response to a real need.