Homeowner is having trouble landing permit to install a French door

Jake

Well-known member
Oct 30, 2023
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I found an interesting Reddit question that I think you guys would have some answers for. The Redditor, or should I say homeowner in this case is trying to install a French door to his house, but the BDS has pushed back on the project for the last 8 months. He's even had 2 structural engineers come in to draw up plans, and still the BDS wants more.

The homeowner is ready to just give up at this point, as the BDS keeps coming finding and requesting new info. He's already purchased the door too, and spent money on the plans. On top of that, he still has to hire a contractor to handle the work.

Does the homeowner have any recourse here? Could he possibly speak with a human to try and plead his case, especially about how unreasonable this situation has been for him. What can be done?

If interested in checking out this reddit post, you can find it here - r/PortlandOR
 
Location
Portland, Oregon, United States
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Been reading through some of the comments on this reddit post, and a lot of them are saying to just skip the permit. One commenter even said that Portland is known for wasting peoples time like this. I think the Redditor should hire a contractor to handle all of it going forward, maybe have him take on the permitting needs. One of the redditors mentioned doing something like that.

I'd try to go to their offices if possible and speak to them there. Try and get an answer. Keep pushing if possible, sometimes keeping on them helps.
 
Why not go back to the BDS and ask what they're looking for? If they aren't willing to play ball, maybe the Reddit poster could search out some approved permits for an idea of what to model.

It doesn't take much to hold things up. Sadly, it's foolish to buy the materials before you know that the project will move forward. Goodness knows I've learned my lesson about that after getting burned by my HOA.
 
Been reading through some of the comments on this reddit post, and a lot of them are saying to just skip the permit. One commenter even said that Portland is known for wasting peoples time like this.

I never ceased to be amazed (and frankly, a little impressed) by how the "skip the permit" crowd presents itself on threads like this one. You always get a few people who are harshly critical of the permitting office - in many cases, to an extreme degree - and who really don't pull any punches with their commentary. Here are a couple such comments that I noticed on the subject thread...

u/sundays_sun:
They're a thankless rabbit hole and it's generally a nightmare to let a city inspector in the door of a 100 year old home.

u/roesingape:
Never call the city for help. It's like calling the cops, unless it's something extremely obvious, most of the time they are gonna fuck with you too. It's their job to make work.

...among others...

I understand that Portland BDS has its dysfunctions and frustrated applicants definitely have my sympathies. But I'd personally like to see less of the "they're evil / avoid them" dialogue in favor of constructive, reform-focused commentary (insofar as that's realistic on Reddit, lol). These Redditors are presumably Portland taxpayers after all. Instead of just complaining and essentially advocating that people break the law and embrace non-compliance, how about discussing real steps frustrated applicants can take to move the needle on efforts to reform the situation? For example, how about reaching out to your commissioner's office or the BDS director and voicing these frustrations with them?

Along these lines, I really enjoyed hearing from @NathanFP a little while back (see this post) about the major reorg that's underway at Portland BDS and that's set to take effect July 1. As I mentioned there, I'm personally optimistic that we'll see real customer service improvements following the consolidation of permitting functions they're planning to implement.
 
I think this guy should request a meeting with a senior official at the Building Department to discuss the ongoing issues. During the meeting, he should bring up all documents, including plans and correspondence, so that it is easier to clarify the requirements. If that fails, he can also contact a local council member for help. Last but not least, seeking legal assistance can also become an option.
 
Hi folks, I'm the OP of the Reddit submission. I appreciate the constructive feedback in the forum and wanted to share some details about our journey.

We started this project last year while we were preparing to reside our house. We consulted with a contractor that initially said a permit wouldn't be reacquired so we bought the door. A day before planned install contractor said they didn't feel comfortable doing the job without a permit, siding project commenced. We worked with a architect friend that linked us to a structural engineer that draft up our 1st plans as a favor. We got push back 2x from the city for minor updates and request for re-calculations. 6 month pass and we decided to hire an engineer and got new plans to submit 3x. Now the city has come back asking for the following:

REQUIRED SPECIAL INSPECTIONS FOR ALL BUILDING TYPES FOR Anchors – Expansion/Screw

A) Detail 2 – Please clarify the minimum edge distance for the Titen anchors at the holddown. Confirm the calcs match with an edge assumption.
B) Detail 2 and general notes - Special inspection of post installed anchors used for seismic holddowns is not considered minor in nature by this jurisdiction. Please note special inspection on the drawings and complete the attached special inspection form and email it to the address on the form. OSSC 1704
C) Detail 4 – Please confirm if the to nails in the blocking to (E) decking is a diaphragm shear connection and what page in the calcs matches the size, spacing, and installation style shown in the plans. SDPWS 4.1.7
D) Detail 5 – Please confirm an edge distance is shown for the post installed anchors at the base of the wall to match calc assumptions.

Had I known about the details about the anchors, I could have documented the condition of the house when all the siding was off, so I'm figuring out if I can accomplish this without tearing the siding back off to access.
 
Thanks for sharing, @Winterstone. The amount of back-and-forth (and therefore delay) you've had to endure from Portland BDS really sounds frustrating. You mentioned in your original post that BDS "keeps finding something new" in the plans you submit and this unfortunate trend appears to have only continued with the new anchor detail request you mentioned. I think it's super unprofessional when a permit office fails to communicate all their information needs upfront. When info requests are unnecessarily piecemealed out like that - i.e., what's happening in your case - it's inappropriately costly to the homeowner and makes the government look just plain bad.

One person you might try talking to about this is @NathanFP. He's a Senior Project Manager for a Portland-area permit expediting company called Faster Permits. You can try PMing him on the forum (click on the envelope in the upper right and click "start a new conversation"). You can also try contacting him through his company's website (www.fasterpermits.com).
 
Hey Winterstone - Sorry about your frustrating experience. It's hard to get the full picture without reviewing all the comments/knowing the reviewer/etc, but from what I'm seeing this is just a construction detail and special inspections hurdle.

The anchors spec'd by your engineer are items that fall outside of the standard inspection purview. When that happens a permit holder is required to hire an outside firm (there will be a list of them on the actual form) to come inspect that special element and say it is done correctly.

Those anchors will also have specific ways to install them to function right, and those need to be called out specifically in the plans so the contractor knows what to do, and your SI agency knows what to inspect.

Who did you hire to do your engineering/design? Has this already been installed/covered by your contractor? If so, they did the work "at risk" without having a permit and need to uncover whatever is necessary (if anything) to clear inspections.

Unfortunately, I can't navigate the whole process for free since this is my livelihood, but hopefully, that helps clear some of the confusion.
 
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