Chapter 35: The City of Lost Hope

December 28, 2009 • Written by Christina Berry

When living in a city, there are just a few rules to remember.

  1. Always lock your doors.
  2. You have to get a permit to do EVERYTHING.

Since we’re about to enter into a rather large pile of construction projects, it was necessary to follow rule number two, and get a permit. First permit up — a demolition permit. Yes, it’s true — you need a permit to demolish a house. Weird, right? Whatever. So we completed a demolition permit to tear down the following structures:

The Condemned Kitchen

The Laundry Hut

The On-Its-Last-Leg Carport

The Stinky Shed and Crumbling Firepit

The Leaning Garage

Oh and also take out all the concrete that covers every inch of yard.

We asked for Rudy’s help to get this thing through. He completed the paperwork and took it to the city. We waited and waited and then the word came down — our demolition permit was rejected.

Wha, Wha, Whaaaaat?

Why on earth would a demolition permit to tear down structures which were already falling down be rejected? Did George Washington eat dinner in our kitchen?

Dear City of Austin, Please to explain. Sincerely, The Resident

Dear Resident, Take it up with the arborist. Sincerely, The City of Austin

See the problem is that we have these fantastic pecan trees in the backyard.

We love these trees very much and don’t want anything bad to happen to them. But they are very close to the structures we’re demolishing and the structures we’ll be building in their place.

And when I say close, I mean cloooooooooooose!

See it turns out that trees are very delicate creatures. If you, for example, squish their root systems they might die.

Well, actually, we knew that and have every intention of not squishing the roots. In fact, we’ve designed the foundation of the shop/studio to be a concrete deck that sits on piers, rather than as a slab on grade that would compress the soil (aka squish the roots).

Turns out that best intentions don’t count for very much in a bureaucracy. The government needs proof in the form of lots and lots of paperwork.

Okay, we’ll play your little games, City of Austin.

So we got out the tape measure and started trying to figure out just what sort of impact we’d have on the trees.

I’m sure the neighbors were amused.

Also, we had an independent arborist come out to tell us his thoughts on the trees. Nevic the arborist of They Might Be Monkeys! told us that our plans look good for the sake of the trees. But sadly he also told us that one of the trees has a “beer belly.” You can see it at the bottom left in this photo.

This is because the prior owner of the house completely strangled the trees with concrete. The trees were unable to get carbs to their roots and they built up little beer bellies on top of the concrete. We removed the concrete, but it might be too late. Nevic says we need to do a full excavation to know. Okay Nevic, but, um, that will happen with Phase II. In the meantime we just need the gosh darn city to give us a demo permit. So he gave us the signature we needed and Rudy jumped through a whole lot more hoops to get a whole new stack of papers to the city arborist so we can get his seal of approval to tear down George Washington’s kitchen.

We’d hoped to be demolishing right about now, but alas, we wait.

And sadly, this is where we leave you. Waiting. Wanting more. Anxious for progress.

In the immortal words of Dark Helmet, “When will then be now?”

To which Colonel Sandurz replies, “Soon.”

*sigh* Soon. Fine.

No, not fine. We will not bow from your bureaucratic death ray, City of Austin. We will use the Schwartz, Lone Starr! Oh yes, we will use the Schwartz! (It’s possible I was watching Spaceballs just before this writing.)

Whoa…UPDATE: just after writing this, the city came through…BIG TIME. I’m pretty sure it’s because we used the Schwartz. Now, allow me to introduce you to the first paragraph of the next chapter of our story: Demolition: Part Deux.