February 07, 2018

February Building News

by Alan Beatts

Last month I told you all the things that were up in the air about the construction work on our new building on Haight Street.  In the past few weeks they've all been resolved and, in every case, the news is quite good.  Here's the current run-down:

Moving the Electrical Service
Great news on this front.  Last month I said that I was thinking that we'd just have to live with the odd little wall right in front of the door as you enter the place that houses the electrical meters, because PG&E was going to take forever and a day to approve moving them.  But, great news -- it turns out that the city building department trumps PG&E.  If we get the city permits to move the meters, then we can do the work regardless of whether PG&E gives us their blessing or not.  So, it's full steam ahead on that job.  Antonius Dintcho, our electrician, has already arranged for a pre-permit meeting with the inspector.  He suggested it and I think it's a great idea.  It costs a couple hundred bucks but the inspector comes down before we get the permits and start work.  We can discuss with him what we want to do and he'll give us pointers on how he'd like us to do it.

Without this step, we'd need to get the permits, do all the rough work, and then have it inspected.  For something simple, like putting in some outlets or new lights, that's fine, but for something as complicated (and expensive) as relocating meters and panels, there is rooms for interpretation about what the electrical code requires.  By having a pre-inspection we reduce the chances that, after doing a ton of work, the inspector ends up being dissatisfied with our interpretation of the code, and makes us tear a bunch of it out.

The one thing that we will need to wait for PG&E to do is increase the amount of electrical service coming into the building.  But, that's not a problem since we can put in all the gear for 400 amp service, but use smaller main breakers so that it'll be correct for the existing 200 amp service.  Then, in the fullness of time, when PG&E gets around to us -- they upgrade the service, we swap the main breakers out and we're all set.  And, swapping the breakers is only a ten minute job (granted, a sweaty, nervous ten minute job -- at least if you're me; 400 amps at 240 volts will kill a person very, very, extra-crispy dead).

Remodeling the Storefront
Our building is lovely in part because it was built in 1902.  But that also means it is an historic building and is subject to special rules that require that any exterior changes must be reviewed by a city planning department specialist to make sure that they're consistent with the age of the building.  The current front door, display windows, and front of the shop are a 1970s mess that I'd love to fix (you can check out the last newsletter for all the details about that - http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2018/01/january-building-news.html ).  But, Kevin (the architect) and I were concerned about what sort of hoops we'd have to jump through to do that work.

Well, it's good news on that front as well.  We met with the planner this morning; she was pleasant, helpful, and very much on our side.  The permitting process is going to be very easy and the design we have in mind is totally prefect from an historical standpoint.  And, as a bonus, since we're not going to be keeping anything at all of the existing front, we're going to be able to move the door to the center of the wall as opposed to its current off-set position.  It's going to look so lovely when we're done -- as well as letting in twice as much light through the front windows.

Other News
I'm expecting the written report from Matthew, our structural engineer, later this week.  The drawings should follow next week.  Since Kevin has already completed the bathroom design, it'll just be a matter of combining the two sets of drawings and then we'll be able to submit them for permits.  That should take a day or so and then, contractors willing, we can get started on the job of redoing the bathroom and expanding the sales floor into the lightwell area.

Matthew has also weighed in on the project of removing the posts and beams from the basement.  It's looking like we're going to be able to eliminate all of the posts in the office area and replace them (and their associated beams) with a single heavy beam supported by a single post at each end.  That is great news.  And, one of the best parts is that, since that new beam will run beside the existing ones, we won't have to put up a bunch of temporary shoring to support the upper floor while we remove the old post and beams. The new one will go in, support the floor, and then we take the old ones out.

And, last but not least, last Sunday we broke up all 250 square feet of concrete in the backyard to get it ready for the garden.  We took two truckloads to the dump (3300lbs), and there's another 3500-4000lbs left to go.  It was one big, hard sweaty job but, thanks to a remarkable crew of folks, we managed to get it done.  On top of that, the garden design is getting close to set.  We're going to use raised planting beds to define the space and I'm very excited about it.

That's about it for now.  As I did last month, I'll be holding the place open one day in February.  I'll be there from noon until six pm on Saturday, February 24th.  If you're interested in seeing the space, please stop by and I'll give you the tour -- 1377 Haight St. at Masonic Ave.  I'll hope to see you there.

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