LAPP – How to legalize home additions or improvements done without a permit in rural Santa Cruz County

Want to legalize home additions or improvements done without a permit in the San Lorenzo Valley?

At an early January 2015 town hall meeting in Felton, Santa Cruz County Planning Department officials presented their new streamlined process for homeowners to address additions, modifications, and improvements that were done without permit in the rural areas of Santa Cruz County.

Called “LAPP” – Legalization Assistance Permit Program – the program is new.   It represents a  departure from the past, based on progressive thinking from the County Board of Supervisors and Kathleen Molloy Previsich, the Director of Santa Cruz County Planning Department.

Opening remarks by 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPhearson felt like the County really wants to make the process user friendly for people.   They’d like to see health & safety improvements, and more conformity to building standards, while making the process as streamlined and inexpensive as possible.

Kathleen Molloy Previsich, Planning Director, said, they realize the situations that exist and want to help by making the process more practical, streamlined.   That they’ve removed some of the obstacles.   Program is good through the fall of 2016.   LAPP applies to the unincorporated areas only, not cities.

Staff members Tony Falcone and Ken Hart both made presentations.     I felt the presentations and question and answer session was a success.      They’ve chosen a dedicated member on staff to answer questions – without an appointment – at two different times per week.

Bottom Line: They said after you prepare your paperwork, apply, and pay the $470 cost, an inspector will come to the house.     Then if it seems to difficult or expensive, the home owner can drop their application without fear of being “turned in” for non-compliant issues!

What each speaker reinforced was that this isn’t about code enforcement – the individual property owner holds control over the process.   It’s confidential and there’s no downside – if it doesn’t work for the property owner, they can back out of the program.    The County won’t keep a record of what they found or follow up with enforcements.

I’ve typed up pages of notes on how the process works, as well as the Q&A session.    I’ve got all of the hand outs.     Feel free to call 831-419-9759 or e-mail me for copies: mcdwyer@century21.com

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Here are some of the benefits mentioned:

o   User friendly

o   CUREC fees – if you come in voluntarily these fees don’t apply

o   Reduced impact fees – if your construction happened before ’83 these are waived

o   If you decide to pull building permit fees – inspection/plan check fees are about 75% of normal costs

o   Designated LAPP staff –  knowledgeable, creative, problem solving

o   They picked their best and brightest to be the public’s first contact person

o   Can also apply for other additions / improvements during the process

o   Previous violations might need to be cured under other programs but not LAPP

o   Focus on legalization

o   The inspection results can document there are no life-threatening issues – this can be good for insurance / resale purposes as well as rentals

o      Security in your home – insurance companies are interested in permit history for paying claims

o       Helps get full market value for the property at sale

o      Great reach-out from county with cost savings

o      Expedited timeline for this program – it mostly comes down how long it takes the home owner to prepare the necessary documentation

Like any new program, the proof will be in the pudding.  

Your comments are welcome – particularly if you have any direct experience with LAPP –  I’d love to hear it! 

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