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Building & Safety
Rectify Violations by "Undoing the Work"


The purpose of this memo is to develop workable procedures for the situation described below.

A complaint is received alleging conversion of a structure or portion of a structure from non-habitable to habitable, or the creation of a second unit, etc. The complaint is verified and a Notice of Violation issued. Typically work has been performed without the required building permit, and in many cases the work is, or may be, in violation of the zoning ordinance (and in some cases may be in violation of grading or environmental health, public works, or fire ordinances.)

The applicant usually first attempts to rectify the violation with an as-built permit, but often finds the problems insurmountable because of site standards, fees, or building codes, and decides to remove the violation by "undoing the work that was done."

In the past in this situation we issued an over-the-counter permit, which had a verbal description of the work but no plans. A check lists was filled out by code enforcement staff to guide the building inspector. This process did not work for the following reasons:

  • It put code compliance staff in the position of telling the applicant what must be done to rectify the violation. This should not be the job of the code compliance staff, but the job of the staff of the agency which administers the applicable ordinance. For instance, when the removal of a stove is required, the questions of the electrical connections, gas line, and vent hood usually arise. When the stove constitutes a violation of the Zoning Ordinance, Development Review staff should make these determinations.
  • There was no systematic mechanism for review by the agency responsible for enforcing the applicable ordinance, or for coordination between these agencies, because there were not plans to review, and there was no consolidation process to identify conflicting agency requirements.
  • There was no systematic way to insure that the work needed to rectify the zoning violation meets the building code, and vice versa. For instance, development review may require that wall coverings be removed, while Type X gypsum wallboard may be required by the building code.
  • It allowed an applicant to manipulate the various staff involved, shopping questions to code compliance, zoning and building staff until the situation becomes a confused mess. The applicant could then state with some justification, that in the Santa Cruz County Planning Department, "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing."
  • It didn't adequately address many of the issues which arise in this situation. For instance, a permit of this type recently included a sleeping loft. The question of adequate access (stairs vs ladder) did not arise until the inspector was making the inspection.
  • It didn't adequately convey to the applicant what is required. Again, a picture (set of plans) conveys detail not possible in a verbal description.
  • It didn't adequately convey to the inspector what is required. Again, a picture (set of plans) conveys detail not possible in a verbal description.

The result was inconsistency, frustrated staff, and frustrated applicants. The purpose of this memo is to establish a revised procedure to be used for the permits to rectify a violation by "undoing the work."

These procedures will require more from the applicant than is currently being required. However, the question of what needs to be done to "undo the work" will be definitely answered on paper before the work is done, and all involved agencies will be able to review the application and to coordinate the response when necessary. The end result will be clear, concrete direction to the applicant and to staff, and less frustration and confusion for all concerned.


  • Applications for permits to rectify violations by "undoing the work", "converting the structure back to origination condition", or "demolishing the illegal work" will require plans and will be processed as minors.
  • The application will be considered a remodel (although it is more accurately a "remodel in reverse".)
  • Building Permit and Plan Review fees will be calculated based on our Minor Remodel fee calculation. Other agency fees will be charged as appropriate.
  • The plans must meet the checklist requirements for a remodel.

In addition, the following three floor plans are required:

  1. ORIGINAL FLOOR PLAN-The floor plan prior to the work which constitutes the violation.
  2. EXISTING FLOOR PLAN-The floor plan which exists at the time of application, with the work which constitutes the violation clearly shown and labeled.
  3. PROPOSED FLOOR PLAN-The floor plan which will be required in accordance with our present procedures, or when necessary to clarify how the violation will be rectified, with the measures to rectify the violation clearly indicated.

Framing, plumbing, electrical, or mechanical details will be required in accordance with our present procedures, or when necessary to clarify how the violation will be rectified. When the removal of an appliance or plumbing fixture is required, the plans MUST specify the disposition of related plumbing, electrical, or mechanical systems.

  • Additional work unrelated to the violation may be included with this application.
  • The application will be processed and inspected in the usual way