Adding Up the SCV's Building Inspectors
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 5-15-2005.
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My last trip to the Santa Clarita Valley didn't start as a "home repair service." I was only going to patch a few holes in the garage roof and check on the condition of some posts of the arbor on the patio. I thought I would have time to enjoy some fine spring weather.
How was I to know the deck built on the hill behind my sister's home was being held up by the honeysuckle vines and ivy? It required dawn-to-dusk repairs. There was not even time for a dinner with friends. I missed a great dinner at Moretti's Italian Restaurant on Lyons Avenue in Newhall. Sorry, Sam. I know I missed the very best Italian food on the West Coast.
I don't know what to pack anymore when I go to California and the SCV. I expected the rain during my first visit in January of this year. I didn't expect it in late April and early May. I also expected the temperature to be a little warmer.
Great expectations; one of three were reality.
What happened to that great Southern California weather? I guess if you're ever in another drought you know you can call me. I'll pack my shorts and T-shirts. You'll have give inches of rain and maybe some snow the day I arrive from Virginia. It will turn warm and sunny the day I fly back East.
So much for my thinking and expectations. Now on to the subject of today's column: building inspectors.
With all of the rapid growth in the SCV, are there enough qualified and experienced building inspectors? Let's look at some numbers and a proposed development ‹ the 21,000 homes that The Newhall Land and Farming Co. is about to build.
If it takes, say, one hour to inspect the framing of a house, it would take 21,000 hours for one inspector to look at all 21,000 new homes. If that inspector works the average of 2,100 hours per year, that means one inspector could take 10 years to inspect all the homes being built. Same for the electrical inspectors and plumbing and all the rest.
If the work passes inspection every time, the inspectors never visit the site again. If they have to look at a problem they found after the initial inspection, add a few more hours. Now add in the time it takes to drive to the site and do reports in the office.
Just how many available inspectors do the county and the city have? And remember, these are the same folks who have to inspect other projects all over the valley. The city Web site lists about 25 folks in the directory who are concerned with inspections. It only lists 10 inspectors. I wasn't able to come up with a list for the county, but I might venture to guess an equal number.
So how do all those inspections get done with maybe 20 or so inspectors? The 21,000 homes to be built in the county area; the thousands of homes in the city of Santa Clarita; the roads, streets, parks, commercial buildings, home improvements and private construction ‹ how do so few do so much?
We had the same "numbers problem" back here in Virginia, in the city of Chesapeake. Some inspectors found envelopes sitting on car seats. The envelopes had large-denomination currency inside. (A time-honored tradition back here.) Somehow, inspections passed anyway. I wonder why? The numbers just didn't seem to add up.
During the last hurricane to drop in on Tidewater, Va., we found out about poor inspections. Missing hurricane clips on roof trusses resulted in missing roofs. There were electrical fires and improperly graded lots that caused flooding. In all cases, the worst problems were in the newest construction areas. Inadequate inspections were to blame. There weren't enough inspectors.
Do the same problems lurk in the SCV, come the next earthquake? (And it will come.) What about high winds and heavy rains?
I wouldn't want to be a building inspector in the SCV unless the city and county get more folks for the job. The numbers just don't seem to add up right now. Of course, the builders and contractors there could be resorting to that time-honored method used back here in Virginia. I know that it isn't happening in the SCV. The inspectors must be so busy that they don't have time for such stuff.
Way back when, the buildings in Mentryville didn't have inspectors. They've stood (more or less) the test of time, earthquakes, mudslides and floods. The "castle" built by William S. Hart may not have had much in the way of inspections, either. It still stands. But most other non-inspected buildings in the SCV didn't make it through those tests of nature. Inspections have more than paid for themselves over the years.
Was your home or place of work built and inspected properly? Be careful, my friends. Make sure the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County inspectors are getting the job done. It is a matter of your safety, and the safety of the public at large.
Isn't public safety the job of government? It is your job, too. Remember, government is by, for, and of the people...
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.