There we were: going along building our house, thinking about walls, about windows, about roofs… when we arrived one morning to a Cease and Desist order from the Town of Sonoma! What happened?
When we had researched the legality of building on our group build site everything looked good. We found many instances in the Sonoma building code in which what we were doing was not actually “building,” because our houses are on wheels, the build site was temporary, and more. We thought we were good to go.
However. While we were not in violation of the rules around building, we were in violation of the rules around the stuff you can do in that zone of Sonoma. Our build site was located in a Multi-Use Zone. In the Multi-Use zone you can do X,Y, and Z. And you can’t do A,B, or C. And even if you are doing “J” or “12” or “Tiny House,” which is not specifically prohibited, since it is also not specifically allowed…. we are not allowed to do it! After a number of long conversations with the very helpful, courteous, but firm professionals at the Sonoma City Planners Office, we accepted it. We had to Cease and Desist; we had to build elsewhere.
So, bright and early one warm Sonoma Saturday morning, Joseph and I arrived at the build site. We re-attached the taillights to our trailer (which required some amateur electrical re-wiring), we nailed on some kickstand 2X4s to support our two walls, we strapped our walls into place with yellow straps tested at 10,000 pounds and snugged them up tight, we piled all the materials we could manage into the bed of the truck, and we headed off on a slow journey back to the sheep ranch where we live.
In case you were wondering: No, it is not a good idea to move half a house. It is not a good idea to go flinging down the backroads of Sonoma County with two heavy walls, attached in an L-shape to each other and to your trailer. Not recommended. But we didn’t want to deal with taking the walls down, and then somehow getting them up again by ourselves, so we went for it.
It was a slow and occasionally harrowing journey. At the last moment, only about 100 feet from it’s new site, one of the walls buckled and a kickstand snapped off. But, on the whole, we got our house home in one piece. Huge sighs of relief.
As you may know from our last post, we live on a sheep ranch near Petaluma where we are caretakers for the sheep and the property. The owners and leasers of the ranch were generous enough to allow us to continue our tiny house build on this property, and here we are. Our group build-mates are not sure where they’ll move their builds. They are still waiting on their SIPS, so they have some time to figure it out… but let us know if you have some Sonoma property where they could build!
We’re now embarking on a new stage of our build process, Group Build 2.0, so to speak. We are still cooperating and helping each other out, but now our process is spread out across the county, with our little house going up right outside of our current house. In the video below we show the tiny house in its new location, and talk a little bit about the pros and cons of this new situation.
Lessons learned: Check out all applicable municipal codes very carefully. Don’t move half a house, or if you do, breathe deeply and drive slowly!
If anyone else is planning to build in the town of Sonoma, we would be happy to send you all the relevant and well-researched details of what we know now about building there, just ask!