Permitting in Ojai and Ventura County – always new rules, especially in the mountains


Building a new home these days requires lots of permits.  More all the time.

Ventura County which includes a lot of the area around Ojai, has a difficult permitting process and many different agencies which require permits.  Particularly if you build in the mountains, the process can be challenging.

  • Building and Safety Department
  • Grading Department
  • Planning and Zoning Department
  • Environmental Health Department
  • Fire Department
  • Water Resources Department
  • Trash and Recyelcing
  • to name a few !

The process requires multiple trips to each department,  consisting of submitting plans for “plan check” – revising plans and making corrections – resubmission of plans (sometimes repeat again and again)

If you pass “GO” you move on to the next department.  Sometimes you go to “JAIL” or have to start over!

A day at the county can feel like living a “Twilight Zone” episode.


Below is an example of a recent Ventura County Ordinance – amending the rules for an “overlay” of the “Scenic Resource Protection Zone.”  This revises regulations for homes built on “ridgelines.”  The thinking that overbuilding on the tops of mountains spoils views for others.  Just an example of the incredible complexity of the rules and regulations in some areas today.

See if you can read and clearly understand this …

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Pacific Palisades – New Construction – Lemons Into Lemonade – Finish Concrete Floors


By: Otis Bradley

Project: Pacific Palisades, California – Finish Concrete Floors

Architecture: Elizabeth Stevenson
Builder: Otis Bradley Company, Inc.
Interior Design: Otis Bradley Company, Inc.

An extra $50,000 expense is not the way you want to start a job!

(See article on concrete caisons)

Many houses had been built in this neighborhood in the past 60 years – with no problems, but you just never know until you do the tests –  drilling into the ground and finding out what you’ve got. Its amazing how soils conditions can be radically different over the distance of just a few  feet. Geology is all about shifts, lifts, and millions of years of evolution.  A hill, a ridge, a little valley can all be tell tale marks to the experienced eye – but often overlooked and sometimes can even fool the experts.


Because of the underground water that existed on this property, a massive foundation was called for by the structural engineer. In order to follow code, steel reinforced concrete caissons had to be sunk up to 40 feet into the ground.


Once the caissons were set, we had to place a grade beam on top of the caissons – this grade beam is essentially a 2 foot by 3 foot XXX steel reinforced concrete beam.  This allows a structural concrete slab to rest on top of the grade beam – which will later be the foundation to a new home! The next time you drive into a multi story parking garage – look up at the posts and beams – typically they are built in this style. Although, on this project we were doing this in the ground – not in the air!

Typical parking garage below:

Symons Garage Beam System Image

Because this massive slab of concrete was called for, why not make it the finish floors.  Since all of this concrete was required by the engineering design, I decided to finish the concrete so the concrete could be the finish floors, saving cost from adding another floor like hardwood.  At the time – this was an unusual idea.


I decided to form the concrete into large 5 x 5 squares to make the concrete look like giant tile. After “cutting” in the squares in the wet concrete –  by hand troweling  into a super smooth surface – the beautiful surface was later “stained” – colored with acid.

Finish concrete (see concrete floor video – click here) is an art. Scoring, coloring, and finishing can create either a beautiful material or an ugly mess. Like many processes in the building world,  concrete installation is a science and an art.


Different scoring methods produce different results. Some installers (also typical in construction) insist that there is only “their way” to do it. Concrete coloring whether “stained,” integrally colored, or surface coated can produce drastically different results.  Countless methods from “broom”  to aggregate exposed to highly polished finishes will provide an endless number of options.


On this project we used acid staining, creating lovely color variations. However, you really don’t know exactly what you will get – so you better like the general idea and be willing to accept a lot of variation.



Tip – sometimes during a project you get hit with surprises – sometimes an opportunity to make it better!




Feel Free to copy, share, or re post this article. Kindly make sure to include this information: Written by Otis Bradley, a Custom Home Builder, in Southern California. Please see for more information on Custom Home Building!

Pacific Palisades – New Construction – Every Project has its challenges…

By: Otis Bradley


Project: Pacific Palisades, California – Soils Tests

Architecture: Elizabeth Stevenson
Builder: Otis Bradley Company, Inc.
Interior Design: Otis Bradley Company, Inc.


Here’s a conundrum … it’s really important to know your property before you buy it. In our area of southern California soils engineering is key. We are in a high xxx earthquake zone.

But – lots of soils engineers won’t do soils tests before a sale because if they find challenging conditions and the buyer decides not to buy – then the soils guy gets blamed and sued!

A catch 22….cart before the horse. Some engineers will give “opinions,” – happened here.

Looks like a normal lot !


After removal of the existing house – the soil is removed and re-compacted.  A “flip flop” technique is used meaning you dig one side of the lot and pile up your dirt on the other – then vice a versa.  Excavating 5 feet down with a huge bulldozer and then re filling the dirt tightly compacted with testing done each 2 feet by the soils engineer – the ground is made uniform for the new structure.


“All clear, shouldn’t be any problems, go ahead.”  But shortly after the purchase, the test borings for the soils report – (soils engineering is required for the structural engineer to design the appropriate structural system for the house). revealed an underground water!  Underneath a house that already existed on the property for 40 years with no signs of problems.   But to build by today’s code we had to sink 16 concrete caissons into the ground from 30 to 50 down. With grade beams to support a structural slab to hold up the house. Kind of like building a parking structure into the ground to hold up the house.

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