With the recent rains early January, it seems that the great drought is over, at least temporarily. For almost 5 years we had less than average rain every single year, putting an enormous pressure on people and utility companies as well. Is it climate change, or just like in the Bible, that many meager years will be followed by many fat years? I don’t know. (I think it was seven fat years followed by seven meager years, but you get the point.) None the less, with the growing population and the pressure to produce even more food for California and the Nation as well, it is an imminent problem to produce more water and produce it in a more predictable way. I think everybody agrees with me that we should set priorities on how we spend or allocate state collected tax money to accommodate this.

Of course, I’m no expert in this field, but consider this: Northern California doesn’t have any significant water shortage, it is mainly Southern California suffering from water shortage. Actually we have plenty of water in the Pacific Ocean but unfortunately it is pretty salty. Other countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia have very similar problems but they have a solution — de-salinate the ocean water. I know it is more expensive then harvesting fresh water from rivers and fresh water lakes, but if there is no water in the reservoirs then what do you do?
Let’s just play with the numbers for a second.

Consider this: the newly built Carlsbad Desalination Plant provides approx. 7-10% of the entire San Diego county water supply needed. How many people live and work in San Diego County? About 3.5 million people. 10% of 3.5 million people is 350,000 people. California’s entire population is about 35 million people. 350,000 is 1% of 35 million. So about 100 similar de-salination plants would be needed for the entire state of California if we use only de-salinated water. Approx. 70% of Californians live in Southern California. That would reduce the numbers to 70 plants. Of course we still have the available reservoirs, rivers, aquifers, the traditional sources for fresh water in our state. Here comes a little guessing game. In a severe drought condition how much of these traditional sources will still be providing water? 50%? 40%? 30%? I don’t know, but let’s use a worst case scenario and say only 30% of the needed water will be available by the traditional way. That would reduce the needed de-salinating plants to about 50.

The cost of the Carlsbad plant was about 1 billion dollars (one billion with a B). That is a lot of money. 50 of those of course would be 50 billion. Let me repeat it: it is a lot of money. In comparison, the entire state budget for the fiscal year of 2016-2017 is a little more over 150 billion dollars. But if only 2 of these plants would be built in a year, the state water shortage problem would be solved in about 25 years for good. Probably you noticed that I didn’t mentioned any concerns of the environmental activists, like tiny fish will get caught at the intake on the ocean floor and concentrated salt will be put back into the already salty ocean. Really?

One more statistic. The proposed California bullet train is budgeted to cost about 67 billion dollars but skeptics predict it will cost close to 100 billion dollars at the end. I’m all for public transportation but if the question is to choose between survival or just another way to get to San Francisco, my choice is very simple. Or we may need that bullet train when we down south want a drink of water.

What do you think?


This is really earth shattering news!

A short time ago Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1069 and AB 2299, known as the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) State Law, effective January 1, 2017. These laws are a significant change to the State’s ADU regulations. The new laws require that local jurisdictions allow ADUs by-right under certain mandatory development standards, and require that local jurisdictions, if seeking to establish additional regulations, do so via an ordinance facilitating the ministerial creation of ADUs, consistent with state law.

A few important points of this new law:

  • ADUs are allowed on any lot zoned for single-family or multifamily use that contains an existing, single-family dwelling.
  • Detached ADUs are limited to a maximum size of 50% of existing living area, excluding garages.
  • Detached ADUs are considered an “accessory building” and are subject to the setback requirements set forth in the local building code.
  • No setbacks shall be required for an existing garage that is converted to an ADU, including when existing space above or adjacent to a garage is converted to an ADU.
  • For newly constructed ADUs above a garage, setbacks from the side and rear lot lines shall be the lesser of such setbacks as required by the Zoning Code or 5 feet. The ADU can extend beyond the footprint of the garage but maintain a five foot setback.
  • One parking spot per ADU is required and may be provided as tandem parking on an existing driveway and within the required front yard.
  • When a garage, carport or covered parking structure is demolished or ceases to exist, in conjunction with the construction of an Accessory Dwelling Unit, the replacement parking spaces may be located in any configuration on the same lot as the Accessory Dwelling Unit, including, but not limited to uncovered spaces, tandem spaces, in required setback areas or by the use of mechanical automobile parking lifts.
  • Parking is not required for an Accessory Dwelling Unit if:
  1. It is located within one -half mile of public transit stop
  2. It is located in a Historic District
  3. It is part of the existing primary residence or an existing accessory structure
  4. When there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the ADU
  • Unit is not intended for sale but can be rented out.
  • Starting January 1, 2017, applicants may apply for permits for the construction of ADU that meet the State standards above. These standards will remain effective until every City adopts its own ADU Ordinance in compliance with the State Law.
  • ADU can be attached or detached from the existing SFD
  • Maximum increase in floor area does not exceed 1,200 square feet attached to the SFD
  • Total area of a detached ADU does not exceed 1,200 square feet.
I believe this new State Law will spur a brand new construction boom, because it will offer a full second unit on the same lot, unlike the previously constructed “granny unit” without a kitchen and a full bathroom. And renting it out will help with the home owner financially. Of course, it is to be expected that different cities will try to manipulate this law to their liking, but I think the essence cannot be changed much.

Great news for the New Year!!!


When my beautiful and smart daughter moved to Seattle recently I was happy and proud of her achieving the things in life she was pursuing. After all she is a professional geologist with a Master Degree, a California State Professional Licensee and has an unbelievable positive outlook on life. She is doing great and having lots of fun there. She is very happy. I was too, until I read the following article in the New Yorker. It is about “The Really Big One” and it is one of the most intriguing science based articles I’ve read recently, written by Kathryn Schulz, staff writer of “The New Yorker”. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing and a National Magazine Award for “The Really Big One”, her story on the seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest.


As you probably know the new mandatory “Soft Story Retrofit” ordinance took effect on Nov. 22, 2015 Our office is experiencing an increasing volume of this ordinance related work. We worked out the most effective, safe and economical retrofitting engineering to save money to the landlords. In many instances we proved with calculations only that no retrofitting work was necessary. We hired more people to handle the work load, so we’re completely geared up for the engineering work of the mandatory soft-story retrofitting in Los Angeles.
Please recommend us to anyone who needs help with soft-story retrofitting.


Oh, no, no…. I’m not talking about the famous and classic Marilyn Monroe movie from 1955 but rather about current US laws of forgiving after seven years being in the doghouse for doing bad things. As you
know everybody deserves a second chance. (Try to explain that to your wife after forgetting to take out the trash one evening) But seriously, even if you had a bankruptcy the chances are that after seven years all the records (with a few exceptions like federal taxes) related to that bankruptcy will be erased from your record.