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Do I have any rights when Permits issued by the County have already been approved?

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New member
What is the name of your state? California

My husband and I went through the planning/permit process for the last 2 years with the county. The ended up outsourcing our plans to a third party company. Once that company passed our plans it whet back to the county for final review/permitting.
We are building on a difficult lot, steep slope and a significant amount of dirt on one side of the property. We went through nine different house designs due to the issues with the dirt and double/triple stacking retaining walls that were not possible to do.
The county issued us our house permit in May. Since then we have started excavating , dug and poured 17- 20ft piers and poured the footings for the back foundation.

We were recently approached by a back neighbor. He inquired about the height being a 1 or 2 story. Due to the difficult lot, we had to push the house further back up the hill to achieve a 2 story building so the back part is a 2 story and the front is a 1 story that sits on top of the garage. He of course was upset that our house would block his view from his 1 story house and his rental house right next door to him. He went down to the county and had a look at our plans. Somehow in doing so, the county has sent us an email saying, REVISIONS REQUIRED BY PLANNING DEPARTMENT IMMEDIATELY. They are saying this is required to be corrected immediately and that plans are required to be submitted for review by the Planning Department to meet the maximum allowable height of 30 feet which was overlooked by the Planner who approved the plans. The issue in question is the height at the front of the property, the back where the neighbor is complaining is completely fine- the county have now measured our front half from our existing grade up to the roof pitch and are saying it exceeds 30' which it does. We were measuring from finished grade and apparently so were they when they passed the plans, with in doing so its under the 30' restriction.

Our neighbor threatened to sue the county for issuing us the permit and the county said they also threatened to sue us if we were to build it- this was what one of the county employees had said to us. Originally we thought it would be a quick fix, but once we sat down and discussed changing roofing heights with our engineer It has become anything but. We also discussed changing some ceiling heights, but in doing that causes issues with one side of the house- our front door (at the side of the house) would then be a foot under dirt. We could easily excavate a foot out, but that would cause our already 10' retaining wall that holds back the existing dirt to become an 11' retaining wall which means more calculations, money, etc.

Basically we are at the point were we are thinking of redesigning a good amount of the house since we are running into problems with small design fixes. What we basically want to know is if there's really anything else we can do? The county, of course, has not been any help and they are putting it all back on us when they were the ones responsible in approving our plans. We don't want to sue, or to threaten to sue like our neighbor did- It seems like once a permit is issued, it's issued. If we got the go ahead to build the house how can they tell us changes now how to be made, when we haven't changed anything on our end since it was issued. It's extremely unfortunate that we now have to deal with this as it was the county's mistake, I'm just thankful we havent built the front yet.

Any opinions and advice would be much appreciated. Thank you.


Senior Member
There have already been two lawsuits threatened. You option if you can't negotiate this with the county is to do the same, sue them.

Before you can sue them you must file a claim for damages with the county. You will need a lawyer.


Senior Member
You can speak to a real estate attorney in your area to discuss legal options. It is fortunate, at least, that you have not started construction on the front portion of your house.

It is not uncommon, by the way, to have to revise house plans after construction has started, often because of problems discovered with the terrain that make the original plans unworkable. You already discovered that when the slope of your lot made it necessary for you to reposition your house.

You potentially could look at applying for a variance but you might want to speak to an attorney first.

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