One of the first questions people ask us when contemplating a remodel or new construction is "What type of permits do I need?" The second is, "How do I get them?"

Most projects need permission from both the local homeowners’ association if there is one (for example The Sea Ranch Association) as well as a building permit from either Sonoma or Mendocino County building departments, depending on the location. Certain coastal projects also require the approval of the California Coastal Commission, but this is not true for The Sea Ranch properties, which come with Coastal Commission permits in place.

At The Sea Ranch the type of permission required depends on the type of project. All new construction requires review and approval from the Design Committee of The Sea Ranch Association (TSRA), whose concerns range from the overall aesthetics of building mass and its relation to views and the landscape, to exterior construction materials and detailing. For remodel projects where interior changes effect the outside of a structure (e.g. new windows, siding, roofs, exterior lighting, etc.), TSRA approval is required, otherwise it is not. 

In all cases, David Moulton AIA approaches the permit/approval process as a collaborative effort with local authorities. We all want the same thing: a beautiful place to enjoy, inside and out, and a harmonious relationship to the landscape and neighborhood. Where there are rules and regulations that govern the architectural design and function of structures, we work closely with local administrative staff to achieve the very best design solution for each situation. Where technical expertise is called for (e.g. structural engineering, energy-use compliance, land surveying), we work with local consultants to supplement our own expertise.

Our part of this collaboration manifests itself in several practical, tangible ways: 

  1. Participating in ongoing conversations and fostering good working relationships with department staff and governing bodies.  
  2. Staying current on applicable rules, regulations and building codes.
  3. Being knowledgeable about acceptable and appropriate choices for building materials, and their proper configuration.
  4. Creating thorough and accurate design and permit submissions and actively shepherding them through approval processes.
  5. Employing clear, understandable design-communication tools. For example, three-dimensional scale models can be used as both design tools and in presentations to design authorities to illustrate the shape and scale of a proposed structure. The use of models along with simple, clear sketches, facilitate conversation, spark creativity, and help resolve difficult design challenges.
  6. As the project progresses, providing detailed drawings that clearly convey both design intent and construction methodology, incorporating all aspects of engineering and other technical requirements.
  7. Responding positively and quickly to comments and concerns from both the owner and the local authorities as the process unfolds.
  8. Through it all, advocating for the owner and creatively negotiating the approvals process to best maintain the integrity of the design.



This model by Sea Ranch Architect David Moulton, of an enclosed breezeway on The Sea Ranch, illustrates how the design will preserve a cherished Redwood forest and its pathways frequented by deer, jackrabbits and other wildlife.