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Old 07-16-2011, 04:23 PM   #1
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


I am considering purchasing a single-family zoned empty lot (20+ acres) with rolling hills in San Jose, California. I want to put a home near the top of the lot. The current access road ("driveway") leading to that part of the lot is unpaved and not wide enough to meet county standards (it needs to be widened before a home can be built). The driveway is about a quarter mile in length.

Can I do the widening myself (with a Bobcat), or do I need to get a contractor to do it?

I have read that California has an exception for needing a contractor's license when an owner does the work on his own home, but I really don't know the details of this exemption.

Can anyone help me out or point me toward a good webpage?

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Old 07-16-2011, 04:34 PM   #2
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


Make that task a contingency of the sale.

It is already zoned single family but doesn't meet the requirements of the single family zoning? How's that work?

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Old 07-16-2011, 04:43 PM   #3
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


You already answered your own question. As for a website, check with your local county or city website, or drive down there to talk to them.
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Old 07-16-2011, 06:50 PM   #4
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


I am not aware of any trade in CA. that you as the home owner are not allowed to perform on your own property other than servicing your A/C. You need to be a licensed tech for that stuff.
Also you can not do your own structural engineering. If you have approved plans and a permit and want to do all of your own work you are allowed to as long as you can pass the inspections.

You need a 'A' engineering firm to do street work for you if you need it.

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Old 07-16-2011, 08:12 PM   #5
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


The issue will be the "curb cut". You can make the driveway a mile wide, the locals will dictate how wide the driveway can be.
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Old 07-16-2011, 09:25 PM   #6
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


Large lot on rolling terrain. House on the high point. Long (1/4 mile) driveway that will have to be widened and regraded?

It looks like the problem could be coming up with a plan that shows the elevations, alignment, drainage and provisiona for erosion control. Difficult to say what local (San Jose) or state(CA) agency would have some jurisdiction. This could be a potentially big problem since what is done can affect the errosion, and water flow to the areas below.

If you violate any laws and pricipals, you could find yourself fighting with the guys with the big guns. - At least you did not mention a wetlands below your drainage area.

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Old 07-16-2011, 10:11 PM   #7
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


I would definitely check with the jurisdiction. If you're within the County of Santa Clara jurisdiction then you are in luck. I have dealt with them on numerous different projects and they are very helpful.

If you are located within the City of San Jose.... Well that's a whole different story. I'm not saying that they aren't nice or helpful, but getting to see someone can be a royal pain. Not to mention if you have to pull a permit, they're fees are outrageous!

Good luck!
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Old 07-16-2011, 10:40 PM   #8
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


@cpark - Thank you for the advice. The lot is within the boundary of San Jose but the real estate agent gave me the impression that the drive width requirement is a county requirement. I will contact both the city and the county.

Also, do you know if a drive way has to be paved or if it can be dirt or gravel only? I have not yet been able to find city/county documents (webpages) that describe the paving options.
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:00 PM   #9
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


The water rates may be based on the area of non-permeable surface(which flows into the street drains).
It is here, but we have discounts for using permeable asphalt, rain barrels, and planning "rain gardens"(pits with plants) for the roof downspout runoff.

I second the contingency of sale advice.
The city/county may put up a fuss requiring soil studies, five layers of compaction, and the like before issuing permit(s) to expand.
They don't want cars collapsing into the ditches or excessive erosion runoff.

If the present owner brings in gravel and compacts it, it doesn't involve you but you take a risk.
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Old 07-17-2011, 07:31 AM   #10
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Am I allowed to widen my own driveway?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick2203 View Post
@cpark - Thank you for the advice. The lot is within the boundary of San Jose but the real estate agent gave me the impression that the drive width requirement is a county requirement. I will contact both the city and the county.

Also, do you know if a drive way has to be paved or if it can be dirt or gravel only? I have not yet been able to find city/county documents (webpages) that describe the paving options.
That is your problem, you took advice from the Real Estate agent. Worst people to listen to, or take referrals for inspections, etc.

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