[Noisebridge-board] To Geoff Re: Buildout cost estimates

Christie Dudley longobord at gmail.com
Sat Jul 18 01:39:19 UTC 2009

[Sending this to the Board, since it seems like board-y stuff you're
talking about here, as well as some folks I talked about this with.]

You bring up interesting points, Geoff.  I have added commentary inline.

On Fri, Jul 17, 2009 at 5:49 PM, Geoff Schmidt<geoff at geoffschmidt.com> wrote:
> Well, I thought there was a good chance that the final decision would be to
> punt permits, so I didn't want to say much about that on-list.

Hm.  You're pretty verbose for someone arguing against the prevailing
trends.  Especially for someone who has rather vociferously resigned
his membership...  I'm sure you can understand that there are a good
number of folks that are more than a little annoyed with that.

> * Can you name DIY warehouse buildout that didn't leave everyone burnt out?

Well, this isn't exactly a whole warehouse.  I suppose I could cite my
own experiences of renovating a 12 unit apartment building and helping
my dad build a house from the foundation up.  Then again, that was

Also, us San Franciscans tend to pride ourselves in being tolerant
(which explains why we're so garrulous, I swear!) and working together
in large collaborative groups.  You're livin' in the commune epicenter
here, you know.

> anything. Wouldn't it be better for members to spend their inevitably
> all-too-finite buildout energy making the space awesome instead of taping
> drywall poorly?

You suggest that they'd contribute in other ways that are actually
helpful.  There are a lot of Noisebridgers who would like to
contribute to the space, but don't really have the skills to do much
except write code.  I can probably teach someone to hang and mud
drywall passably in under an hour.  I think people will find it a
positive way to contribute.

It will also give people a way to demonstrate their dedication to
Noisebridge.  There's a lot of grumbling about "all talk and no
action", but as seamed up in the space as we are now, there's not a
lot of opportunity for action.  I think it'll allow a lot of steam
that's been building to be released.

> NIMBY lost because of a fire; the Shipyard's hardly had an easy time (maybe that one doesn't apply.)

I think I addressed NIMBY in my last email.  Their building was not to
code when they took possession, and it was glaringly obvious stuff
that was their demise.  The Shipyard is a special case, largely
political.  And with a city that has unbelievable permitting rules.

> I had to move out of a nice
> space in soma because a disgruntled contractor called the city;

This is an interesting case.  It reminds me of when I owned my house
and the city decided I needed to paint it.  Someone pointed out that
my next door neighbor just got siding installed and it was likely the
siding company called, trying to "encourage" me to buy siding from
them as well.  If you ask me, though, this is more of an argument for
not involving others than anything...

> So, what do you think? Are
> the odds 50% that you'll survive 5 years without an incident if you run
> public events and have hundreds of randoms through the space every month?

This is an interesting question.  Our events are technically "public"
but thus far have only been advertised in person at kindred events,
etc.  I know a lot of people have dreams of this changing and opening
our doors to a broader audience, but I am not sure.  I could see this
as an argument against having fund raising parties in the space (which
technically require a permit), but I'm not sure about other events.

> As for city benevolence, it is real.. but if you punt code, you are never
> more than one phonecall from one pissed off anonymous stranger from
> eviction. The city has to act on reported code violations. I might take that
> bet with my home, but I wouldn't take that bet with the membership of
> noisebridge-discuss.

Eh.  The fine for my house needing painting was nominal.  What does
the city have on record for the building anyway?  How much can we say
"it was like that when we got it"?

> It's not a binary decision, and that's why the conversation is important.

You mention insurance several times in your discussion of different
options for build out.  We currently do have insurance.  I'm curious
as to how our current insurance would cover injury during work if
something were to happen.

(Included so others can see suggestions:)

> 1) Pull permits ($1-2k), find someone with a general contractor
> license to put his name on them (I can refer you), do the work
> yourself to code, and then have the GC make sure it's not
> embarrassingly bad and close out the permit. Result: legal space, and
> you can probably get the existing non-permit construction in the space
> legalized in the process. Cost: what you would have paid for DIY, plus
> $1-2k, plus whatever you gave your GC friend. Downside: if anyone is
> hurt on the job, the insurance/bonding isn't right and you're fucked.
> 2) Find someone who knows code, skip permits, do the work yourself to
> code. Result: if someone calls the city, you're only on the hook for
> the $9-18k fine, which you can probably get knocked down to the $5k
> range. You still have to hope the inspector likes you and doesn't make
> you open the walls. But if it's to code you're unlikely to get evicted
> or have to tear it all out to the exterior walls (which is what
> happened to my old place in soma.)
> 3) Get the landlord to pull an owner-builder permit. May be a way to
> get DIY work done in a legal way without involving a GC. Still some
> insurance issues, and anyone who works on it for you may be subject to
> minimum wage, withholding, etc.
> 4) Skip permits, but instead of doing the work yourself, bring in the
> Cut-rate Asian Construction Mafia to do it (I can refer you here too.)
> They are not licensed contractors and will not be underbid. It'll
> probably be sort of to code, and it'll get done fast and cheap. If the
> city comes calling, play dumb and say the space was already like that
> when you got it, and hope for the best. Downside: If anyone working in
> the space gets hurt, either you, they, or the landlord are seriously
> fucked.


> Hopefully the above is food for the imagination.. besides, to do it
> the right way, a $50-100k line of credit should be totally tractable
> for Noisebridge if it can get its act together. Small businesses
> finance tenant improvements all the time.

I think that taking out a loan is not emotionally tractable for most
Noisebridgers.  Many of us are amazed at our right to exist at all,
what with our collective subversive arguably anti-cultural attitude.
Also the notion of taking on debt would probably drive a number of us
from donating as much as we do.

> And I do think there is at least a 50% chance you can get away with it
> for a few years :)
>> [...] but I get the distinct impression no one else really wants to hear it.
> Thank you for taking the time.
> Nobody said that making great things is easy.. on the contrary, it
> takes a serious appetite for drawbacks and bad news.

I think you're preaching to the choir on this one.  Unfortunately,
we've got this huge choir of people who face paralyzation from this
preaching.  Caught between Scylla of legal repurcussions and Charybdis
of financial burden, most of us tend to take more chances with legal


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