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Building Yurt To Permit In Los Angeles

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Old 01-02-2016, 02:34 PM   #11
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

i am responding to bob for the sake of others who might be curious about the financial aspects. i don't expect to convince bob or anyone else that it is a good thing to get your yurt permitted. we are very happy that we did. others will make different choices.

as for the finances, i suppose it depends on what you think affordable is, but to my eyes, it is still very affordable. for a 30' yurt, the code-based


cost an extra $6,000 (over and above the regular


that the yurt company offers). the engineering cost$750. permits for elec and plumbing are a couple of hundred. bldg permt cost is based on the size of the building. for a single 30', it couldn't be more than 600 to 700 (in montana). total extra costs less than $8000. total cost for a 30' was about $32K (plus platform, electric, plumbing,


, inside finish work). and if did get it permitted, you can easily borrow the money. we didn't have to borrow b/c we sold our house in NJ to move to montana. a $40K loan from a bank these days could be paid at $400 in 10 years, or if you paid every other week instead of 1/month, you could finish is 7 years. it is less than rent in most places. and if you were willing to go smaller (20' 24'), even less. of course, these numbers assume you have property with access, water (or willing to haul), electric near by (or willing to invest in off the grid). septic was also required. i tried to convince them that composting toilets would be ok, but it was a no go here.

if anyone is interested in learning more about the permit process, private message me.
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Old 01-02-2016, 05:59 PM   #12
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

I think permitting should only be required if you are going to resell the structure and even then I am not all that high on it. If a bank is willing to lend you money on an unpermitted building, who am I to stop them?

I think at a minimum, any potential buyers must be explicitly told whether a yurt has been inspected by an approved inspection team. A town could be involved in the approval process, but that's about all I have to say about it. That gives everyone maximum liberty and leaves a mechanism to combat fraud.
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Old 01-02-2016, 06:02 PM   #13
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

For the record my rant comments weren't in any way shape or form directed at eilmcg personally.
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Old 01-03-2016, 01:42 PM   #14
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

I find it a bit ridiculous and almost the definition of bureaucracy to use the set of International Building Codes, the Building Code portion alone containing some 800 pages (not to mention the Residential Code, Fuel Gas Code, Mechanical Code, Existing Building Code, Property Management Code, Energy Conservation Code...). Not that long ago when I was a bored kid at the library, I went and read some of the city code--it fit in a not-too-large binder and was pretty understandable and reasonable, generally made by the city for its local needs. Sadly that is not usually the case anymore.

Fortunately for me, the county where I live (Latah county in Idaho) specifically lumps yurts together with other non-permanent structures:

SECTION 5.04 Permanent Living Quarters.
Nothing within this Ordinance shall be construed to allow a camping trailer, licensed vehicle or trailer, tent, yurt, recreational vehicle (including park models), or any other vehicle, accessory structure, or item as a permanent dwelling. No parcel can be used for temporary living quarters for a period of more than 6 months in a 12 month period, unless permitted for use as specified under a conditional use permit for a campground or recreational vehicle park.

I take this to mean I can camp out in my yurt in one spot for 6 months, move to a second spot for 6 months, then repeat. In other words I need a summer & a winter camp, just like the Mongolians! If I had the money I'd purchase two adjacent parcels, setup camp one side of the dividing line and switch sides biannually--it'd give me an opportunity to reseal the yurt frame & clean the canvas. Of course they'd probably change the code once they found me out I'm going to go talk to the code people this week, pretend I'm thinking about doing exactly that in a RV (for anonymity purposes and to bypass any hangups due to unconventional yurts). There's lots of farms and forests around here, plus I'd suspect some retired people wouldn't mind getting some rent money for land they weren't using. Heck, one logging company even lets people camp on their land 9 months out of the year.

If not being used as a dwelling, I think cities/counties are a lot more lenient. I know of several people in my county who have lived in yurts, but only 'temporarily' on their own land as they were building a (mostly) regular house.
At the apartments where I recently lived the manager, a law student, let me setup my yurt, saying as long as I wasn't living in it it was perfectly legal.
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Old 01-03-2016, 02:29 PM   #15
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

I'd agree with Bob on some points--cheap housing isn't conventionally available. Something a low-wage worker could reasonably purchase on a year's wages (ie, $10k or less). In my area, rent for a single bedroom alone ranges from ~$4k to $9k a year. Housing is lucrative but not for the people paying... Why is agricultural land valued at $2-5k/acre vs a residential lot at $40k+ per 1/10 acre without hookups? Aside from the seller, who benefits from such high land values?

$40k sounds more like either saving up for several years or paying a loan for several years (possible but tricky). Also at that price range, I'd think a rather conventional route would be to get a manufactured home. I'm not saying the quality would be the same (although I have seen one nice mobile home), but it wouldn't be such a pain to permit. And if purchased used and upkept, it would likely retain most of its value. As much as I like them and wish they were more common, yurts aren't known for their resale value...

Also note, areas with higher populations are likely to be much more finicky. The following map highlights the 146 most-populated counties, representing 50% of the US population (source). Perhaps counties to avoid?

Last edited by hierony; 01-03-2016 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 01-03-2016, 09:18 PM   #16
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

This is a yurt forum. However since heirony mentioned trailer I'll expand on that.

A trailer has traditionally been the popular lower cost alternative home. I've known a number of people over the decades that have purchased trailers, and I have also worked on them. My business partner bought a double wide modular school class room, 28x48 and remodeled it into a fine home. He lived in it for thirteen years. It was paid off, but he put a whole lot of sweat equilty into it to get it so nice.

Trailers and manufactured homes 'live good' for most people that would be happy living in an old school rectangular 3 bed 2 bath rancher. Todays manufactured homes are built to a much higher standard than trailers were back in the 1960s. In fact for the last three decades they have been constructed to the standards of lower end tract housing.

Manufactured homes are built on a production line not unlike a car or truck. That leads to HUGE savings in comparison to any new home built on site. A trailer is a fine alternative moderately low cost home. Just to clear the air about trailers and manufactured housing.
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:25 PM   #17
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

You know, I think we forgot to get some important details about Mabel's original question--how to permit a yurt in Los Angeles?

I think Eilmcg hit one big hangup often encountered--adequate insulation. Another hangup may be about structural soundness--getting an engineer to approve the plans/design would likely help permitting a lot.

But things vary, depending greatly on the specifics. For instance, are you building this as the primary dwelling/residence on a bare lot? Or are you looking to setup a small yurt in your current backyard to use for storage/a workshop/guesthouse?
What zoning are you in?
What is the lot like (size/dimensions, vegetation, utility hookups, existing structures, etc)?
What size yurt are you thinking of?
What is the main purpose of this yurt?
Do you need all utilities (water/sewer/electric) or just some or none in the yurt?

Searching the interwebs for 'los angeles yurt' yields several good leads:
AirBNB yurts for rent
LA Times article with several yurt locations
Yurt Contractors in LA
It shouldn't be hard to contact the contractor or the AirBNB places to find out how they managed what they did/do. And they'd be more informed helping you navigate the LA Code/Building Department better than us (people from Idaho, Montana, New York, and I think Wyoming).

Last edited by hierony; 01-04-2016 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 01-27-2016, 03:50 PM   #18
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

in some Wisconsin counties, if you only heat with wood, the energy/insulation codes wont apply to your structure, but a lot of counties do see yurts as permanent/year round structures.
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Old 01-27-2016, 07:46 PM   #19
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

We were working with a woman who tried permitting her yurt in Cali. It had been up for quite a while as a yoga room. They got people from all over the place, lots of media attention, peacefully challenged the building department, really put up a good fight, but in the end, she lost.

The key to fighting for permitability is to

#1!!! Be working with a yurt company that has their engineering game in order. There are many that don't, so don't assume. When I mention engineering, I am talking about 200+ pages of full specs showing point loads, wind loads, structural loads... Not a cute little drawing with an official looking title on it.

#2. Don't go in with a fighting attitude. It's bureaucracy. The first 30 people you talk to won't actually have any power unless it is to make your goal harder to reach. Keep working at it. Respectfully. Keep asking what they need, who you should be talking to, and then PROVIDE IT to them, or make sure someone else does, someone who knows what they're talking about so that you don't waste the building department's time (otherwise you'll get a bad rep for yourself and yurts alike).

#3 - Don't expect it to happen quickly.

#4 - Don't take no for an answer. Prove your points with science and engineering and continue to ask them to point to areas of non-compliance. The onus is on them to clearly state where a structure does not meet code. Your goal is to get them to accept that they actually are to code, or to give up looking for ways that they aren't.

#5 - get professionals on your side. Architects, engineers, etc.

Good Luck!
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Old 01-27-2016, 09:45 PM   #20
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Default Re: Building Yurt to Permit in Los Angeles

#6 Bring donuts and coffee. Start out talking yurt as your retirement place. Say 'retirement' several times in your initial discussion while nudging the donut box towards them. That'll get em thinking happy thoughts, instead of you as an 'alternative lifestyle' hippie hey can mess with. lol
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