Meeting Date:

May 16, 2005





David A. Berger,




General Manager

Line Item No.:




Prepared By:


Gabriela Ayala

Stephanie Pintar

Cost Estimate:


General Counsel Approval:  Yes

Committee Recommendation:  N/A

CEQA Compliance:  N/A


SUMMARY:      Ms. Debra L. Gramespacher is requesting a variance from District Rule 24.  District Rule 24 sets forth the basic permitting process for expansions to the Cal-Am water system, including the fixture unit factors for residential expansions.  Ms. Gramespacher seeks approval to install a shower in a District-permitted half-bathroom at 8 Mescal Place in Seaside without causing a debit to the City’s allocation as an exception to the District’s water fixture methodology (Exhibit 10-A).  Ms. Gramespacher’s two-bathroom home presently has a permit to add a third toilet and a third sink, but there are insufficient water credits on the site to add a shower.  The applicant is requesting the District allow a variance to Table 1, Residential Fixture Unit Count, to allow the addition of a shower without requiring the applicant to offset the two fixture units needed for a shower.  The basis for the variance request is that Ms. Gramespacher’s elderly father will soon be living with her and he will have a difficult time navigating a stairway to take a daily shower. 


According to the City of Seaside (Rick Medina, May 5, 2005), the applicant has not applied to the City to add a shower.  The applicant applied with the City of Seaside for water for a half-bathroom (sink and toilet) in 1998 and is on the City’s water waiting list.  However, residential remodels/additions are the lowest water priority in the City of Seaside.  Although the Gramespacher application is number two on the City’s third/fourth bathroom waiting list, the City’s current water ordinance (Ordinance No. 906) indicates that water allocations will not be granted for third or fourth bathrooms.  The Gramespacher request for water is maintained on a water waiting list with the City in the event of a future change to the City’s policies with respect to this type of remodel.


District staff has worked with Ms. Gramespacher to determine if sufficient water credits are available on the site to add a full bathroom without debiting the City of Seaside’s water allocation.  In 2003, by installing low-consumption appliances and ultra-low consumption toilets, the applicant was able to obtain a water permit to add a third sink and third toilet without debiting to the City’s allocation.  However, because Ms. Gramespacher used conservation incentives to offset the third toilet and third sink, there are not sufficient remaining retrofits (i.e. instant-access hot water and half-gallon flush toilets) that would result in the two fixtures units of credit needed to add a shower.  Consequently, the District has suggested that removing one of the two existing bathtubs would result in the fixture units required to offset the desired shower.  The response was that removing a tub would be too costly.  Finally, the variance application indicates that an instant-access hot water system (IAHWS) has been installed in the home: As an IAHWS was not required as a condition of the current water permit, the District will issue a Water Use Credit for that retrofit pursuant to Rule 25.5.


DISCUSSION:  Although there are insufficient on-site water credits to add a shower, the applicant has the ability to reposition fixtures within the home (e.g. remove a bathtub and install a shower) to achieve the desired result of having a shower available for the applicant’s father.  Granting a variance to allow the addition of a shower without requiring either an offset by water credits or water from the jurisdiction’s allocation would tend to defeat the purpose of District Rule 24, Table 2, Residential Fixture Unit Count, and Rule 25.5, Water Use Credits.


District Rule 24-A, Process, states “the addition of any fixture unit by a user shall be deemed an intensification of use requiring an expansion/extension permit, or an amended permit pursuant to these Rules and Regulations.”  The applicant contends that the addition of a shower will not increase the water use capacity of the home:  The applicant’s father would use an alternate existing bath without the addition of a shower.  The applicant makes this statement after mentioning findings made in Ordinance No. 98, the ordinance that allowed a second bathroom in a one bathroom house without debiting the jurisdiction’s allocation.  In adopting the second bathroom ordinance, the Board found that the addition of a second bath to an existing residence is primarily for the purpose of convenience.  Incidentally, property owners utilizing the second bathroom ordinance are restricted to a maximum of two bathrooms.  The addition of more than a second bathroom would not meet the criteria of being for convenience and would be associated with an increase in water use capacity as outlined in District Rule 24.  It should be noted that the property owner is adding a new bedroom, in addition to a bathroom, to provide living space for a person who currently does not reside in the home.


Ms. Gramespacher contends it may be a hardship for the applicant’s elderly father to live in an upstairs addition that does not have same-floor access to a bathtub or shower.  However, the applicant has options to alleviate this situation, such as removing one of two existing bathtubs to install an upstairs shower, or by providing a bedroom for the elderly father in the existing level of the home, or by installing a residential lift to ease movement between different levels within the house.


District Rule 90 allows the Board to grant a variance from the standards set by District Rule 24 only upon finding (a) that special circumstances exist, and (b) that practical difficulties or unnecessary hardship will result from the strict interpretation and enforcement of the rule, and (c) that granting the variance will not tend to defeat the purpose of Rule 24.


If the variance request is granted, the Board can anticipate that many other applicants will request a variance from the fixture unit accounting methodology.  To date, previous requests of this type have not been granted.


RECOMMENDATION:  Staff recommends the Board deny this variance and adopt the Findings of Fact to Support Denial shown as Exhibit 10-B. 


Alternatively, if the Board decides to grant the variance, staff will need direction on preparing Findings of Fact to Support approval of a variance at a subsequent Board meeting.  If the Board approves a variance, staff would find the application exempt under CEQA §15303. New Construction or Conversion of Small Structures.  In addition, staff would recommend the Board require the applicant to agree to an indemnification agreement with the District as a condition of approval.


BACKGROUND:  In April 8, 2003, Ms. Gramespacher, obtained a water permit to add a half-bathroom to her property at 8 Mescal Place in Seaside.  The projected water demand associated with the water permit was 2.7 fixture units (for one washbasin and a toilet).  Ms. Gramespacher agreed to the installation of three-one half-gallon toilets, an ultra-low consumption dishwasher and an ultra-low consumption washer (28 gallons per cycle maximum) to be able to add a half bath.  On August 8, 2004, Ms. Gramespacher amended Water Permit No. 20676, to allow the installation of three one-gallon maximum ultra-low flush toilets in lieu of three-one half gallon toilets and downgrading to an 18-gallon maximum washing machine.  By correspondence dated December 4, 2004, Mr. Donald Clark (Ms. Gramespacher’s brother) requested that the District grant an exemption from the water permit requirement of offsetting the two fixture units associated with the shower stall to allow the addition of a shower stall to the half-bath.  Staff informed Mr. Clark that the District does not have the authority to “waive” water permit requirements.  Staff directed Mr. Clark to contact the City of Seaside to request an allocation of water.


Ms. Gramespacher filed an application for appeal on February 1, 2005.  Ms. Gramespacher’s appeal application was rejected by staff upon the determination that her request was for a variance rather than an appeal related to improper application of the District’s rules.  Staff informed Ms. Gramespacher that she could substitute the Application of Appeal with an Application for Variance.  Ms. Gramespacher submitted an Application for Variance on March 8, 2005.



10-A    Application for Variance

10-B    Findings of Fact to Support Denial