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attn: clay artists who live in within the city of los angeles

updated mon 30 jun 97


Ken Nowicki on wed 11 jun 97

Okay, okay... I know this is a longshot... but... do any of you other Clay
Artists who live within The City of Los Angeles boundaries know of "what" or
"how" to deal with The Dept. of Bldg. & Safety regarding installing a natural
gas powered kiln outdoors in a R1 residential zone?

This is my problem... I recently moved into a nice home in an R1 zone within
the City of L.A. jurisdiction. I have a 20 cu. ft. custom built raku kiln
that I need to install for my pottery business. In the past, in another city,
not within the City of L.A. but within the L.A. County area, I took my plans
to that city's Bldg. & Safety Dept. and was totally "up front with them"
regarding my design, installation, etc. and after making me jump through
umpteen billion hoops, I finally got them to allow me to install it outside
in my yard... also a R1 zone.

Now... I have heard that the City of L.A. is much stricter and it makes me
worry that they won't allow it at all. I was considering, not notifying them
at all about it, and installing it anyways... and praying and hoping that I
don't get caught. This is what a few others have recommended... many have
said to me... "Don't tell them at all, you'll just create huge problems for
yourself if you do". Also, I worry that if I do tell the City's Bldg. &
Safety Dept. about it, and miraculously they allow me to install it... I
worry about in the future them coming back to me and making me remove it or
imposing rediculous restrictions or modifications, especially if the AQMD
(Air Quality Control Management District) continues on their path to outlaw
lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and personal barbeques... who knows what they'll do
if they find out I have a kiln?!! Am I being paranoid here?

Here are a few other problems I face... my kiln is of a counter-balance
design. The two steel 4" diameter pipes that support the cables, pulleys,
winch, and counter-balance weights are just over 9 feet tall... when you add
a roof of any kind for a shed, or a patio cover... that needs to be at least
10 1/2 feet tall to allow for ventalation when the kiln is raised. This makes
for quite a tall structure to protect the kiln from the elements... as well
as prying eyes. This tall of a patio cover or shed is a bit hard to hide from
neighbors, however, my yard is situated on a hillside, so I have more privacy
than most.

I am thinking about trying to discreetly research what the exact requirements
are that are enforced (or what is allowed) by the City of L.A. regarding
outdoor kilns at the library, or worse case scenario... go to the City's
Bldg. & Safety Dept. in person and bullsh*t my way around to find out the
information. However the latter makes me very nervous. One source told me
that in an R1 zone, no kilns are allowed outdoors... period. If that's the
case... then this sucks!

To make matters worse, I have met the City's Inspector for our
neighborhood... a real "McCloud" type of guy, complete with the cowboy hat,
drives a beat up inexpensive economy car, and has a chip on his shoulder to
boot... sound familair? We have been nothing but cordial and friendly to him
since we moved in about a month ago, but he was immediately on us like "flies
on sh*t" regarding upgrading our fencing around our pool to "meet code"...
even though it met code when it was built in 1962. So... we are dealing with
that issue as a first priority... but he noses around and drops on us
unexpectedly. This also makes me nervous. We planned on having some walls put
in on the hillside in the future... and we know it will require permits...
all we need is this some inspector saying "Hmmm... What's this? I see you
have a kiln here... do you have a permit?" We just moved in and don't have
the money to do everything we'd like for our landscaping and such just yet...
so how do I avoid this issue? How do I hide a 20 cu. ft. raku kiln?

Surely there are other clay artist's out there that have had to deal with
similar ordinaces and permit requirements regarding their kilns... Why do the
odds seem so stacked against us ceramists that live in major cities? Are
there any of you out there that live within the City of L.A. that are willing
to come forward and share with me how you dealt with such issues? I'm anxious
to hear from you if there are. Just email me directly and I'll keep your
response strictly confident, otherwise... share it with the group... I can't
be the ONLY one out there that is facing this kind of problem... am I?

I'd like to go "above the board" on this with the City of L.A., but it
worries me it may come back to haunt me, not too mention be a very expensive
proposition by the time I'm through. And what if I identify myself as a "kiln
user" and they don't allow it? What then? Will they "peg me" for someone to
constantly monitor and "bust"?

(huge sigh) Sometimes... I wish that I had become a painter...

TIA for your responses...

Ken Nowicki -