I’ve moved at least once a year, since I left home for college in 1998. In the last year, Logan and I moved three times. We’ve lived in Portland, Little Shasta, Red Bluff, and now we are in Chico, California. Moving so frequently has given me the opportunity to meet new people and to live in both cities and rural areas. On the other hand, moving is stressful and moving so much makes it hard to feel like I’m part of a community. By the time I feel comfortable in one place, it’s time to move again.
The latest move . . .
On July 1, 2013, we moved to Chico, CA. Our tiny house is parked on a one-acre parcel in the city and I love our new neighbors. I felt hopeful that we could call Chico our home for the next few years. We assumed that the tiny house would be okay in terms of code and zoning since a second mobile dwelling had resided on this lot for twenty years. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
In mid-August, our neighbors — the landowners — received a letter from the City of Chico that stated we were out of compliance with the city zoning code. A community member complained about our tiny house and that’s why the city sent us a letter. Since then, we’ve had multiple conversations with the city planning department and the staff has been extremely helpful and nice! Sadly, the tiny house doesn’t fit into the zoning and maintenance codes neatly. The little house isn’t an RV or a mobile home or an accessory dwelling unit. It’s a hybrid of all three and it doesn’t have a place in the city code.
Even if we were able to work a solution for the tiny house to stay on this lot — in the City of Chico — we would have to do the following:
- Submit a site plan to the city and county.
- Hook the tiny house up to the city sewer system, which is more complicated than it sounds.
- Retrofit the bathroom in the tiny house, which would include taking out the paneling and installing a flush toilette.
- Have an engineer or architect review our tiny house plans and approve them.
- Pass inspections by the City of Chico, Butte County, and the California Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- Paneling and flooring of the house interior would need to be taken out for electrical and plumbing inspections.
- Tie the house down to a foundation and take off the wheels.
The list above is only a small part of the story. In addition, these changes would cost a lot of money that we aren’t willing to spend and create additional stress in our lives. Modifying the house to this extent is not the right option for us.
I debated whether or not I should share this news with you because we still don’t have a firm understanding of how the City of Chico would classify the tiny house. However, I believe it’s important to highlight the complex nature of tiny house living. And, hopefully you can learn from our mistake. Upon reflection, we should have done a better job researching the City of Chico’s zoning codes before we moved. If we move the house to another city, I will be visiting the planning department before we tow the house down the road. I don’t want to be caught in a similar stressful and emotional situation again. We love our tiny house, but the experience with the City of Chico and my recent back injury caused me to rethink the long-term feasibility of tiny house living.
Moving forward . . .
Since Logan is still looking for full-time work, we’ve decided to move back to the ranch. Logan will be able to help his family and we can reassess what is best for us. We are starting to pack-up the tiny house and will tow the house down the road on Friday, September 6th. I'm actually relieved to be moving back to the ranch. After so much upheaval, I’m looking forward to the quiet and the amazing scenery.
I want to continue living in the tiny house — in Northern, California — with Logan and the kittens. However, we are open to the idea of leaving the tiny house at the ranch — and using it as a vacation home — especially if Logan gets a faculty position at CSU, Chico or Southern Oregon University. The thought of leaving the tiny house behind makes me sad. Yet, we can still live simply even if it’s not in the tiny house.
More than anything, I’m grateful to be healthy again and I’m not in pain; that by itself is amazing! Plus, I have an incredible support system. We aren’t rich, but I have my health and good relationships — two things that are extremely important.