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I live in California and attempted to earthquake retrofit my foundation but the contractors cannot enter the crawl space under my home to access the foundation because Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) gas meter blocks access (it sits right smack in front of the crawl space entrance).

I called PG&E and they said they followed all requirements when installing the gas meters and now I have to pay to have them moved a foot or two away.

Who would I call to confirm that the local/city/state/federal laws allow (or don't allow) gas meters to block access to foundation under the house?

Do the codes/laws/regulations say who is responsible if the meters have to be moved?

Any ideas what I can do?

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1 Answer 1

Building departments usually rely on a nationally recognized model code. In California at the time your house was probably built, this was likely the Uniform Building Code published by the International Council of Building Officials. I don't have any old UBC references, but the current International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings which has in part superceded it has an entry related to under floor access that is very much like what appeared in older UBC codes.

R408.4 Access. Access shall be provided to all under-floor spaces. Access openings through the floor shall be a minimum of 18 inches by 24 inches (457 mm by 610 mm). Openings through a perimeter wall shall be not less than 16 inches by 24 inches (407 mm by 610 mm). When any portion of the through-wall access is below grade, an areaway not less than 16 inches by 24 inches (407 mm by 610 mm) shall be provided. The bottom of the areaway shall be below the threshold of the access opening. Through wall access openings shall not be located under a door to the residence. See Section M1305.1.4 for access requirements where mechanical equipment is located under floors.

It seems a reasonable person would say placing an immovable object in front of this access would violate the intent of the code, but this sounds like it will devolve into a legalistic pissing match where legal assistance could be required to get your way. This could end up costing more than simply paying to move the meter.

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Also utilities are somewhat exempt from normal building codes. (They have their own industry specific rules.) Generally the utility chooses roughly where to install the meter and the plumber does the house side rough ins. –  mfarver Jul 30 '13 at 22:12
    
Anyone know where the dividing line between what PG&E owns versus what the homeowner owns regarding the routing of the gas line itself (e.g. into the house)? For example, does PG&E own everything 5" away from outside wall of home? –  user14266 Jul 31 '13 at 16:13
    
Thanks @bcworkz. I contacted my city Building Inspector and they said the gas company PG&E don't need to pull a permit to do any work and thus they have no jurisdiction over this matter. In fact, they said PG&E could tell me to open a new crawl space somewhere else in the foundation (on my cost). They said I could file a complaint with the Public utilities Commission... –  user14266 Jul 31 '13 at 17:53
    
I feel for you. You are stuck with a problem because no one involved will take responsibility. The PUC does hold some power, you may have a legitimate claim that PG&E has obstructed reasonable access to your property, but this action could have unintended side effects, proceed with caution. Typically, the utility owns the supply, meter, and regulator. All piping beyond that is yours, regardless of where any of it goes. The utility can refuse to connect to your plumbing for virtually any reason. –  bcworkz Jul 31 '13 at 19:23
    
See if you can find a local TV news team to do a story about it, showing the "obvious mistake" made by the utility and their refusal to fix it. I've found that quite a lot of things get fixed if you can get it on TV. –  Skaperen Aug 30 '13 at 5:05

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