In February 2022, I was scheduled for a Planning Commission hearing to get a self-storage approved in downtown Danville, Calif., with rents averaging over $3 per square foot and only one facility in town. Never in my lifetime would I have expected to get this approved, yet, as usual in real estate development, I got hit with a curveball that had to get resolved before our hearing. The San Francisco Bay Area stormwater permit was in the process of getting amended, which would have required me to drain to the West end of the property, sump-pump my storm water to the East and then drain back to the West to ultimately drain into a creek. This made no sense!
Of course, my immediate reaction was to Google stormwater solutions and deep, DEEP down the Google rabbit hole I dove, head-first. Long, LONG story short, I along with a couple other developers attended the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board to air our grievances and ask for alternative solutions to stormwater treatment than the proverbial “bio-swale.”
The Board’s reaction: “We’ve never had anyone from the development community come here and ask for alternative stormwater treatment methods.”
We created a taskforce to research and evaluate language to allow alternative stormwater treatment methods, which is allowed throughout California. We are a few meetings deep and think we can come up with a viable solution to the permit language by summer 2023. There’s a point to this and I’ll get to it below but also know this: Question everything your consultants and staff tell you. Everything!
What does this mean for the RV and boat storage business? A lot. The market has a host of storm water solutions that are both unknown but allowed throughout the Country that can help maximize rental square footage on your property.
One of these solutions, which I am utilizing on several projects, is TrueGrid system. (Note: This is not a paid endorsement, but I have incredible respect for this company’s efforts to increase awareness of this product in the market and their lobbying efforts. There are other, similar products in the market.) RV / Boat storage is glamorous, covered parking but this creates an incredible amount of impervious surface that, typically, requires a proportionate and incredible amount of stormwater treatment ponds/swales and other treatment areas. For one of my projects, this equates to a 2-acre treatment and retention pond! Market value for this vacant acreage is $1.4MM; if I could develop on this land, it would increase the project’s cashflow by $250k/year. These are serious numbers!
Enter TrueGrid and other “alternative stormwater treatment methods.” My project utilizing TrueGrid is designed to be a hybrid of asphalt-paved drive aisles with TrueGrid spread out through the property such that the impervious areas (asphalt) drain to the pervious areas (TrueGrid), yet still allow for covered parking stalls, air, ice, propane, dump stations and all the other Class-A amenities demanded by the high-end RV / boat storage community. These are not gravel lots, these are still high-end storage facilities that utilize progressive methods of treating and storing stormwater on-site rather than the go-to method of bio-swales. Other options include: pervious asphalt, pervious concrete, underground pipes/containment, Filterra tree/drain systems, Stormwater separation systems (like cisterns) etc.
A little bit of effort, conversations with your civil engineer and the local jurisdiction can help open doors to maximize rental square footage. Land isn’t cheap and they aren’t making more of it. If you can utilize the full property for development of covered RV & Boat storage, these initial efforts will pay off in spades in future years. I suggest usage of good ‘ol Google, your engineer and stormwater solution experts to work together to provide efficient stormwater solutions for your next project.