Story Poles ... The Poles Tell The Story

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Safe Haven Realty CalBRE# 01433049

When new construction projects are in the design review process, story poles may be erected to assist decision-makers and the public in fully understanding what is being proposed. Story Poles are most commonly requested on a case-by-case basis, the installation of story poles will emphasize the proposed scale, neighborhood compatibility and the possibility of obstruction of views.

Story poles usually consist of 2x lumber (sometimes PVC is permitted) and are braced for support. The tops of the poles are spray painted bright orange, and sometimes 12" orange construction netting is spread from pole to pole to accurately depict roof lines and ridge lines. The installation of story poles is certified accurate by a licensed professional such as a surveyor, architect or contractor.

Take for example, the story poles in my photo below. Once completed, the story poles (with possible netting) create a silhouette of the proposed structure with indication of size and mass. This new construction is being proposed in a neighborhood of existing homes on an ocean view lot. As you can see, any obstruction of existing VIEWS will be of major concern.


story poles erected on an ocean view lot


Once the story poles have been certified, the design review committee will hold a public hearing to take into consideration any concerns or objections from the surrounding property owners. At times, just rotating a proposed new home a few degrees will make a big difference to the neighbor along side or behind you when it comes to that coveted ocean view.

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Cynthia Larsen is the owner and broker of record for Safe Haven Realty and has worked and lived in Sonoma County for over 25 years. For more information about Sonoma County, check out the communities of Bodega Bay - Cotati - Rohnert Park - Santa Rosa - Windsor.


To view all available homes for sale in Sonoma County and individual communities, please visit Sonoma County Homes For Sale Online!



Cynthia Larsen
Broker/Owner - Safe Haven Realty

Sonoma County, California, USA
(707) 332-2560


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Comments 14 New Comment

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Tony & Darcy Cannon
The C Team
Keller Williams Legacy

Cynthia, I haven't seen them used here, but in a view situation like this lot, I can see the value of them!

September 26, 2010 08:11 PM
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)
RE/MAX Elite 513.265.3004

Cynthia, Interesting... never heard of them before, but can see why they'd be critical when you're selling views like that!

September 26, 2010 08:34 PM
Charles Edwards Bentonville
AR REALTOR, Bentonville Real Estate Agent and Broker
Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney & Faucette 479-253-3796

Cynthia. Great post. I know little about new construction. This is a very cool way of envisioning the impact of the building. I'm smarter now than I was just a few minutes ago. lol. Thank you.

September 26, 2010 09:06 PM
Simon Mills
Mills Realty

Thanks for the information.  I haven't seen this in place around me, but I could see in hillside communities where this could be vital information for the neighbors.

September 26, 2010 10:04 PM
Mary Kay Hopkins
Mary Kay Hopkins, LLC e-PRO, GRI, CRS, CRB

Cynthia, story poles were foreign to me, but I can sure see the value.  Thanks for the new knowledge.

September 26, 2010 10:24 PM
Nevin Williams
Raleigh Mortgage Pro
Sierra Pacific Mortgage Raleigh

Cynthia - So that's what these are?!  I used to walk by these in Caspar and Mendo when walking to coves to dive for abalone and never knew what they were.  Thanks for sharing because now I know!

September 26, 2010 11:34 PM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker/Owner
Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results | (503) 810-7192 Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% of the Time

Good explanation.  We don't see them much here.  Makes sense they do this.  And that pretty view would be a little obstructed. 

September 27, 2010 12:47 AM
Glenn Roberts

we've started to see these around Seattle. Very helpful.

September 27, 2010 01:18 AM
Cynthia Larsen
Sonoma County Real Estate Broker
Safe Haven Realty

Hey everyone, thanks for stopping by, I've been seeing these more and more where new homes are being built either in or next to existing neighborhoods.

I've wondered if the name Story Pole means that they tell you how many stories the building will be or if it means that the poles tell the story.

September 27, 2010 02:10 AM
Cindy Jones
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News
Integrity Real Estate Group

Interesting.  We have plenty of survey markers but I don't think I've seen story poles. 

September 27, 2010 06:20 AM
Marian Goetzinger
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000

Cynthia,  I've never seen that here on our coast.  What a wonderful idea.  I wish I had had the chance to ask for a slight move of the house currently being built next to me.  It totally blocks my view from that side and could have been much more neighbor friendly with a little change.  Oh, well.

September 27, 2010 07:08 AM
Malcolm Johnston
Trenton Real Estate
Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario

Cynthia, I have never heard of them before, but I think it's important to get a good idea of what the structure might get in the way of, and how it will affect the landscape.

September 27, 2010 10:34 AM
Cynthia Larsen
Sonoma County Real Estate Broker
Safe Haven Realty

These story poles work really well to help envision the size and orientation of a new structure before final approval.

September 27, 2010 06:27 PM
Tish Lloyd
Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches
BlueCoast Realty Corporation

Cynthia ~ Very informative and especially helpful when doing construction in a waterfront development.

September 27, 2010 11:28 PM
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Cynthia Larsen

Sonoma County Real Estate Broker
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