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.

Posted by

Safe Haven Realty

Cynthia Larsen (707-332-2560) is an independent broker and owner of Safe Haven Realty in Sonoma County, California. Visit to view available homes for sale and to learn more about this beautiful wine country destination.

CA Broker License #01433049




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Tony & Darcy Cannon
Aubrey and Associates Realty - Layton, UT
The C Team

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

Sep 26, 2010 01:11 PM #1
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

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

Sep 26, 2010 01:34 PM #2
Charles Edwards Bentonville
Coldwell Banker Harris McHaney & Faucette 479-253-3796 - Bentonville, AR
AR REALTOR, Bentonville Real Estate Agent and Broker

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.

Sep 26, 2010 02:06 PM #3
Simon Mills
Mills Realty - Toluca Lake, CA

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.

Sep 26, 2010 03:04 PM #4
Mary Kay Hopkins
Mary Kay Hopkins, LLC e-PRO, GRI, CRS, CRB - Lake Charles, LA

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

Sep 26, 2010 03:24 PM #5
Nevin Williams
Sierra Pacific Mortgage Raleigh - Raleigh, NC
Raleigh Mortgage Pro

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!

Sep 26, 2010 04:34 PM #6
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

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

Sep 26, 2010 05:47 PM #7
Glenn Roberts
Retired - Seattle, WA

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

Sep 26, 2010 06:18 PM #8
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA

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.

Sep 26, 2010 07:10 PM #9
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

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

Sep 26, 2010 11:20 PM #10
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

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.

Sep 27, 2010 12:08 AM #11
Malcolm Johnston
Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario - Trenton, ON
Trenton Real Estate

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.

Sep 27, 2010 03:34 AM #12
Cynthia Larsen
Safe Haven Realty - Cotati, CA
Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA

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

Sep 27, 2010 11:27 AM #13
Tish Lloyd
BlueCoast Realty Corporation - Wilmington, NC
Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches

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

Sep 27, 2010 04:28 PM #14
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Cynthia Larsen

Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA
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