Other than the limit on the number of permits, California is one of the easiest places to get virtually anything on the road. Many other states are far more difficult, then look north to Canada and listen to what they have to go through. We have it easy.
I don't know what nice folks you were dealing with.. its nowhere near the experiences I had and doesn't explain why I had to jump through every hoop on record and and some that I think they were just making up to get my 1984 VW Jetta smoged in '04?
It was CIS (stock) initially, but they failed it because I couldn't meet revised specs.. not 84 specs!! The ref wouldn't pass me because he thought it should be able to pass even after VW said it needed a NLA part to even attempt to correct it and the part might not even help!
So then I swapped in a complete '90 engine with FI (all stock) so I could pass. It still had to be smoged, but because I had gone to the ref earlier the VIN was flagged and denied as a possible fraudulent action.
So I put the original block back in and went Megasquirt. I blew less emissions than some of the cars being produced today, but they still wouldn't let it pass smog because it was missing the CO screw on the CIS system they were looking for!! They considered that the same level of offense as a missing Catalytic Converter (which happened to be hollow on the car but still passed!!).. inexcusable
Oh.. and my CAI was illegal.. why? Because despite being closed off from the engine bay properly and better than the OEM, it wasn't stock and needed to be changed to stock.. but the filter was part of the CIS box which was gone.. so.. yeah, you see the circle they had me in!!
California Bureaucrats... they'll let Dino Sucker Pollution Spewing Hummers on the road all day long, but my little VW, which was cleaner than the day it left the factory was denied. Hummm.... Easy to get on the road?? I say NOT!
Oh.. the ending of the story? I bought a Diesel of the same year.. swapped all the plates from it to my car and registered it as a Diesel!! Never had to worry about smog again!! Suck on that tail pipe CA!!!
Maybe it's different coming from a kit car standpoint, but modifying a OEM car they looked at every little thing and seemed determine to make it impossible for me to get it registered, despite making fewer emissions than it came with stock!! I wasn't willing to pour my efforts into something like this and find some pencil pusher generating reasons to deny me my fun!
Either way.. I gave up on CA with their goofy rules and IOU's. May you have better luck with them than I did!!