News

Rejecting appeal, Palo Alto approves Corina Way home

City Council OKs two-story home on currently vacant lot

Growth may be a citywide issue in Palo Alto, but for Jeanie Stephens it hits particularly close to home.

Ten feet from her property line, to be exact.

On Monday night, Stephens was one of more than a dozen residents who took part in an emerging trend in Palo Alto -- an appeal of a single-family residence that had been approved by the Planning Department.

For the third time in less than a year, residents have formally challenged a proposed home that they claimed is too massive and too intrusive for their quiet, Eichler-style blocks. But while prior challenges to proposed homes on Richardson Court and Metro Circle ultimately fizzled before they got to a formal City Council hearing (in both cases, the developer avoided an appeal by agreeing to make revisions before the hearing), Stephen's appeal of an approved home at 3864 Corina Way received its day in the Council Chambers.

The two-hour discussion ultimately ended with the council voting 6-1 against the appeal, thus affirming the approval by city planners. With Vice Mayor Greg Schmid dissenting and Councilmen Tom DuBois and Greg Scharff absent, the council gave the green-light to a two-story home on a block where one-story houses are the norm.

Proposed by Helen Koo, the new home would be 23 feet and 7 inches tall at its highest point, though the second floor would be set back further from the Stephens property to minimize the privacy impacts. The 3,015-square-foot home would have five bedrooms and four bathrooms. But though both its height and its setback from the Stephens' property line are well within local zoning laws, neighbors argued that the new building is incompatible with the character of the block and should thus be rejected.

Though the building would not be the only two-story building on the cul-de-sac, Stephens noted that it would be much larger than most residences on the block. In her appeal presentation, Stephens argued that the building would loom over her backyard, forcing her to stare at a giant wall and affecting her family's quality of life.

"There will be no place on our property to escape this massive building," Stephens said.

Frank Ingle, who appealed the project on Richardson Court (the appeal was dropped after the builder agreed not to have windows facing Ingle's yard), was part of a group of residents who supported Stephens' appeal. He called for the council to take a fresh look at its guidelines for individual reviews (a process for approving single-family homes) and argued that the existing appeals process is broken. Ingle said that it gives too much power to city planners, whose interpretation of what is compatible often clashes with that of neighbors.

"Policies don't mean anything unless you periodically review the results and see if they're being followed," Ingle said.

Other residents, including Cheryl Lilienstein and Ken Allen, also urged the council to overturn staff's approval of the Corina Way house. Lilienstein, president of the slow-growth group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, said the home is "not in context."

"It's too massive and it overwhelms the home behind it, which is in violation of individual-review guidelines," Lilienstein said.

Koo, for her part, argued that her family has already made numerous compromises and had already reduced the height and revised the design for the proposed home, which would occupy a currently vacant site.

She noted that the new home would be set back from the Stephens' property line by 10 feet, even though the city's guidelines require only an 8-foot setback. Furthermore, the second story would have a setback of 24 square feet, three times the requirement. She also stressed that there would be trees planted all around the house, further screening it from neighboring properties.

"It's going to be surrounded by trees in all three directions, and once the proposed screening tree is in place, the entire house is going to be screened by trees," Koo said.

She also told the council that she addressed Stephens' privacy concerns by placing windows on the second floor well above eye level and making them obscured.

"In other words, on our second floor, we cannot look at our own yard," Koo said.

Council members agreed with Stephens and her supporters that the individual-review guidelines are flawed and that it's time to revisit them. Yet the majority also agreed that the Koo proposal meets the existing guidelines and should be approved.

Councilman Pat Burt was among those who supported modifying the rule and taking a fresh look at how the existing rules are being interpreted. But he also argued that the existing design, while not perfectly compatible with its surroundings, is far more sensitive to them than some of the other homes that have won approval in recent years.

"I think there are some ways in which this home is not highly compatible with surrounding homes, but I also don't see it as massive and monumental," Burt said.

Councilman Eric Filseth similarly argued that the proposed home followed the rules, however imperfect they may be. Though the home is larger than most neighboring residences, he said, there are other two-story buildings on the block, including a large Mediterranean-style house in close proximity.

"It seems to me that the house meets code," Filseth said of Koo's proposal. "And things should meet code. And if we don't like the projects that our codes produce, then we should change the code. If we don't follow our codes, we have no way for the city to mange its land use."

Schmid questioned the existing guidelines and wondered whether they are in fact supporting the city's overarching aim to protect the quality of life in local neighborhoods.

"Increasingly, you're finding appeals from neighborhood groups against a single-property holder who they say is doing something incompatible with the neighborhood and identifies the problem of mass, bulk, height and privacy," Schmid said.

His colleagues, however, felt that the builder in this case has done enough to mitigate these impacts. Councilman Cory Wolbach ultimately made a motion to approve the project, thus affirming the findings from the Planning Department.

Wolbach called the decision "not an easy choice" but argued that the applicant in this case has "seemingly gone out of way to try to respect the neighborhood and respect neighbors."

In approving the house, the council added a condition upon the urging of Mayor Karen Holman requiring that the trees screening the house from neighboring properties be maintained for the life of the house.

"I think the applicant has done an admirable job of trying to provide a project that tries to fulfill their dream home design while respecting the privacy of neighbors," Wolbach said. "The appellant can continue to enjoy her backyard in perpetuity without being watched from the neighbor's house."

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 9:32 am

"The 7,659-square-feet home would have five bedrooms and four bathrooms."

3864 Corina Way is a 7,623 square foot lot, according to Zillow. Does the current City Municipal Code permit a 7,659 square foot home on a 7,623 square foot lot?


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:13 am

BuildingEye -- Web Link -- shows it as 3025 sq ft.


1 person likes this
Posted by gsheyner
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

gsheyner is a registered user.

Ja3+,

You are correct. It's a 3,015-square-foot home on a 7,658-square-foot lot.

Sorry for the error.

-Gennady


23 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

[Portion removed.]

It looks like one of the glass and concrete office buildings being perpetrated on our downtown, only it is a few feet from neighbors homes.
How councilman Cory Wolbach could argue that the applicant in this case has "seemingly gone out of way to try to respect the neighborhood and respect neighbors." is unbelievable. Did he confuse the attempt by the owner to do the least possible to try to squeak it by city approval than any care for neighbors. [Portion removed.] Just cause you can do something doesn't mean you should.


28 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:21 am

This has been a trend in older California communities for years now. It happens especially when people newly buy into the neighborhood, insensitive to the reality that they're joining an existing community, with traditions and sensibilities -- not just buying a piece of private property.

I remember one quiet, formerly bohemian southern-CA beach town that received an influx of new buyers from Hong Kong (where land is absurdly expensive and densities astronomical). They scraped the charming little coastal cottages, replacing them with zero-lot generic multi-story structures built out to the property line.

Less abject, but still disruptive, examples of that sensibility have occurred around the peninsula for some years, and will likely continue until zoning laws can gain more "teeth" to preserve look and feel.


8 people like this
Posted by Fed up
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:20 am

At least the house will have a 10 foot setback, unless a change is weaseled through during construction. In my neighborhood, where 8 foot setbacks are required, there have been HIEs for 6 foot setbacks. How much is too much? Why have regulations when exceptions are made on a recurring basis? Hope the privacy landscaping isn't something invasive or obnoxious.


9 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:30 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"Less abject, but still disruptive, examples of that sensibility have occurred around the peninsula for some years, and will likely continue until zoning laws can gain more "teeth" to preserve look and feel."

In other words - California (and Palo Alto in particular) only for people already here.


18 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:31 am

I have family a few doors away from this home to be and am very familiar with the neighborhood for over 35 years. There are several two story homes in and around the area. They seem to fit right in with existing homes. I am happy for the Koo family. It appears they did everything required and then some to accommodate the neighbors. Council member Eric Filseth has it right. If we don't like projects that fall within the code, then vote to change the code. As of now, the home meets the current requirements. Hopefully, the neighbors opposing the home will welcome the new family when they move in.


12 people like this
Posted by Saw it on TV
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:33 am

Jim wonders
>How councilman Cory Wolbach could argue that the applicant in this case has "seemingly gone out of way to try to respect the neighborhood and respect neighbors." is unbelievable. Did he confuse the attempt by the owner to do the least possible to try to squeak it by city approval

Wolbach is always sympathetic to development. And its amusing to watch Liz Kniss support and mentor him.


4 people like this
Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:38 am

WHEN??!!!?:

"Council members agreed with Stephens and her supporters that the individual-review guidelines are flawed and that it's time to revisit them."

TWO OR MORE WRONGS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT:

Councilman Pat Burt was among those who supported modifying the rule and taking a fresh look at how the existing rules are being interpreted. But he also argued that the existing design, while not perfectly compatible with its surroundings, is far more sensitive to them than some of the other homes that have won approval in recent years.


6 people like this
Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:40 am

City Council and Planning Dept - Please escalate a review of the guidelines NOW:

Schmid questioned the existing guidelines and wondered whether they are in fact supporting the city's overarching aim to protect the quality of life in local neighborhoods.

"Increasingly, you're finding appeals from neighborhood groups against a single-property holder who they say is doing something incompatible with the neighborhood and identifies the problem of mass, bulk, height and privacy," Schmid said.


18 people like this
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:52 am

I visited a friend in San Mateo recently. She lives on 9th Street. I was struck by how tasteful and architecturally diverse that street is. Nearly all the houses are single story. I saw one second story addition that was set back from the street and very tasteful. I don't know if San Mateo has zoning regulations tougher than ours or even a preservation law since much of the housing here was not new. But I loved every house on that street. My neighborhood has increasingly become ugly. On my street there have been four complete tear-downs in less than a year. And the things going up are so massive it's hard to comprehend anyone needing all that space.


22 people like this
Posted by enough complaining
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

Let's be clear--the people followed the rules. The house is compatible with guidelines of the city. The family also worked with the neighbors and the city to modify the design to address issues.
What do they get? A serious of comments from people who do not know them or what they plan to do with the house. [Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.] Also not sure why Ms Lilientstein is getting involved. The proposed house meets all the rules in place currently in the city. If it is such an issue to Cheryl, maybe she can make amending the rules her next cause celebre.
Why do you assume that the people that filed the appeal are right? Clearly there are other two story homes in the area. How big are the other homes in the area? How big are the other lots in the area?
Finally, I love Holman's input--let's move a bedroom downstairs!!!


6 people like this
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2015 at 11:56 am

See for yourself. Use google street view to look at this neighborhood. I saw another 2-story home right across the street, and another within spitting-distance. A prohibition of 2-story homes now would seem a little late. It looks to me like this house would be built in a currently vacant lot, and that this lot could make a nice park/playground for the local kids. Is preservation of that playground at the expense of the property owner the real issue here?


11 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 1:20 pm

If the attached illustration is accurate, it looks like a nice home that will certainly enhance the neighborhood and upgrade property values as well.


6 people like this
Posted by need action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2015 at 1:47 pm

We are in a regulatory stupor,frozen in a status quo which is leading to destruction of the city- its character and aesthetic values gutted. The City looks like a random walk with no planning, no design review. We need
a coherent strategy and immediate action to deal with the issues we are facing. In the residential areas the first thing we need to do is reduce FAR's and increase setback requirements in the R-1 zone while we figure out how to completely restructure the Individual Review process which apart from window size and placement is a non-factor,unenforced, ignored, a total failure in terms of achieving its broad goals- all you have to do is drive around Palo Alto. We also need a design review component in Eichler overlay zones.



21 people like this
Posted by slew
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm

I watched the City Council meeting last night on channel 26. I say let the Koos build their beautiful home. They were polite, patient and well prepared for their hearing. They have been working on this project for five years. They have dutifully gone through the exasperating Palo Alto appeals process and compromised to soften the most objectionable parts of the original design. As a long time Palo Alto resident, I welcome my new Chinese neighbors. Let's face it, a lot of the old housing stock in this town is not very attractive. Our new neighbors are spending a fortune to buy their properties and I don't blame them for wanting a house commensurate with the property value. Also, let's not forget that they are raising our property values and stimulating the economy by doing expensive remodels and building custom homes.


16 people like this
Posted by Margaret
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 24, 2015 at 3:24 pm

I thought Greg Schmid's comments at the hearing were most interesting, and not repeated anywhere...

The issue of what 'compatible' with the neighborhood means concerns first understanding what essential properties define a neighborhood.... the South Palo Alto Eichlers (etc) do two things especially well, 1. humble, just-right for family lot sizes, and 2. Rich blending of Inside and Outside that defines a particular kind of life style appropriate for our sky and land.

The monster house in question, along with the others that 'grace' what seems to be a trend in building here, forget the Outside spaces completely, cramming as much closed Inside box into as little space as the code will allow.

The 'owners' of this lot have never spent even one whole day-night on that lot, nor have the architects.... to propose a design without knowing much of anything about what makes this lot hum or this neighborhood work, seems like the ultimate property-as-economic value hubris that seems to be running around this in the new wave of property forty-niners

If we fail to modify the code to deal with this speculation.... ugliness and lack of consideration for lifestyle will continue to seep its way into our community

Perhaps we should have a local representative who can work with the architects to produce works of beauty instead of prisons of hubris; for the same amount effort you can have livable beauty or alienating disaster, knowing the neighborhood, knowing the local light throughout the day and seasons and the pace of life are necessary requirements for artful outcomes

Land is not simply property, land has its own spirit...if this spirit is channeled instead of quashed, the people who live there will be happy and fulfilled







13 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2015 at 3:36 pm

"PAmoderate" above managed to grossly garble/spin my message in reply.

The issue has nothing remotely to do with who is "already here." The correct paraphrase is, neighborhoods should welcome newcomers who respect the community they're joining, rather than striving to wreck it (as they really did, in the beach town I alluded to). The conflict isn't old vs new residents at all -- it's compatible vs clashing architecture!

Many newcomers honor the traditions of the neighborhoods they join, but those cases don't generate conflict or news stories.


20 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

I owned a post war home off of Embarcadero. It was a two bedroom/one bath/almost one car garage. Got married with two kids in the deal and decided to add on. Luckily, went with four bedrooms, one was to be an office, as my wife became pregnant during construction.

As we wanted a two car garage and the demolition took down walls and the roof, we needed to apply for a variance which required sending out postcards to everyone within a three hundred foot radius and appearing for a hearing before a planning department official. Three people appeared to ask questions about our project.

The first lived down the street. She was just curious about what we were doing and had no issues.

The second lived next door and was concerned about us paring down into his backyard. We told him that all of the windows facing his home would be glass brick. Problem solved.

The third person lived three blocks away. No idea how he found out about the hearing. He turned out to be a former Palo Alto Council member. He ranted and raved about how we were ruining Palo Alto, how we were building it to sell as soon as construction was finished, and closed with, "You're just going to sell it to a bunch of God damned Indians!" Really!

Our architect had to restrain my wife as she was ready to lay into him. The hearing official was able to calm the former Councilman down and he eventually agreed our project would fit in fine.

We later heard he tried to appeal the variance approval but he wasn't willing to pay the filing fee.

Let the Koos build their home. They have more than met the requirements the City has in place.

If the City does see a need to update the rules they should also consider doing something to control the cranks and vexatious complainers that object to everything.


20 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Every time a Palo Altan complains about a nice looking house ruining the atmosphere of their ugly Eichler-filled neighborhood, an angel gets its wings.


16 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Since it isn't explicit in the article or in the comments - my between the lines analysis is that the neighbors who don't want the project built because:
- it's two-stories
- the architecture is different than their own homes
- they don't like the "life style" choice that the home would provide

Unless there is a one-story overlay - I don't think anyone has the right to prevent a two-story house to be built. So you're just going to have to get over that.

Architecture - everyone has their own taste. You cannot legislate taste. The only way to get around that is if there was a historic district (like they have in many New England and Eastern Seaboard towns) or a downtown commercial district where specific styles, materials, colors, etc. are described in great detail. The Corina neighborhood is not historic. This project is not the first, nor will it be the last to add some diversity to the architectural styles in the area. It's happening in the Eichler neighborhoods, Crescent Park, Old PA, Barron Park ... everywhere.

Just like architectural styles, you can't legislate what a person wants to do with the space allowed on the lot. If they choose to build a home that provides all sorts of indoor space - that's their prerogative. As long as they build within the lot restrictions on square footage and height, it really shouldn't matter to anyone what they choose to do. Certainly in this case the owners have tried to appease some neighbors/issues on siting the building and protecting privacy via window placement/size and landscape/screening. But to say that they are inconsiderate because they don't want to build a "humble" sized indoor space --- sorry, not going with that emotion.


13 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Well stated, CPD. It is clear that some people do not like change and some people are jealous of the new home, built within in the rules, that will be in their vicinity. And it is also,true that there are many vexatious complainers.
Usually in this scenario, we also get terms like " monster home" or " Taco Bell house" thrown around. The real " monster" homes in palo,alto aka abominations. Are the older homes you find in professorville and the Eichler that are everywhere.
Finally, I am surprised that ms lilienstein objects to this home given that the homeowners have played by the rules and bent over backwards to appease the neighbors. she claims to be from a group that wants " sensible zoning". This home follows those guidelines. I would suggest that she not think because she won the measure d battle that she needs to travel all over time critisizing homes that she personally does not like.


11 people like this
Posted by Carlos
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 24, 2015 at 6:10 pm

When newcomers play by the rules and we get some old-timers making life difficult for them, I start thinking about darker times in the not-so-distant past when neighbors would circulate petitions so that the agent wouldn't sell a house to certain demographic profiles who didn't fit in the neighborhood.
That's illegal now, but these architectural reviews can be a new weapon for those who want to make their new neighbors feel unwelcome.
Old timers, get used to it or sell your house in today's healthy sellers market.


8 people like this
Posted by Me, me, me
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 6:15 pm

It looks like an office building. Totally incompatible with its surroundings. Who is the architect? Ken Hayes? wonder whether it really will be a residence. Those bedrooms could become offices very easily.
Boo hoo, they worked on it for years. They appear to have more money than --, I cant shed tears on self-important, self-entitled people impervious to the opinions of others. Screw the neighbors, we want what we want.


4 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2015 at 6:37 pm

I cant shed tears on self-important, self-entitled people impervious to the opinions of others."

You could be talking about yourself,me me me.
Obviously in palo,alto,feel,that they have the right to control property they do not own. Play by the rules and that is not good enough-- you are subjected to insults.


1 person likes this
Posted by Inconsiderate new neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 24, 2015 at 7:31 pm

[Post removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Think forward 30 years. If this area continues to do well most of the 50-60 year old houses in Palo Alto are likely to be gone. One house that is likely to remain is the one that was just approved. The older homes will have been sold off, one by one, by willing sellers to eager buyers. Those buyers are likely to be more excited to get the lot to build their dream house on than the house that currently sits on it, however nicely it has been maintained and regardless of the special features that have been added over the years for current residents' enjoyment of living in Palo Alto.

I appreciate the design changes that the Koo family made in response to neighbors' concerns. May they enjoy their home and find that it's been worth the trouble.


2 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2015 at 8:14 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"The issue has nothing remotely to do with who is "already here." The correct paraphrase is, neighborhoods should welcome newcomers who respect the community they're joining, rather than striving to wreck it (as they really did, in the beach town I alluded to). The conflict isn't old vs new residents at all -- it's compatible vs clashing architecture!

Many newcomers honor the traditions of the neighborhoods they join, but those cases don't generate conflict or news stories."

You mean, newcomers like the people already in the neighborhood.


12 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I've told this story before...my friends remodeled a house on a corner near Duveneck School. I was a beat up old Eichler. They made it look better than new including a new taller garage that features a loft and metal and glass door.

While the house was still under construction, the neighbors across the street left a note telling my friends that they had "ruined the neighborhood". Yet they finished the project, painted, finishing surfaces and then landscaped. I'm told that every week they receive a wonderful compliment on their refreshed home.

So...who is right? The neighbor across the street that claims that the neighborhood has been ruined? The neighbors who walk by and praise the remodeled/refreshed home? The proud owners who ignored the criticism and followed through on their vision?


8 people like this
Posted by need action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2015 at 9:23 pm

There is nothing wrong with the Individual Review Guidelines which in the
ordinance are referred to explicitly as "requirements" with the goal to
preserve the character of Palo Alto neighborhoods. The problem is that
the planning staff chooses not to enforce the guidelines except with regard to window size and placement and where possible site plan. Height, mass, scale, visual character,style are largely ignored. Just drive around Palo Alto. On a rare appeal, the Council looks at it and says a new house across
the street doesn't comply so why enforce it here. And then some on the
Council question the practicality of the design guidelines even though they have been passed and are in the municipal code giving in effect further latitude to the staff to just keep doing what they are doing and ignore
them. So in this regard it is the City which is not playing by the rules.

Zoning as to height, setbacks, FAR is enforced so the homeowner has to play by these rules, it is not his choice. But these standards are far too lenient to protect neighborhoods and adjacent property owners and streetscapes and need revision. So there two different things going on here which together are providing no protection for neighborhood character or adjacent property owners. The result is the downward spiral in our City, distrust of government. The new Council majority needs to step up and deal with this debacle.


6 people like this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2015 at 4:08 am

Sadly we have had to put up with these kinds of situations way too many times over on this side.
I know of two sites where the new owners built massive homes after upsetting all the neighbors and putting up long fights, only to re-sell the homes after a few years! One of these homes looked like a temple, with a turned up edge on the roof, which has since been changed.
The builder)s) abused the setbacks on both the underground footprint and second story. Now the neighborhood is left with a massive structure. One has all concrete underneath just a few feet away from either home (side to side).
The trees (except city) had been removed to make way for the new structures, and now drapeless windows look down upon the neighborhood homes.
The neighbors feel that the construction damaged their older homes - from the pounding of the soil for the foundation, and also the removal of groundwater for another.
The situations definitely created a kind of tension I have not seen in the 56 years I've lived here.
I definitely feel that the city is not going to protect existing property owners.



4 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2015 at 5:00 am

I listened through this appeal.

I am not sure 'due diligence' was completed.

Building a 'huge' two storied house with many bathrooms and bedrooms in a 'modest - yet nice' neighborhood is a good idea.

It is all about 'making a statement'. I do not believe the new owner is considerate to the neighborhood.

The new owner could have bought and spend their money in another part of Palo Alto where the houses are large like north side.

I agree with Greg Schmidt.

I do not understand what is going on with the rest of 6 council members other than interpreting their thinking:

"I have the money; I follow the rules; I can build whatever I want including near a flood zone. I do not care about our neighbors and I do whatever I want!"

Typical of the attitude of people that have money.

There is nothing wrong with it; except the new owner is inconsiderate.

What is new?

respectfully


8 people like this
Posted by SeaSeelam REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 25, 2015 at 5:04 am

Correction - missed the word NOT a good idea.

Building a 'huge' two storied house with many bathrooms and bedrooms in a 'modest - yet nice' neighborhood is a NOT good idea.

respectfully


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 25, 2015 at 8:19 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The house in question may look fine in another neighborhood, it certainly doesn't belong on Corina Way. The fact someone has the money to build a very large home on a street with much smaller, much more modest home, and can get away with it, doesn't mean they have to do it. [Portion removed.]

There is no respect for what made Palo Alto a great small town. We allowed the streets to be flooded with traffic, downtown has become tacky, ugly and dangerous at night, and neighborhoods are losing their character due to ostentatious construction. [Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 8:48 am

So someone is a jerk because they followed the rules...and actually is going to build something that doesn't press the limits?

Wow.

I hate to tell you this, but the Corina project won't be the last one like it. The reality is that the land costs in that area are less than the "north side"....the market is going to bring in more people who will scrape and build.


13 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2015 at 9:22 am

PAmoderate is a registered user.

Just makes me happy to see all the bleating about a house that is well within code and the rules. Keeps the old folks off the streets and not driving into cafes.


8 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 10:33 am

My presence at the meeting was to ask for resident representation in the Planning Department in order to create less after-the-fact pain for all involved, and in support of the effort to better enforce the individual guidelines for residences. And to ask for redefinition of the setback rules for corner lots that resulted (in this case) with a large wall looming over the neighbor's yard. The setback on the drawing is unfortunately 8 feet.

I mentioned that the building conforms to zoning yet violates the guidelines which according to Councilmember Burt and ex-PTC member Keller supercede, govern, and were developed to clarify and define the zoning regulations.

Here is the link to Palo Alto Single Family Individual Review Guidelines
Web Link

Here is the text of the guidelines I believe the Planning staff ignored.
(and: let it be noted that the original planner is no longer with us so possibly attention to this guideline evaporated because of the great increase in workload for the city staff...)

• Promote new construction that is
compatible with existing and evolving
residential neighborhoods’ site
development patterns, mass and
scale, and streetscape appearance.
• Encourage new two-story houses
and second-story additions that
balance diversity of style with respect
for the surrounding context.
• Foster consideration of neighbors’
concerns regarding privacy, scale,
massing and streetscape.

I also align with the comments of Need Action, and Margaret, who said this:
Perhaps we should have a local representative who can work with the architects to produce works of beauty ... for the same amount effort you can have livable beauty or alienating disaster, knowing the neighborhood, knowing the local light throughout the day and seasons and the pace of life are necessary requirements for artful outcomes

Land is not simply property, land has its own spirit...if this spirit is channeled instead of quashed, the people who live there will be happy and fulfilled


1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 25, 2015 at 10:58 am

mauricio is a registered user.

The "market" also caused a near global calamity in 2008 because it was allowed to run amok, just like housing development in Palo Alto has been allowed to. Just because you have the financial resources to do something, and can manipulate the grey areas in zoning codes doesn't mean you must or should do it. Like a dear friend who left the US decades ago once told me: Americans seem to know the price of everything and value of nothing.


10 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 11:40 am

The new family has made concessions. The protesting neighbors are not willing to make any concessions.


1 person likes this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Marie is a registered user.

But what about houses that don't meet requirements. Currently there is a heavily advertised house in Crescent Park, obviously built on spec, that is a 5,887 sq. ft. house on a 7,750 foot lot, per the ad. What happened to a FAR limit of 40%? How did this get approved?


7 people like this
Posted by Gentrification
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 12:48 pm

It is funny/interesting to see rich people complain about what amounts to suburban gentrification, as the even richer move in and upgrade the housing stock and cause a slow upgrading of the retail mix.


17 people like this
Posted by Sensible Zoning?
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2015 at 1:01 pm

It's pretty clear that the jig is up on Ms. Lilienstein's "we just want sensible zoning and to follow the rules" game.

A homeowner who followed all of "the rules" is subjected to attacks on the most subjective of criteria: some people in the neighborhood don't like the look of the house (despite there already being many other 2 story houses in the neighborhood). And the suggestion to have "a resident" work with the architects to produce works of beauty. Ha!

ONE resident whose tastes are unimpeachable and who would reflect all of our values and desires. Good luck. I love spicy food, but wouldn't presume that my tastes are superior to everyone elses such that I can force everyone to eat only the food that I like.

This isn't a push for "Sensible Zoning". This is "my way or the highway". [Portion removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by need action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Cheryl Lilienstein frames the issue. And when she says we need
"resident representation" in the Planning Dept she hits the nail on
the head. I take that literally and figuratively. Resident interests speak not just to controlling impacts on adjacent properties- light, privacy,etc- but long-term values as expressed in the IR guidelines relating to streetscapes, scale, aesthetic values, neighborhood character - values
that have been completely dismissed Downtown.









1 person likes this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2015 at 1:39 pm

I can't wait until Ms Koo, in 20 years, complains about a new neighbor putting up an even bigger house next to her
big house. It will happen, and then she will understand.


19 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Unless you were one of Leyland's original employees...you are a newcomer who ruined what the area used to be.

And if you were one of Leyland's original employees...you were a newcomer who ruined the ranchos.

And if you were one of the people who started the ranchos, you ruined the area for the Oholones.

So get over it


1 person likes this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Sparty,

Leland. I guess that settles that.


Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2015 at 3:30 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"Currently there is a heavily advertised house in Crescent Park, obviously built on spec, that is a 5,887 sq. ft. house on a 7,750 foot lot, per the ad. What happened to a FAR limit of 40%? How did this get approved?"

Basement?


1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 3:39 pm

No doubt the basement sqft has been included...doesn't count towards lot coverage and/or total sqft. Though it seems odd that a new CP house would have a basement given the flood zone issues.


4 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 25, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Let's stop funding /supporting our schools until they come in at the bottom of all the ratings and then the cost of land will go way down and nobody will want to live here and all the traffic will disappear and everything will be peaceful and quiet,


Like this comment
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 5:12 pm

I support the idea that a Resident Participant really needs to be in the Planning Department. Also a local represenative to work with the architect would be a good idea and save many hard feelings and grief. We need to be sensitive to our neighbors, and certainly need more than an 8 foot set back.


16 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Unless you want to re-write the law on private property rights - all of this wishing for meddling in other people's homes is just nonsense.


4 people like this
Posted by Jeff Keller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2015 at 11:25 pm

Jeff Keller is a registered user.

"And things should meet code. And if we don't like the projects that our codes produce, then we should change the code."

Perfect summary. Meet the codes whether it is commercial or residential. We don't want arbitrary restrictions or give-aways because of "special negotiations".


2 people like this
Posted by One Car Two Car Not on My Street Car
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Feb 26, 2015 at 8:17 am

Time to break the Planning Rule Book.

The current planning rules are broken and archaic.

There are one story 1200 sf homes with two car garages and 4 car driveways being replaced with 2800 sf homes with one car garage and one car driveway.

This is messed up. Those extra 5 cars will be parking on the street becoming a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians.

This needs to be fixed ASAP.

The City Council and Planning Department need to encourage livable neighborhoods...not unbridled house flipping.

Yes...and to the nice "neighborhood" lady who brought me See's candy and discussed how her young kids will be attending the local elementary school when the tear down and reconstruction are complete. There is a "for sale" sign in front of the 90% completed house. Karma will get you in the end....


2 people like this
Posted by Numbers game
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2015 at 8:48 am

"There are one story 1200 sf homes with two car garages and 4 car driveways being replaced with 2800 sf homes with one car garage and one car driveway.

This is messed up. Those extra 5 cars will be parking on the street becoming a danger to bicyclists and pedestrians."

All those homes have 6 vehicles?


Like this comment
Posted by One Car Two Car Not on My Street Car
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 26, 2015 at 9:03 am

# Numbers Game

Drive around the SoPal neighborhoods at 8AM on Sunday morning.

Nearly EVERY driveway is filled with cars and the curb is filled with overflow.

Take special notice of the fact that LARGER houses have MORE cars.

Makes sense.

Large houses with small driveways and single garages make no sense.

Basically, the current planning regime permits the developer to cheat the system by permitting the house to be larger than it should be based on demand for garage/driveway space.

A simple formula would be sufficient. Nothing radical.

One car garage one car driveway = 2 bedrooms
One car garage two car driveway = 3 bedrooms
Two car garage two car driveway = 4 bedrooms
Two car garage three car driveway - 5 bedrooms
3 car garage four car driveway = 6 bedrooms....wait...owner of a 6 bedroom house will probably want more cars (lol).

Anyway...this approach seems reasonable.

If you are truly honest, you will recognize that the homes with more than 3 bedrooms typically house extended families. These always have more cars.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 26, 2015 at 10:19 am

You can see the same happening at the famous clay-pot house. Single-story, 2-car garage, to be replaced by two-story, one-car garage, 6-foot setback to neighboring property. In-law suite included. Parking on residential streets is a free-for-all in most of Palo Alto.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 11:38 am

"Basically, the current planning regime permits the developer to cheat the system by permitting the house to be larger than it should be based on demand for garage/driveway space."

What cheating? The zoning and code requirements for residential garage and driveway size are very clear. You can't get your plans approved without following those rules.

No one is cheating the system. And there is no "regime". The code is the code. What is happening is that *you* don't like the way the current city code is set up. Which is fine with me.

But don't go about saying someone is cheating when they're not. And don't imply that the city planners are doing something illegal when they're not.

If you want your suggested code change, then petition the city council.


Like this comment
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Dear people who want more resident participation in planning:

Apply for a seat on the ARB or Planning & Transportation Commission.
So far, none of those non-architects who know so much about design have applied.
Put your money where your mouth is.


4 people like this
Posted by Context
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2015 at 12:45 pm

"But what about houses that don't meet requirements."

That is the definition of all the existing single-family, one-story in the neighborhood.

The idea that the mass and scale context that new construction must be measured against being the existing homes is just unreasonable. The flood zone requires the new construction floor level to be 30 inches above grade, which is easily 18-24 inches higher than any of the original housing in the area. Combine that with current standards for 10' ceilings at first floor and 9' ceiling's at second floor and you have a home that would be standard by any normal understanding but can never be 'in context' with the existing non-conforming homes. This house conformed or improved on all zoning regulations for height, FAR and setbacks.

City Council did the right thing approving it. If you don't agree - get to work changing the rules.

I wonder if the neighbors who are so adamant about maintaining the neighborhood character would be willing to only sell their property to a buyer who offers much less in terms of dollars but will commit to a single-story home. Be interesting to see what happens to the neighboring properties in a generation...


2 people like this
Posted by Rainer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Rainer is a registered user.

Interesting the straw man put up by the most vociferous posters: being against a second story..
This never came up before the city council; the appellants did not bring it up.

What should have been brought up more explicitly that there are different aspects to zoning:

------ There are the geometric limitations of height, setbacks and, mass.

------ There is the touch and feel of a neighborhood.

------ While Councilor Wolbach, as usual, talks grandly about property rights, he is willing to roll over the property right of the neighbors.

The guidelines of Individual Review try to be a condensation of the Comprehensive Plan. This project violates both in many aspects, while still staying with in the maximum allowed geometrical parameters. And you can argue about style, planning departments and architectural reviews do it all the time, all over the country.

Too bad that neither the planners nor the appellants showed the precise environment of the 2 story houses in the neighbor hood, how they look, how they fit into the neighborhood., how the neighbors felt about is.

In summary, the Hayes-type (see posting above) lego cigar box architecture does not fit in, not the least because the neighbors decided that it does not fit in.
If you walk through down town Palo Alto there are recent condominiums with 5 stories which are pleasant to look at and fit in, and there are 4 story box-type condos which are terrible.

It is too bad that Major Holman got side tracked into armchair engineering, trying to shave of a foot of the height of the stories, instead of trying to get a majority to reduce the terrible skyline by bringing more floor area to the down stairs.

In view of the number of older people being killed through the health down ward spiral of relatively benign falls, the argument of Ms. Koo about why her elderly parents have to be in the 2nd floor does not pass the smell test. The box architecture is just bad taste.

You can argue about bad taste, communities do it all over the word, in well regulated civil societies.


Like this comment
Posted by need action
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2015 at 9:51 pm

@One Car Two Car
"the current planning regime permits the developer to cheat the system by permitting the house to be larger than it should be based on demand for
garage/driveway space". "Council and Planning Dept need to encourage livable
neighborhoods".
@Rainer
"touch and feel of the neighborhood" "property rights of the neighbors"
"does not fit in,not the least because the neighbors decided it does not fit in" "you can argue about style, planning depts do it all the time,
all over the country"

There you have it folks - two of the best posts I have ever read. The two of
them covered it all. They are describing the difference between a functioning, responsive regulatory process and what we have in Palo Alto.


1 person likes this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2015 at 12:45 am

This situation seems similar to one reported in New York.
I once lived next to a home that had been scraped to make way for a massive concrete structure with a tall black iron gate all the way around it.
The new owner had living quarters for a cook and housekeeper, known to neighbors as her "aunties".
There is no denying this is a problem not only in Palo Alto, but all over.
Washington State, London, Sydney, and New York, and even in Singapore.


Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Look for yourself
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 27, 2015 at 1:07 am

Folks, before arguing to preserve the neighborhood character of Corina Way, please take a slow drive down that street. The street photos on Google Maps make it look deceptively charming with all of the beautiful fall colors, but if you take a drive and actually look at the neighborhood, architecturally speaking, it's not that special. (No offense meant to the neighborhood, I'm sure it's a great place to live).

It's pretty eclectic, with many (maybe 7-8?) two story houses that are almost all of the cheap, "block over the garage" variety. There is a two-story, peach colored house right across the street from this proposed new home that looks *nothing* like anything else in the neighborhood - really tall and pointy. The rest of the neighborhood is mostly old, original Eichlers (or Mackays?) (including the royal blue one - that one sure stands out) in various states of upkeep.

Someone needs to clarify just what, *specifically*, is so wrong with the proposed new home. Except for the fact that it inconveniently puts a two story house where the neighbors are used to a nice, empty lot. How will this new house negatively impact the neighbors? If it's just the style, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there has clearly not been a beauty contest held for any of the other "modified" homes on the street.


Like this comment
Posted by Look for yourself
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 27, 2015 at 1:24 am

Sorry - there are no Eichlers or Mackays on that street. Just nondescript tract homes.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 27, 2015 at 11:33 am

Brown and Kaufman, according to a resident on another thread.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident of Barron Park
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 2, 2015 at 11:21 pm

We had a very negative experience two years ago when we challenged the large 2 story home built to the max sq allowed kitty corner from our one story home even though the home looks directly down into our bedroom! We were so dismayed and disappointed that those at the Director's hearing did not seem to care to either obscure the 2nd story windows or change their orientation. The ultimate insult was that the trees the hearing director required to plant to "screen their view" only had to be 24 inches tall.
I am impressed that the owners on Corina Way voluntarily obscured their back windows and were planning on planting trees. That is far more consideration than we received in our case.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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