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Woodside: Council green-lights revised plans for new home on La Questa Way

After two public hearings before the Town Council, Woodside residents Nick and Ling Triantos now have a green light to proceed with plans to demolish the residential structures at 451 La Questa Way and build a zero-emissions house along with a guest house, four-car garage, swimming pool and cabana.

The council first considered the plans in April, on appeal. A unanimous decision by the Planning Commission in February gave Mr. Triantos the go-ahead, but his neighbor, Naomi Kameda, objected and appealed the decision to the council. Her principal concerns: excavations on the hillside above her property, drainage down on to her property, and the potential for disruptive views into her property.

A council majority upheld the appeal, but offered Mr. Triantos a chance to revise his plan in concert with town staff and neighbors and return for another hearing. He did that on July 22. After some interrogation of his team on plans involving 175 to 200 dump-truck trips to remove 2,250 cubic yards of soil, the council approved his proposal on a 6-0 vote. Councilwoman Deborah Gordon was absent.

The neighbor, Ms. Kameda, had argued that a proposed second garage and driveway would remove trees and impinge on her privacy, and that Mr. Triantos' plans did not adequately address the potential for severe drainage and mud-flow issues when it rains.

The original plans also included extensive on-site redistribution of excavated soil. On-site redistribution is generally welcomed in Woodside, where minimizing off-hauled soil is a priority, but in this case, grading plans conflicted with another priority: to not harm trees.

The process of redistributing soil under the drip-lines of existing oak trees would kill most if not all of them, Councilman Dave Tanner said. The new plan has the soil being off-hauled.

The revised plan addressed the privacy issue by eliminating the second garage and driveway. Town staff would address the drainage issues during the permitting process, and the height of the main house would drop by 4 feet, 2 inches, reducing its profile along the skyline.

Ms. Kameda was effusive in her praise. "I really thank you very much," she told the council. "I feel much, much safer now."

The council asked Mr. Triantos to be sensitive to neighbors' concerns. Their approval included a condition that he provide a construction schedule and a plan for trucking out the soil.

Ten truckloads an hour

At times when excavating 2,250 cubic yards of soil, dump-truck traffic will be frequent on La Questa Way, said Jim Toby, a professional engineer with Lea and Braze Engineering of Hayward. "Ten truckloads an hour is not unheard of when you're really trying to get the work done," he said.

"We are trucking quite a bit off site, yes," Mr. Triantos added. But where else could it go, given that his original redistribution plan was not acceptable? "We could not find a place to do it" without creating a whole lot of new challenges, he said.

The low-environmental-impact design of the house, including water recycling, on-site electricity generation and an orientation to take advantage of the sun and the breezes, will result in a "zero-energy" house, project architect Stuart Welte told the council.

When the discussion returned to the dais, Councilman Dave Tanner did not mince words. "I'm having a hard time calling this a completely green house because of the energy it takes to build this house," he said. "It'll probably zero itself out in 25 or 30 years, maybe."

As for the trucking plan, "I think you need to get to know your neighbors a bit," he added. "You're going to need to be in harmony with the neighbors on this one."

Councilwoman Anne Kasten lauded the cooperative efforts. "That's the part that I'm really proud of," she said. "We got there and it's a lot of hard work."

"I don't think that you did a very good job (on keeping) the dirt on site," said Councilman Peter Mason. "I don't think you really dealt with it." Mr. Triantos replied that he would "love" to work with the town on reducing the off-haul.

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