Elizabeth Lewis and her oversized house
Original post made by John P. Johns CPA on Apr 6, 2010
The anomaly I noticed was that Ms. Lewis had been granted a series of extensions to her permit that went beyond the 180 day limit imposed by California law.
Subsequent to my termination from Atherton, I submitted a series of public records requests, including requests for records documenting the circumstances surrounding the application by Ms. Lewis for a building permit and the processing thereof.
Here is what I found out:
Ms. Elizabeth Lewis improperly characterized her residential building project as a remodel, when in fact it was a completely new residence. Ms. Lewis signed the permit herself as an owner builder.
During or proximate to Calendar Year 2000, Ms. Lewis was granted a conditional use permit by the Planning Commission for a smaller structure to be build on the lot after a partial demolition of the older residence.
Ms. Lewis was instructed to return to the Planning Commission if any changes were to be made to the plans that the Planning Commission had approved.
Ms. Lewis never went back to the Planning Commission despite abandoning her original plans and proceeding with a completely new set of plans for a much larger residence. These plans called for a complete demolition of the existing residence, rather than a partial tear-down as called for in the original plans.
During construction a neighbor complained repeatedly about the size of Ms. Lewis' home. She was told by the former Building Official Mike Hood that there was nothing wrong.
During construction the current Building Official Mr. Mike Wassman conducted numerous inspections and ultimately granted final approval to the structure. Apparently, Mr. Wassman never once verified that proper approval had been given to the plans.
During his inspections, Mr. Wassman never once appears to have taken the time to verify that the new structure adhered to the maximum floor area ratio allowed by Title 17 of the Atherton Municipal Code.
A visual inspection of the plans for Ms. Lewis' residence combined with an analysis of building permit fees paid suggests that Ms. Lewis house and accessory structure has a floor area ratio of 25 percent, significantly greater than the 18% coverage ratio allowed by Title 17.
Ms. Lewis' permit was approved in 2003 but was not pulled until more than one year later. Contrary to state law, Ms. Lewis was allowed to proceed with construction on her property, despite the fact that her permit had expired and was required to be subject to a complete re submittal.
In view of the facts I have assembled, supported by documentation which I will present to the City Council during my attendance at tomorrow night's meeting I urge the City Council to investigate this matter along with the conduct of Councilman Marsala.
I would remind Councilman Jerry Carlson that he was the one who championed my Phase III audit of the Building Department. As such I believe he owes it to the Community that this matter be given careful scrutiny.
Finally, I have brought this matter to the Attention of City Manager Jerry Gruber and the San Mateo County District Attorney. To date my complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
Now that my good name has been returned to me. Now that my reputation has been restored, I do hope that my voice will be heard this time.
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