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monster homes on postage stamp lots

Original post made by sly dog on Apr 29, 2010

There has been a call for Elizabeth Lewis to explain how she got away with buildig a 6,000 square foot home on an 18,000 square foot lot.

The City Council should heed this call just as it did in the Marsala loan request case.

Sly Dog asks for your support in getting this item on the agenda.

Comments (18)

Posted by Gern Blanston, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm

There are very few places in the Bay Area (including most of Menlo Park) where 18,000 s.f. would be considered a "postage stamp lot." And a 6,000 s.f. home broken over 2-3 floors wouldn't seem out of balance on such a large lot, unless the home was sited such that it infringed on setbacks or what have you. I don't see the problem.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm

If you want something on the Town Council's agenda then here is the best was to ensure that it happens:

Special meetings may be called at any time by the mayor, or by three members of the city council, or by a petition bearing a minimum of one hundred signatures of adult residents of the town. (Ord. 382, 1980: Ord. 344 Ch. 1(e) § 1, 1976)

Posted by spotlight, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Thank you Peter
I recommend the 100 signatures technique.
Jerry Carlson will implode if asked for a third vote on this one, and if the mayor calls it then the she will just become the target instead of Ms. Lewis' and her conflict of interest issues.
The issue is an important one and should be examined as it is a useful vehicle for shedding light on many of the transparency problems the Town has become submerged in.
It's only 50 households that would be required to accumulate the signatures--not that difficult for what it would be worth for the town's governance credibility.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I am not speaking for or against Lweis on this issue because I do not have all the facts.
That said, I would certainly join a group of 99 other concerned citizens to call a series of Special Meetings to address a number of critical issues which the Council might otherwise choose to ignore.

A citizens' petition has a number of important attributes - it is democracy at its best, it allows the citizens to exactly frame the issue and it removes individual Council members from the problems associated with initiating an action that might be perceived as politically motivated.

I predict that after 2 or 3 such citizens' petitions the Council will attempt to change the ordinance - a fight which I would welcome.

Posted by Manlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Mr. Blanston:

if you are not familiar with the house you should go by there. It is at the corner of Emile and Alejandra. I drive by there frequently and the lot is overwhelmed by the amount of house that is on it. Just off the top of my head, I know the rear set backs in Atherton are 60 feet. I can guarantee you Ms. Lewis' house doesn't comply with that.

Posted by Believe your eyes, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Best to just believe your eyes on the Lewis property.
The paper trail was well obscured by Lois shredding all the documents in the Bld Dept. and then Ms Lewis had the address changed from Emilie over to the other side of the corner on Alajandra for extra protection on a lost paper trail. I think there are many homes fudging on their stated size at the accessors office to reduce their taxes and I think the county knows it and is in on this game for special friends in the real estate game.

Posted by seeing is believing, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm

The accessory structure to the home does not meet the setback requirements. Neither does the main residence.

Lewis got permission from the Planning Commission to modify the main residence as this older residence was non-conforming.

However, the planning commision made it clear that she was to come back if her plans changed.

After getting planning commission approval Lewis decided to tear down the house and build a completely new one. She did not go back to the planning commission for approval however. Lewis' revised plans for a new house was about twice the size of the home remodeling project she got approval from the planning commission to proceed with.

When nobody was looking (or when someone was paid to look the other way) Lewis then built an accessory structure. She called her home and accessory structures remodeling jobs. They were not. This was developers call a "scrape and build" job.

The records are in the building department for anybody to take a look at. These incriminating documents are a matter of public record. All anybody has to do is show up in the Building Department and say "show me the file on "1 Emilie".

It is that simple. See for yourself.

Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

[Portion removed; stick to the topic] Also, has anything gone right for anyone?
The list grows and the guilty groan.

Posted by Process, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 30, 2010 at 11:01 pm

This issue needs to get looked into. If Ms. Lewis built a house in violation of rules, the house needs to be brought back into compliance. I do know that her neighbor, a former judge, objected vehemently to the construction of this home because of how it infringed on the setbacks. Let's face it, when someone invests in a substantial property in Atherton like a one acre parcel, they expect the privacy that comes with these large lots and the large amount of money it costs. This former judge deserves to be heard on this issue. If you want a large home in Atherton you need to buy a large lot. If you can't afford that or don't want to spend the money on it, it is unfair to decrease the privacy of your neighbor who did buy that large lot.

Posted by private eye, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 1, 2010 at 8:05 am

Process is right. I have spoken to the neigbor that Process refers to. I have inspected the property as well. There is no way this house could have been built wihtout a variance.

It is entirely possible that this variance was granted. If so then a record of the variance and the conditions under which it was granted should be found in the building department files.

If Ms. Lewis has been found to have broken the rules with intent, she should be forced to step down from the City Council, bring her home into compliance or both.

I for one will join the committee of one hundred to see that this dirty little secret does not remain swept under the rug.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 1, 2010 at 9:18 am

The Atherton Town Ordinance states:

Special meetings may be called at any time by the mayor, or by three members of the city council, or by a petition bearing a minimum of one hundred signatures of adult residents of the town. (Ord. 382, 1980: Ord. 344 Ch. 1(e) § 1, 1976)

It is the desire of a number of Atherton residents to petition for one or more such Special Meetings to address specific issues of concern. Members of this group will discuss, develop, draft and circulate petitions both within the group and to other qualified individuals. Members will individually decide which petitions they wish to sign. When any individual petition has received at least 110 signatures ( to provide a margin for possible ineligible/unqualified signatures) of adult Atherton residents it shall be submitted to the Town Manager, the Mayor and the Town Clerk.

The Committee, as an entity, shall accept no funding, provide no political endorsements and shall not lobby on behalf of any of the submitted petitions.
Individuals who are members of the Committee may exercise all of their individual rights and responsibilities in their role as Citizen.

Web Link

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

It's apparent that Ms. Lewis is scared, very scared.

In Woodside, we have made property owners who violated our building rules restore their home to the approved size. Yes, these homeowners have actually had to tear down a recent addition to their home. Painful? Of course. But they were the ones who decided to build an illegal structure.

Assuming what has been alleged is accurate, one way Ms. Lewis can bring her home into compliance is to change the zoning rules that impact her property. She has appealed to other property owners with smaller lots under the guise of "fairness." Ms. Lewis also knows that if just one elected official on the Atherton Town Council changes hands, she runs the risk of being called out by the Council and, therefore, doomed.

When this issue comes up, I think other Council Members should ask Ms. Lewis to recuse herself from participating on this issue as she obviously stands to benefit financially from this change. That's about as clear a conflict as you get and they should go on the record.

Whether the people of Atherton want to allow this zoning change or not is up to them. But it's pretty apparent that Ms. Lewis has a very different motivation for supporting this change than "fairness."

Posted by from the nO zone, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 3, 2010 at 11:24 am

[Post removed; poster using multiple names on same thread.]

Posted by spotlight, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

O.K. then Almanac--I just liked the name--but here it is again then.

Lewis moved to town and immediately constructed a TROGAN HOUSE.
She then used the ruse to infiltrate the troops.
Her's is a face that intends to launch 1000 back hoes and tractor cats.
The barbarians have come over the hill to pillage.
Someone should warn the villagers before it's too late.

Posted by spelling bee, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2010 at 7:47 am

for goodness sake Madame M. buy a spll check program

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 4, 2010 at 9:26 am

This should not be a witch hunt against Ms. Lewis. If she did something wrong with regard to her construction project (or the Town was complicit in overlooking proper permitting), it needs to be corrected. Ms. Lewis should look at this as an opportunity to root out problems and corruption in the building and planning group.

If Ms. Lewis took shortcuts, she should simply come clean and face the consequences. Ms. Lewis will probably have to pay a fine - perhaps even a very large one to get a retrospective zoning variance.

If we've learned anything from political history, it is that entrenchment is ALWAYS far worse.

Posted by spotlight, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm

I stand corrected spell checker--sorry
Elizabeth Lewis built a TROJAN HOUSE
I still think the analogy is near perfect

Posted by puritan, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Elizabeth lewis called the audit of the building department a witch hunt. This was her way of covering her tracks.

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