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Tonight: Contentious rezoning issue in Atherton

Original post made on Apr 28, 2010

The Atherton Planning Commission will review possible changes to the town's zoning code that will allow bigger houses on lots that are less than 10,000 square feet at its meeting tonight (April 28). The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Town Council Chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 8:15 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by figure it out, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 28, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Gee!--I wonder how Elizabeth will vote?????!!!!!!!!
Just another attempt in a long list of efforts-- to rewrite the entire building code. zoning ordinance, and the city's General Plan--in order to legitimize Elizabeth Lewis' completely illegally constructed home.
The only element "of the greater good" here, is the fact that the changes will also benefit her constituents from the special interest building lobby, which she was installed on the council to represent.
If Parker warrants a little spot zoning--thats one thing--but letting a council member manipulate the entire system to save her own bacon and fry up a new batch for her campaign contributers is just plain wrong folks!!

Posted by judge judy, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 28, 2010 at 6:40 pm

The Planning Commission should approve the rezoning.

The Town has no moral authority to regulate the size and positon of homes on smaller lots.

Atherton lost that authority when it looked the other way as Elizabeth Lewis built a 6,000 square foot home on a 25,000 square foot lot.

Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

25,000 square foot lot? Try 18,000.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Ms. Lewis' home is in total violation of Atherton zoning ordinances. The house is grossly over the allowed FAR's.

Go ahead Editor, take that post down. It's not an accusation, it's a fact. If you don't believe me, do a little research. You'll come to the same conclusion unless you're in Ms. Lewis' pocket.

Posted by John P. Johns, CPA, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2010 at 10:34 pm

In the e-mail below, Ms. Elizabeth expresses a willingness to answer questions about her home. This was when Ms. Lewis was a candidate for City Council.

Now that Ms. Lewis has been elected to the Council she has been silent on the matter.

I have forwarded this e-mail to each member of the City Council with a request that it be placed on the City Council agenda for discussion.

Perhaps her colleagues on the City Council could urge her to break her silence.

--- On Sun, 9/28/08, Elizabeth Lewis <> wrote:

From: Elizabeth Lewis <>
Subject: 1 Emilie Ave. Atherton CA
Date: Sunday, September 28, 2008, 7:03 PM

Dear John,

On Friday, Sept 26,I received a call from Andrea Gemmet the reporter for the Almanac News, wondering why you are requesting information about my home at 1 Emile Avenue (99 Alejandra) in your letters dated Sept 19 & 20, 2008 to the Town of Atherton.

I have no idea why you are interested in our home.

Will you please let me know what your interest is, and I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thanks so much!

Elizabeth Lewis

Elizabeth Lewis
Candidate for Atherton City Council
650-533-8830 cell

Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Elizabeth came up with great ideas for smaller lots. Smaller lots should be rezoned out of the larger lots. Elizabeth went to a lot of work trying to come up with a fair and great game plan. There are 28 homes 10,000 square feet or less zoned in with the larger lots. Elizabeth was just trying to show fairness. My hats off to her for all her hard work. Once council saw the homes they agreed smaller lots should be taken out of the larger lots of R1A.

Posted by WRONG, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 12:29 am

Colleen, Elizabeth Lewis may have some great ideas, but she should get them ACCEPTED according to the RULES before, not AFTER, she builds her house in furtherance of these ideas.

I believe following the rules is important for this town. When a council member has a 6,000 square foot house on an 18,000 square foot lot (and I believe a full acre is required for homes this large), it sends wrong messages.

Wrong Message #1: The rules don't matter.

Wrong Message #2: "Special" people don't need to follow the rules.

Wrong Message #3: If you don't want to follow the rules, bring up the fact Elizabeth Lewis didn't, and try to bully your way into getting a variance for your rule breaking also.

Elizabeth Lewis and her friends can try to bully John Johns and anyone else who challenges this to shut up, but I can tell you that IN ANY NORMAL, WELL-RUN COMMUNITY, the issue of an elected community leader grossly violating the rules is highly newsworthy.

In this DYSFUNCTIONAL community, not only does Elizabeth Lewis not follow the rules, but when someone brings this to the attention of the council, she grabs the papers, and makes a beeline for the exit.

Am I the only one who thinks this is INSANE? This lady also was quoted in the Palo Alto Post Today saying it's oaky for her to stack Atherton committees with her campaign supporters since if she restricted it to people who weren't, no one would be left! What kind of arrogance is this? I guess the arrogance of someone who breaks rules, gets away with it, and will forcefully prevent anyone from even asking about WHY NO ONE CARES.

Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 29, 2010 at 12:37 am

The topic at hand is smaller lots being zoned in with bigger lots not Elizabeth Lewis home. I have been in her home and feel she did a brilliant job. It is very small & charming from the street. I never would have guessed it is 6,000 square feet inside. I love her home. However the subject at hand is smaller lots being treated fairly. Please lets not make this about Elizabeth. She is trying to do the right thing when it comes to fairness on smaller lots. Make another blog if you would like to take up her home. I am impressed with her caring enough to do the right thing with smaller lots.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 7:04 am


If you can't tell Ms. Lewis' home is 6000 square feet from the street, then you are blind. It is clearly way beyond what is allowed by the zoning ordinance. And if you think Ms. Lewis is pushing this smaller lot agenda because she wants to be fair you are at best naive and at worst a schill for Ms. Lewis and her dishonest agenda.

Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 29, 2010 at 7:50 am

I have asked the Almanac remove all posts having to do with Elizabeths home. This blog is about rezoning smaller lots. NOT Elizabeths home.

Posted by Fact Checker, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:58 am

No, Elizabeth's home is relevant to this issue. She has a home on a smaller lot also that may about to be rezoned through her vote -- retroactively -- and this is a conflicted vote. As WRONG said, this topic should get attention and not get deleted or swept under the rug.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 9:36 am


this is ALL about Ms. Lewis' home. The reason she is pushing this is so, retroactively, her property will be in compliance with the zoning ordinance. It currently is not. How it got that way is something that ought to be explained. Especially by an elected official of the town. Because the only way to contruct a new 6000 square foot home on an 18,000 square foot lot is to do it legally or illegally. The legal way is to obtain a variance, which she did not. Therefore it was done illegally. The town really needs to look into how Ms. Lewis was able to make that happen. Someone's palmed had to be greased.

Posted by huh?, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

[Post removed; stick to the issue and don't attack other posters]

Posted by chicken feed, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

Just because people who live on smaller lots are less likely to have the money to pay off corrupt politicians or corrupt building officials does not mean that they should be treated as second class citizens.

The setback rules for one acre or 1/2 acre lots do not make sense for lots of smaller sizes.

I say give em a break. If rules are reasonable, people are more likelhy to abide by them.

Posted by fair game, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:27 am

Now that this issue has been elevated by the planning commission to the City Council, the actions and motives of Elizabeth Lewis are relevant to this post.

This is very unfortunate for Elizabeth Lewis and for her supporters (of which Ms. Lewis claims to be numerous).

This is very fortunate for the detractors of Elizabeth Lewis (of which Ms. Lewis claims to be few).

Like it or not, when this matter is brought before the City Council, all eyes will be on Ms. Lewis.

Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:19 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

[Post removed; see terms of use]

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm

"Like it or not, when this matter is brought before the City Council, all eyes will be on Ms. Lewis."

And she'll blow it off just like she did when questioned about her assault on a citizen. Ms. Lewis thinks she is above the law.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:24 pm

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." - Thomas Jefferson

It doesn't take a lot of effort to attend a Town Council meeting. Your elected officials count on you to stay home.

PS - It's 7:00pm on Wednesday, May 19.

Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 30, 2010 at 1:58 pm

What Atherton is talking about is lots 10,000 or less. Elizabeth's home is on a much larger lot. I purchased my home in 1988. back in 1988 R1A could build 50% of there property. Over the years they have down sized R1A, and put on a 2nd story restriction that all the other R1A lots do not have. We are currently spot zoned which I don't think is legal. Thats why it would only be fair to make the smaller lots 10,000 R1B. Over 150 (it maybe even over 200 homes) homes on smaller lots are all R1B. When they change rules on R1A homes it drastically has effected smaller lots. All R1B would due is change our front & rear setbacks. I love Atherton, and have lived here most of my life. I am not a developer trying to make a buck. I want a garage and living space. I want to be treated fairly like the other lots in Atherton. Why is it that only a few homes caught up in R1A lots have a 2nd story restriction No other lots have. 28 homes in all of Atherton can only build 500 square feet upstairs. How is that fair.

Posted by No spot rezoning, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Colleen, unfortunately for you, Elizabeth Lewis has enlarged this issue by having an illegal house. Everyone knows that to have a mansion sized house in Atheron, with accessory structures (like her 6000 sq ft mansion and accessory structures), you need to have (and have paid for) an acre. She has less than half an acre. She cannot now use your situation as an excuse to retroactively legalize her house. The town needs to take action on that house. This is ridiculous.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm


OK, I'm convinced, you're a schill for Elizabeth Lewis. This has nothing to do with making things "fair." It's all about making what Elizabeth did that was illegal, legal.

Posted by deputy planner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 30, 2010 at 5:29 pm

There are two separate issues, deserving of separate threads. One is whether Lewis should be held accountable for breaking the law (she should).

The other issue is whether homes on lots of less than 10,000 square feet should be subject to less restrictive zoning laws (they should).

Give it a rest. Giving the folks with less than 10,000 square feet, will in now way affect the Lewis property (which is 18,000 square feet).

That said if you are going to bash Lewis (which you should) don't do it here. Folks like those on Parker don't deserve to be painted with the same brush.

Posted by CAN YOU SPELL OLIGARCHY, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Elizabeth illegal house is VERY relevant here --she should not be on the council at all with this baggage SHE HAS DRUG INTO TOWN HALL--she should not be voting on issues where she has such extreme self interest--such as voting on spot rezoning--voting to rewrite the Building Code, voting to re write the main General Zoning Ordinance (big fat thick book), voting to rewrite the Town's General Plan. Add to this she should not be voting to refund money on the Road Impact Fees, voting to refund money on the Off Haul Fees, voting to refund money on the Business Lisc. Fees.
How much stuff does the town have to change in order to make Lewis ligit?
I don't care if she gets to keep the stuff she got away with--Just stop her from co-opting the entire town to suit her own purposes.

Posted by deputy plannner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 30, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Wrong on two counts. Lewis should not be allowed to get away with anything. What to be done about Lewis has nothung to do with re-zoning lots under 10,000 square feet.

Go gripe about Lewis somewhere else.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 30, 2010 at 8:19 pm

deputy planner:

I guess you're just another schill for Elizabeth too, eh?

Posted by Rodney King, a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Can't we just all get along?

Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

This isn't about Elizabeth she is a a much larger lot then the smaller lots. This issue on fairness doesn't effect her real estate at all. Stop bashing her on this blog, and focus on the issue of smaller lots. She has a much larger lot.

Posted by spotlight, a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 30, 2010 at 10:03 pm

colleen relax-you don't even need Lewis' vote if your issue is so valid. You have at least three votes already.
The point people are trying to make here, is about the fact that council reps that ignore the rules should not be making them. This IS focusing on the issue--not beside the point!!

Posted by Colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 30, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I just want another blog for it. i want this to be about fairness for smaller lots. My lot is 7,500. It's not even close to 10,000. If we make it about something else it changes it off whats fair for us, and makes it about Elizabeth. I have been in her home, and loved it. So people are I feel bashing me for this when they haven't even been in her home. Above ground there is no way its 6,000 sq. ft. It's like 4,000 in 2 stories. It's hard when I have worked so hard for fairness, and bonding in this community. I even started an Atherton social groups that meets to bring people & dog lovers closer together. I hope anyone commenting on the Elizabeths house has been inside, and seen it. I have.

Posted by Process, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 30, 2010 at 10:54 pm


1. Elizabeth's above ground space is way more than 4,000 sq. ft. Look at zillow. It's close to 6,000 and that doesn't include the garage or pool house.

2. You are right that the under 10,000 sq. ft. issue could be considered separately. The problem is, as long as Elizabeth has this illegal house, it calls into question the process for any rezoning issue she votes on.

I would support her recusing herself from your issue. I would support considering your issue on its own merits. I would definitely support hearings into how her house got built and what can be done to put it back into compliance. I cannot support her driving an agenda to rezone smaller lots when she has one. I know it's not as small as yours, but in a town where almost every parcel is one acre, it is definitely a small lot.

It is absolutely reprehensible for a council member to have engaged in such flagrant violations of the building code and then to be voting on rezoning other types of small lot homes. It's a blatant conflict of interest.

Posted by caught in the crossfire, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm

I live on an 8,000 square foot lot. I too would like to have a second story on my home.

The name I use in writing this post described what I feel is happening to me.

I am no schill for Elizabeth. I just don\'t want her problems overshadowing what is a truly legitimate cause.

One other thing. My thanks to Colleen for spearheading this issue.
Also please don\'t attack her personally. Instead, please respect the fact that, unlike me, she is brave enough to use her own name.

Posted by spotlight, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 1, 2010 at 12:07 am

You guys need to move to bigger lots. You got what you bought. I believe you- that you now want more -but who doesn't?
If the town or a neighbor or a school for instance had radically altered some original understanding that they had with you, then I would be sympathetic to your right to keep what you had bought into,--but for you to just want more than you bought and to expect the rules to be rewritten for you is self serving--understandable maybe--but just plain self serving. The Town should not be expected to provide drive though window service for any and all appetites.
PS I want more too but I know better than to expect it.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 1, 2010 at 8:01 am


what was allowed to be built on your lot when you bought it? Was a second story allowed? If not, then you got what you bought. If it was changed after you bought, then the issue is a valid one to consider.

The problem with Elizabeth Lewis' involvement in this issue is that it is a clear conflict of interest. She has an undersize lot. She should not be voting on anything that involves an undersize lot. Even if her lot is larger than yours there is a clear appearance of conflict.

The other problem with her involvement is that she has clearly broken zoning laws to build her house. Given that she has zero moral authority to vote on anything to do with zoning without it being a conflict of interest.

I would suggest that if you want this issue addressed on its merits, you should ask Elizabeth to step away form the issue or at a minimum recuse herself from any vote on the matter.

Posted by colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

In 1988 what was allowed was 50% of the lot, and a full 2nd story. I never got notices of down sizing or I would have fought it then. Many other homes on the street fit the R1B zoning. The house right next to me has a full 2nd story. They don't want someone else to have what they have. At one point they said every other house should 2 storied. I just want what's fair.

Posted by colleen Anderson, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on May 1, 2010 at 10:10 am

Zillow, or Google 44 Parker Ave, They have completely different setbacks then any other house with a garage in back that doesn't fit the zoning laws. 80 Parker has a full 2nd story......

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm


if, as you describe they changed the rules and did not notify then you have a complaint. I have a hard time with this as I get notifications of planning issues all the time, but different town, so maybe.

The point still remains - Elizabeth Lewis is NOT the council person to be pushing this issue and she needs to recuse herself from any vote on the issue. It is a clear conflict of interest.

And if you're wondering why people are attacking Elizabeth, it's because they are P.O.'d. They elect their council persons to a position of trust. It is pretty obvious Ms. Lewis has violated zoning ordinances and therefor is likely guilty of malfeasance. People get angry when their trust is vioalated.

Posted by Marie Antoinette, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Come on cut the elitist nonsense.

I thought I heard everything. Then someone comes up with a post betraying a "let them eat cake attitude".

People who post such nonsense are the kind of people who have so much money they think the solution is to spend money.

Has it every occurred to you silver spoon fed folk that some people may not be able to afford another lot, or that they choose to live within their means?

People like Colleen should not be penalized for following the rules.

People like Colleen should not be oppressed by the tyrany of the majority.

People like Colleen should be given a break.

For God's sake, stop bashing Colleen because you hate Elizabeth Lewis.

This threat is getting vituperous and ridiculous.

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