On Tuesday, October 30, the Menlo Park City Council will hear the appeal of a use permit for a 5400+ SF spec house on the 70-foot wide tree-covered substandard lot at 578 Olive Street. The appeal was brought by the adjoining neighbors, the Crowley family at 592 Olive and the Harris family at 560 Olive.
The use permit was granted August 13, by a minority of the 7 member Planning Commission (Bims, Deziel, Riggs) in a 3-1 vote, with Vince Bressler dissenting and 3 members (Keith, O’Malley, Pagee) absent. Acting Chair Lou Deziel declared in the hearing that it is “open season” for development on substandard lots.
The appeal concerns 578 Olive, but the community issue is site-appropriate development on substandard lots throughout Menlo Park. The neighbors believe the Planning Commission is abdicating its responsibility under the Zoning Ordinance provision for substandard lots, which requires an affirmative finding that the proposed use would not be detrimental to the neighborhood.
578 Olive has three heritage redwoods in its backyard, and three on its border with the Harris’ home, next door. The adjoining neighbors both have one floor houses – a 2237 SF and 1415 SF house, each with a detached two-car garage and no basement.
The developer, Mandana Jamishnejad, Esq., of J5 Development Co. and Coldwell Banker, has requested a permit for a 5400 + SF house on this substandard lot three times before the Planning Commission. Three times, up to eighteen immediate neighbors have unanimously opposed the proposal, believing that the house would cause significant detriment to their heritage redwoods, sunlight, and privacy. Specifically:
- The “autocourt”/parking lot will cover much of both the front yard and the root structure of two of the Harris’ redwoods. The neighbors request the autocourt/parking lot be eliminated.
- The 1939 SF basement will require digging into the root structure of several heritage redwoods. The neighbors request that additional precautions be followed when building the basement so as to protect the redwoods, and ask for a bond to assure these precautions are followed.
- The first floor is 2367 SF, and the second floor 961 SF. The neighbors do not oppose the size of the second floor, but want it to be re-massed toward the front of the house so it will not harm their sunlight and privacy.
It will now be up to the City Council whether to continue the open season for the development of substandard lots in Menlo Park.
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