Letter: Neighbors oppose big house on Olive Street
Original post made
on Oct 24, 2007
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Menlo Park City Council will hear the appeal of a use permit for a 5,400 square foot spec house on a 70-foot wide tree-covered substandard lot at 578 Olive St. The appeal was filed by the adjoining neighbors, the Crowley family at 592 Olive and the Harris family at 560 Olive.
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posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 12:00 AM
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Posted by Kevin & Nancy
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 28, 2007 at 10:29 pm
October 27, 2007
Dear Menlo Park Neighbors,
Mandana Nejad (or Mandana Jamshinejad), the developer of 578 Olive Street, has widely circulated a misleading letter about the issues with the project. You may have been led to believe she wants to build a home for her family; actually, it is a spec development for resale.
We do not have the developer's resources to send mass mailings through the Coldwell Banker distribution list (she is also a Coldwell Banker realtor), so we can only respond with this letter to set the record straight. If the facts really were as she suggests, we would agree with her. But the facts are as follows:
(1) There are Heritage Redwood Trees at stake, and we want construction in their tree protection zones avoided.
The reason the Harris family is appealing is the effect this project will have on six beautiful redwoods, three on the Harris family border with 578 Olive and three in its own backyard. The developer does not even mention these trees in her letter. Nor does she mention that the enormous front yard "auto court" (parking lot) would encroach within the tree protection zones of both the Harris' front yard trees, which would involve cutting roots to within 3 feet of the root flare of the Harris' weakest tree. Our arborists believe this auto court / parking lot should be moved away from our trees' protection zones to avoid detriment, and we fear for our trees.
If the entrance of the new garage faced front toward Olive Street, rather than to the side facing the Harris' trees, the developer would not need to build an auto court. This solution involves changing the location of the garage door, and would be simple if the developer cared about the trees. The developer also wants to build a 1900+ SF basement in the tree protection zones of several heritage trees, to within 10 feet of two heritage trees, and 20 feet from a Harris tree whose tree protection zone is 23 feet. We have asked that extra precautions be required in constructing this large basement, and for a bond to assure that these precautions are followed.
(2) We agree to the size of the second floor; we just want it reoriented forward on the house (more toward Olive Street) so it won't block the westerly neighbor's morning sunlight.
We accept the 961 SF second floor proposed as a reasonable size. But we object to the placement of this second floor, as it blocks the Crowleys' morning sun from their one-floor home next door. We ask that the developer adjust the second floor, not reduce its size, to reorient it more considerately.
(3) The owner of the 578 Olive Street property (which the developer misleadingly refers to as " our home") is an investor in London. The actual owner of 578 Olive has never met, spoken or otherwise communicated with the neighbors.
The developer does not live here either she is only on Olive Street to make a profit. Olive Street has been our home for many years, and will be for years to come. We love our neighborhood and our heritage redwoods, and want them to survive this project. By contrast, this out-of-town developer is building a spec house for the profit of the overseas owner. The developer has not done many projects in Menlo Park, and will likely move on after she sells this project. But we will be left with the consequences -- of how she treats our heritage redwoods and where she places her second floor -- for years.
(4) Mandana presents a long list of the supposed concessions she has made to satisfy neighbor concerns, but most of these were cosmetic changes that did not address the neighbors' key concerns, and the changes to address key concerns are vindictive.
In reality, most of the items on this list were changes the developer made at the request of the Planning Commission or on her own initiative. For example, her interior designer, suggested the design change from Tudor to Craftsman, not us. The Planning Commission told her she couldn't have balconies overlooking the Harris' backyard swimming pool. The key concerns we have raised throughout, that is, impact on the heritage redwood trees and access to morning sunlight, have never been adequately addressed.
After months of developer indifference to the dangers posed by construction of the garage over the roots of the Harris' trees, the Crowleys suggested to the City Planner that Mandana move her garage over to their side of the property, where there are no heritage trees to be jeopardized. But instead making the garage front-loading, like nearly every other house on Olive Street, Mandana's garage door is on the side facing the Harris' trees. She then designed an enormous front yard "auto court" parking lot that extends all the way from the garage to within 3 feet of the root flare of the Harris' tree (closer to the tree than ever.) Why won't Mandana front-load her garage so as not to harm the heritage trees that beautify the perimeter of her lot? This is not how real neighbors treat each other.
(5) Mandana states that "if the opposing neighbors are successful in prohibiting us from building our home, it may limit what you can do with your own property and/or reduce the value of your property."
This claim represents the worst type of developer scare tactics. Property values will not be reduced if spec developers are required to place their projects considerately on the lots they buy, so as to minimize harm to their neighbors.
We are not anti-development, anti-second floor, or anti-property rights, as Mandana suggests. We support responsible development by responsible developers. We have appeared before or written to the Planning Commission in support of other two-story projects on Olive Street. As Menlo Park residents, property owners, voters and taxpayers, we have legitimate concerns about our property rights and property values, which we believe will be best served by the denial of this project in its current form.
(6) Mandana will not mediate with the neighbors without her litigation attorney. We are extremely frustrated by the planning process. It would take very little for the developer to place this same size house on the lot considerately, so it doesn't hurt the neighbors or their trees. If she, or the owner of 578 Olive, would have really consulted with us and re-massed this house just a little, it would be built by now. But Mandana will not be considerate of her Menlo Park neighbors, or meaningfully discuss the issues with them. Twice she proceeded with plans directly to the Planning Commission without even first showing them to the neighbors. The third time she showed them to us, but never discussed with us how her plans might be improved so she could get what she wants without hurting the neighborhood where she bought the lot. Kelly Fergusson, the Mayor of Menlo Park, suggested that we go to mediation, an idea that we embraced. But Mandana refused to attend without her litigation attorney. We don't want to litigate, we want to mediate; and, we don't want the quality of our life diminished for her profit.
Ways you can communicate your views and get involved
If you are concerned about any of these issues and the future of our neighborhood, now is the time to express your views before the City Council. We welcome and greatly appreciate your support through any of the following ways:
1. Attend the October 30th City Council meeting, which is held at 7 pm at the Council offices at 701 Laurel St.
2. Send written comments by email to the entire City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or to individual City Council members:
Kelly Fergusson email@example.com
John Boyle firstname.lastname@example.org
Heyward Robinson email@example.com
Andrew Cohen firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Cline email@example.com
3. Sign our petition requesting a bond to protect Heritage Redwood Trees. Please contact Kevin Harris at 650 853 3040 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you will sign the petition; nearly 50 of our neighbors have signed so far.
4. Please feel free to contact any of us with your comments or suggestions and to share this
letter with your friends and neighbors.
Jim Crowley and Lee Crowley Nancy Cox and Kevin Harris
592 Olive Street 560 Olive Street