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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Menlo Park mayor wants home-building rules on November ballot Menlo Park mayor wants home-building rules on November ballot (April 21, 2004)

By Rebecca Wallace
Almanac Staff Writer

Rather than repealing a controversial set of home-building rules, the Menlo Park City Council should take the issue to the voters, Mayor Lee Duboc has declared. And she'd like the council to endorse that action as soon as possible.

The rules, which were approved by the council in January, were put on hold by a successful referendum petition certified the following month. The petition means the council must either rescind the rules or have the city's voters decide in November whether to do so.

Instead of making that decision right away, though, a divided council opted to delay the vote until June. Ms. Duboc and council members Mickie Winkler and Nicholas Jellins, who supported the rules, voted for the delay, infuriating opponents of the rules.

But last week Ms. Duboc said she'd changed her mind. City staff members recently provided a detailed report comparing the new rules with the current residential zoning ordinance, which will help residents be more informed when they vote, she said.

"Furthermore, after interacting with many residents I know that citizens want to vote on this issue," Ms. Duboc wrote in an April 14 e-mail to her council colleagues.

The council will discuss her e-mail at the Tuesday, April 20, meeting and could opt to vote on the rules' fate as soon as April 27, Ms. Duboc said.

The council members who supported delaying the vote on the rules said they wanted more time to meet with residents and discern their views on the matter. Opponents accused the council of violating the California Elections Code, but both City Attorney Bill McClure and Tony Miller, legal counsel with the California Secretary of State's office, said there was nothing illegal about the delay.

Councilmen Chuck Kinney and Paul Collacchi have opposed the rules and tabling the issue.

Supporters say the new rules bring certainty and fairness to the approval process for new homes and major remodels by removing much of the human discretion from the process. Opponents say that discretion is needed to protect neighbors against "monster" homes that block sunlight and reduce privacy.

The April 20 council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 801 Laurel St. The staff report on the rules is available at

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