Tuesday: Woodside may block construction of 'super basements'

Moratorium would give town time to study problem and adopt new restrictions.

Construction of super-sized basements in Woodside in recent years has been disrupting land formations, drainage and ground water patterns, as well as neighborhoods, according to Town Manager Kevin Bryant.

The Town Council meets on Tuesday, April 14, to consider a moratorium on these basements. A council subcommittee has examined limitations on a basement's size and depth, its setback from property lines, what it can be used for, and whether it could extend beyond the footprint of the house above, Mr. Bryant said in a statement.

Click here for the staff report prepared for this study session.

The ordinance before the council would set limits that allow only conventional one-story basements. The ordinance would give the council, in consultation with the community, perhaps in more study sessions, the time to consider the issue and come up with new policies, he said.

The council meets on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road.

The urgency ordinance would apply to applications for basements submitted after Wednesday, April 15.

The public is invited and encouraged to attend to discuss the topic. The council and town staff are particularly interested in hearing from residents with plans to build basements and/or residents affected by neighbors' basement construction.

Members of the town's Planning Commission and the Architectural and Site Review Board are likely to be in the audience and to participate in the study session, according to town staff.

— Dave Boyce

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


12 people like this
Posted by mary
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:29 pm

I really do not mind cutting down on my water usage. i understand that we are in the midst of a drought. what i do not understand is the approval of thousands of new apartments and, in menlo park, a 250 room hotel. where is that water supposed to come from? my understanding is that there are 3000 apartments going up in redwood city at this time. and what about los altos? palo alto? let's really think about this and move toward reducing the number of new residents until we have the water to serve their needs as well as are own.

6 people like this
Posted by Agree with Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:46 pm

How about a moratorium on mega offices like Facebook's next phase? More campus=more employees=more space need to housing needed. How much more can Menlo absorb?

5 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 13, 2015 at 1:14 pm

I think this article refers to Woodside basements, right? Having super-sized basements does have impacts not apparent at first glance and might well be regulated.

Building apartments in Redwood City and offices like Facebook are reflections of our strong local economy which provides jobs and requires housing. These are both good developments for everyone. Water use by urban areas is much less of a percentage of the total used in the state, meaning urban development does not have a significant impact on the drought.

12 people like this
Posted by basements are not free
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Woodside is noticing something very important -- basements do not mean no additional impacts. In fact, they can kill trees, interrupt drainage, move noise closer to neighbors.
Menlo Park needs to wake up about this issue. Basement square footage was not counted towards total allowed square feet in the past when almost no one added up. But now projects go up and down.

sorry Member, unlimited growth in our area needs to be rethought, too. There is limited infrastructure and limited natural resources. Ignoring that reality is at our collective peril.

4 people like this
Posted by Save water, slow growth
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 13, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Although I agree that this is off topic, Mary is spot on with her comment on growth and the water shortage. It is unbelievable that our elected officials don't see the connection, only dollar signs.

2 people like this
Posted by Nancy Reyering
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 15, 2015 at 5:46 am

Another giant fail by the Woodside Town Council. Mayor Shanahan and former mayor Dave Burow showed complete disregard for the General Plan, and a lack of concern for residents who are tired of having their quality of life disturbed by the rattle of off haul trucks from mammoth building projects that drag on for years. Like many other short-sighted businessmen, this Council thinks development interests trump all. Shame on you.

2 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Actually, the water issue is a red herring for growth. New offices and housing use very little water. 80% of water in California is used for farming, and 70% of the remaining 20% that goes to metro areas is used for lawns and swimming pools. In other words, only 6% goes to human use rather than land irrigation!

If you look at per-person numbers, according to the city of Santa Monica, a person using water efficiently uses 68 gallons/day, or roughly 25,000 gallons per year.(Web Link) That sounds like a lot, but agriculture uses even more. It takes one gallon of water to produce one almond. (Web Link). So a year's worth of water for one person is 25,000 almonds... roughly 62 pounds or about $200 worth of almonds to a farmer.

Because so little water usage is by humans, it's very easy for cities to add population while reducing water use. In fact, our neighbor Palo Alto did this between 2000 and 2010 - the city added 5% more households, but total water use decreased by 18%! See Web Link for the data.

2 people like this
Posted by Woodside Resident
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 15, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Thank you very much to Mayor Shanahan and former mayor Dave Burow for defending the rights of Woodside residents and for stopping an illegal use of the "Urgency Ordinance" law!! It was people like Nancy above, a tiny but very noisy and very busy group of Woodside residents and staff, who concocted the idea that there is a "basement emergency that is threatening the public health" in order to improperly use a law for emergency ordinances that would have prevented public discourse on the topic of whether or not we need new basement restrictions. They knew there would be no way to get away with this abuse we all found out what they are up to. Why are these people constantly lobbying Town Council to take away our property rights??? They failed this time and democracy in Woodside won! We need more people on the Council to realize that the small group that lobbies them all time to take away the rights of the majority don't represent us AT ALL!! Maybe it's time for a change in our Council so we have more people like Mayor Shanahan and former mayor Dave Burow who defend our right to happiness and peace from intrusive government. Council needs to get with it and stop siding with the clanging gong gang who have an agenda to harm us.

Like this comment
Posted by Fed Up
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Nancy Reyering [part removed] attempted to enact an emergency ban on "excessive" basements. What was the emergency, you ask? According to Ms. Reyering, basements threaten "public safety and health." (Seriously?)

Not surprisingly, the Town Council and residents disagreed.

And how does Ms. Reyering react to not getting her way? She posts a comment on The Almanac that publicly shames her opponents. She shames the Town Council for its "giant fail", she shames Mayors Shanahan and Burow for their "disregard for the General Plan", and she shames everyone else for being like "short-sighted businessmen." [part removed. Please post comments without attacks.]

A few words of advice to Ms. Reyering. [part removed] Second, stop dictating to residents about the types of fences and basements residents can build on their own properties. [part removed]

6 people like this
Posted by Et Alia
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:20 pm


Nancy Reyering didn't "attempt to enact" the ordinance. Woodside Planning Director Jackie Young proposed the urgency ordinance on behalf of the ASRB and Planning Commission.

"Not surprisingly, the Town Council and residents disagreed."

Actually, five of the seven council members voted for the ordinance. Six votes were needed to pass an urgency ordinance.

As for the opinion of residents: Those who came to the meeting disagreed. There are plenty of people in Woodside on either side of this issue.

4 people like this
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Fed Up: "[S]top dictating to residents about the types of fences and basements residents can build on their own properties."

Actually, that is one of the main reasons that local government exists. Otherwise, you would have people building whatever they wanted, environment and the community be damned.

There is only so much anarchy a community can take.

4 people like this
Posted by 30 Year Resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Nancy Reyering - Please run for Town Council. You represent so many Woodside residents who are sick and tired of the "rule by those who yell the loudest" actions actions of our town council as of late. The town needs someone to stick up for those of us who love Woodside for its rural, tree-lined streets, horses sharing the trails with kids and dogs, and low key residents who encourage their kids to set up lemonade stands or sell the excess out of the family's vegetable garden, even if they are Silicon Valley titans. Those who want trophy homes should move to a community that encourages them, not try to change Woodside so it's no longer the place we've always loved.
Council members should not throw common sense to the wind just because a few people who are very confused about how town government works make a lot of noise. No one ever envisioned 11,000 square-foot underground structures as "basements." Of course they should not be allowed.

11 people like this
Posted by Status Quo
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 21, 2015 at 7:02 am

Woodsiders should be aware that this small but vocal group wants to CHANGE the current regulations whether for fences or basements. These zealots wish to impose their ideas and beliefs on everyone else.

I think most property owners believe that Woodside's current regulations are pretty restrictive. I've never heard a homeowner bragging about how easy it was to get a permit or an approval from the Planning Commission or Architectural Review Boards. We have plenty of safeguards in our town. Property owners are not running wild with crazy projects.

Just as citizens are not permitted to modify regulations just to suit a selfish desire, the Town Council should not be allowed to change regulations that were in place when we purchased our homes unless there is a COMPELLING need to do so. There is not.

Our basement and fence regs seem to be working just fine. Just because a handful of people want to change that and impose their ideas on the rest of us is hardly compelling. We have rights too.

Woodside's Town Council should be held to the same standard to which they hold us, namely a "compelling" need. Leave it alone, Council.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Couple brings Chinese zongzi to Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 5,933 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 1,739 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,472 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,157 views

Bobby in Naziland: A Tale of Flatbush
By Stuart Soffer | 2 comments | 526 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More