Woodside council nixes moratorium on 'super basements'


The Woodside Town Council chose not to adopt a moratorium Tuesday on super-sized basements while the town updates basement regulations that date to the 1980s.

The council met in a study session April 14, likely the first of several on this topic, to consider a town staff recommendation to adopt an urgency ordinance temporarily limiting approval of new basements to the conventional variety that stays within the footprint of the structure above.

The town has seen the construction of 40 basements since 2009, an average of seven a year, Planning Director Jackie Young told the council. But the planning department has received nine basement applications in the first quarter of 2015, including three after the news of the study session and the possibility of an urgency ordinance was made public, Ms. Young said.

The impacts of basement construction on neighbors, on the water table, on the land itself and on the roads from large dump trucks are among the concerns that face staff, the Planning Commission and Architectural and Site Review Board.

Members of both panels attended the meeting and contributed to the discussion.

The council considered an ordinance that would have used existing maximums for house sizes as a reference point, allowing those maximums to apply to basements, and allowing up to 50 percent of a basement to extend beyond the footprint of an above-ground structure.

The vote was 5-2 in favor, with Mayor Tom Shanahan and Councilman Dave Burow dissenting. Because the ordinance had not been on the agenda and therefore classified as urgent, Town Attorney Jean Savaree told the council, it needed a four-fifths vote to pass – six votes if all seven members of the council were present, which they were.

A longer term effort to update the basements regulations will continue, but without a moratorium.

The staff gave the council a list of basement proposals the town has seen over the last several years, including one that was approved in 2013 – a nearly 14,000-square-foot basement on Mountain Wood Lane. The underground structure included a six-car garage and three bathrooms along with a bunkroom, two powder rooms, a family room, a media room, an exercise room, a massage room, an office, a pantry, a wine cellar, storage and lightwell courtyards, according to a staff report.

Click here for the staff report prepared for this study session. Turn to Page 9 for the list of basement proposals.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


5 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 16, 2015 at 6:28 am

can I come live in your basement ? What a lucky person to have that much space underground to live like a mole in such luxury quarters. Are the underground bathroms on septic? where does that water go & how could they possible ever cut back their water usage like we all are being asked to do ? A bit decadent don't you think ? How big is house that is on top of the ground ?

Like this comment
Posted by homeowner
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Apr 16, 2015 at 3:00 pm

It's about time our Council stood up for the homeowner for once. Woodside used to be OK for approving reasonable home additions etc, but over the past 10 years or so for some reason our town has slowly become the absolute worst when it comes to just about any kind of home improvement approvals. They just kept adding one little change after another so that now homeowners are attacked when they want to remodel, put in a pool or landscape. Why do the people in town hall and the town government feel like they have to smother all of our avenues to remodel the way we want to as long as it's tasteful for our neighbors? Basements have been the one area left where we have decent allowances. We don't have any underground rooms but some of our friends do and this is a wonderful way to fit in more space for the things the planning staff and ASRB people won't let us have above ground. From what I hear even if the rules say we can they say "no - just because we don't like it". And rooms underground are great for the neighborhood and saving trees. We've been thinking about putting in a game room and wine cellar some day. Sure don't want the Council and people in town hall to mess this little dream up for us.

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

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,903 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,687 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,265 views

Two degrees can do all that?
By Sherry Listgarten | 2 comments | 771 views

Tame, Maim and Claim the Wild Sea Vegetable
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 269 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