Tuesday: Woodside studies basement rules


The Woodside Town Council met Tuesday, May 26 for a second study session on the topic of basements and whether their location, design and construction should be regulated to be more aligned with the town's 2012 general plan.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. in Independence Hall at 2955 Woodside Road.

The specific discussion points on basements include setbacks, the relationship between basements and the size of the residence, grading as it relates to basements and their location, and requirements for geo-technical and hydrological review of basement plans, according to a staff report.

The issue is important, the report says, because residents' basement proposals have been increasing in number, size and intensity of use, "a significant departure" from the basements envisioned in 1995, when the current regulations were drafted.

Recent proposals include basements that extend beyond the footprint of the building above, multiple basements connected by tunnels, stand-alone basements, and basements equipped as accessory living spaces, the report says.

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

At the first study session on April 14, the council considered an urgency ordinance, recommended by a council subcommittee, that would have temporarily limited approval of new basements to the conventional variety, such as basements that stay within the footprint of the structure above. On a 5-2 vote by the council, the ordinance failed to get the necessary four-fifths majority for approval. Mayor Tom Shanahan and Councilman Dave Burow voted no.

Click here for the Almanac story on the council's April 14 study session.

Also on the agenda:

■ Plans to advertise for bids to remodel the interior of the public library.

■ Reconsidering an ordinance, first introduced and approved by the council on May 12, that would complement the water conservation regulations that the California Water Service Company will be using to enforce compliance with the drought emergency. Cal Water recently revised its irrigration limit for ornamental landscaping to two days a week from the original three-day limit, a substantial change, according to a staff report.

■ Who should bear the cost of preparing a historic evaluation report for a Woodside residence? State law requires an analysis of the historical significance of properties 50 years old or older ahead of any "substantial adverse change" to the property that would affect that significance. Staff proposes three ways forward, two of which would have the property owner paying for the evaluation. Click here for the staff report.

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Like this comment
Posted by Woodside Glens Resident
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on May 26, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Here we go again - another reduction in our ability to improve our properties. I took a quick look at the ordinance proposals and if you already have a house you will have less rights to build a basement someday than someone willing to tear down their house or someone building a big new house. This is unfair! Also, if you live in areas that don't have mega parcels like the Glens then the requirement to only put the basement in the areas that are allowed for above ground setbacks will make it about impossible for many of us to find a place that meets the new proposed ordinance.

Basements are not seen so they don't need a big setback. What's wrong with simply limiting square footage and allowing a basement anywhere up to within 10 or 20 feet of the property line as long as it's underground and doesn't disturb the neighboring property somehow?

There goes the wine cellar we would like to put in some day!

And who says we need changes to our basement regulations? What is the crisis?? Too many bureaucrats with too much time on their hands - that's the crisis!!

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on May 26, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

The council will be considering basements under nonconforming structures, such as occur in neighborhoods in which lots are small. From Page 3 of the May 26 staff report, in particular item 4:

"In alignment with the discussion at the first study session, the Town Council Zoning Subcommittee recommends the following:

"1. Require basements to meet all required setbacks (Attachment 1, Required Setbacks by Zoning District);

"2. Allow egress light wells, and egress stairways within setbacks if they are immediately parallel to the basement wall along its longest length, and designed to the minimum required by building code (Attachment 2, CRC Minimum Required Egress Light Wells and Stairways).

"3. Continue to hold to the prohibition for grading within ten feet of the property line; and,

"4. Allow construction of new basements beneath nonconforming structures which encroach into required setbacks so long as that portion of the newly constructed basement located in the setback does not exceed the footprint of the nonconforming structure."

3 people like this
Posted by Margie
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 27, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Sounds like reasonable limits. Why aren't these already in the codes? What is Woodside: the Wild West? Why should we, neighbors, have to endure years of trucks, noise, and construction that come with outrageously big houses, huge basements, endless development of the property. We have a right to peaceful roads and neighborhoods.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 27, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.


someone developed your property. What about the right of your neighbors to "peaceful roads and neighborhoods?" You can bet trucks were used during the construction of your home. I got mine so to heck with everyone else, eh?

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