Tonight: Woodside studies changing allowable house sizes


Woodside's Town Council will hold a third study session Tuesday (May 24) on whether it should increase the maximum allowable size of main residences.

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

Also on the council's agenda:

● An update on efforts to reduce aircraft noise in Woodside from commercial flights headed to San Francisco International Airport.

● A resolution to raise to 8 percent from 6 percent the contributions by town employees to their retirement accounts.

The study session on maximum house size continues a discussion of complaints first brought to the council in May 2014 by residents of the Woodside Heights neighborhood. The issue: Residents of Atherton just across Stockbridge Avenue, in similar circumstances, enjoyed more permissive regulations on how large their houses could be.

Woodside Heights residents are asking for a change to the municipal code that would increase their current limit of 4,000 square feet for a main residence on a one-acre lot to 5,500 square feet.

The council held a second study session in October 2015.

Council members have been sympathetic to the residents' request, but reluctant to move quickly without changing residence square-footage allowances throughout the town.

The proposal before the council for discussion on May 24, drafted by staff, would allow increases of up to 10 percent, depending on the size of the lot.

A zoning subcommittee of the Town Council – made up of councilman and general contractor Dave Tanner and councilman and architect Peter Mason – has been studying the matter along with Planning Director Jackie Young and Town Manager Kevin Bryant. Mayor Deborah Gordon said she occasionally sits in.

Ms. Gordon added two new members on March 8: Planning Commissioner Marilyn Voelke and resident Greg Raleigh. Mr. Raleigh is a regular critic of residential project review practices, particularly those of the Architectural and Site Review Board. Ms. Voelke often defends the current review practices when she makes public comments to the council.

Ms. Gordon said she added Ms. Voelke and Mr. Raleigh to "bring in different points of view."

Resident and architect Steve Lubin has been critical of subcommittee work behind closed doors. He argues for broader participation by the community in public meetings convened specifically to discuss a particular matter. Council meetings are "highly charged where many people are hesitant to speak up," Mr. Lubin said in a guest opinion in the Almanac.

Broad-based community meetings could encourage a civil discussion and avoid anonymous attacks in online forums, he said.

Asked to comment, Ms. Gordon said she considers council meetings to be community meetings.

A table in the staff report shows the effect if every main residence in town were built to its maximum size: the aggregate square footage would go up by 18 percent.

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