The Woodside Town Council on Tuesday, Jan. 10, by a unanimous vote with two council members absent, took the first of two steps in approving an ordinance to expand the maximum allowable floor area of a main residence.
Under the new ordinance, the maximum allowable square footage will increase by up to 10 percent in most zoning areas. The new rules include sliding scales that rise as the size of the acreage rises.
Councilwoman Deborah Gordon and Councilman Daniel Yost were absent. The council is required to vote on the ordinance a second time and if approved, the ordinance becomes law 30 days later.
As an example, current rules allow the main house to be up to 6,000 square feet on properties zoned RR and SCP-5, SCP-7.5 and SCP-10. That maximum currently rises to 8,000 square feet if the Planning Commission grants an exception – permission to exceed the maximum if the project meets criteria that include consistency with the town's general plan, regulations on setbacks and building height, and compatibility with the surroundings.
The new ordinance would increase the exception to 8,800 square feet. The new ordinance would also streamline the process, placing authority to grant an exception with the planning director and taking out of the loop the Planning Commission and review of the exception itself by the Architectural and Site Review Board.
The new rules would not change the total floor area allowed – all structures included – on a given piece of property. The new maximum floor areas for a main residence, with exceptions granted, would be as follows:
• For the R-1 zoning area, a cap of 4,200 square feet.
• For the SR zoning area, a cap of 5,500 square feet on a parcel of at least 1.5 acres.
• For the RR zoning area, a cap of 8,800 square feet on a parcel of at least 4.5 acres.
• For the SCP-5 zoning area, a cap of 8,800 square feet on a parcel of at least 7.5 acres.
• For the SCP-7.5 zoning area, a cap of 8,800 square feet on a parcel of at least 11.25 acres.
• For the SCP-10 zoning area, a cap of 8,800 square feet on a parcel of at least 15 acres.
In emails sent to the council ahead of the vote on this topic, opinions on the higher floor area limits for main residences were running 3:1 in favor of the changes.
The ordinance was inspired by residents of Woodside Heights who in 2014 complained that floor area limits on Atherton homes nearby were significantly more generous. The residents asked the council to allow a transfer of the floor area from accessory structures to the main house.
While deliberating, council members decided that if they were going to allow larger homes in Woodside Heights, they would have to figure out a formula that would apply throughout the town.
Click here for the staff report.
Before voting, council members noted ruefully that it had taken 34 months to get this change into place. Such a delay was "totally uncalled for," Councilman Dave Tanner said.
The next topic will be how to apply these rules to parcels that do not conform to the norms set out in the municipal code. This category of so-called non-conforming parcels includes more than half of the residential parcels in Woodside.
Work needs to begin on this issue immediately, Mr. Tanner said.
Mayor Tom Livermore commended residents who provided feedback, noting that the change might have come about sooner had the council not been interrupted by action on a basement ordinance – a complicated revision to town regulations that involved months of work and six public hearings.