Woodside planning officials received a boatload of feedback at a June 5 study session about a compromise proposal that would have allowed most residents of the space-constrained Glens neighborhood to add on to their homes without triggering an onerous environmental impact report.
The proposal would allow homeowners to use the total floor area of the house in square feet as the maximum size of the house.
Maximum house size in the Glens is now 1,000 square feet plus 10% of the total lot area, with a 3,000 square foot cap. A proposal introduced in January by a group of Glens residents would peg the maximum house size at 2,000 square feet plus 10% of the total lot area, with no cap.
It also would allow planners to approve development on lots with 35% or greater slopes based on exceptions rather than variances, thereby smoothing the approval process.
The principal criticism of the plan from commissioners and residents was that it is too uniform and fails to give enough relief to homeowners on smaller lots while being too generous with residents on larger lots in the neighborhood.
A homeowner with a 6,000-square-foot lot would be allowed to increase the size of the house by 640 square feet, while a resident with a 24,000-square-foot lot would be able to add 1,200 square feet.
Commissioner Craig London urged the planning staff to give priority to homes of 10,000 square feet or less rather than larger homes in order to serve "the greatest need."
"Small lots should get priority," London said.
Commissioner Marilyn Voelke agreed that "the most help should go to smaller lots."
"We should have a sliding scale (depending on the size of the house), but the cap should stay at 3,000 square feet," she said.
Former mayor Ron Romines, a Glens resident, described the plan as "a blanket proposal, with substantial increases allowed across the board."
"Small lots are where there is the most need," he said. "We need greater flexibility with the small lots."
The proposed change in hillside development rules generated a difference of opinion, but was generally supported by commissioners.
Resident Susan Romines objected to "putting more people on steep hillsides," citing safety concerns over traffic, kids using skateboards and other hazards.
London said that thousands of homes in San Francisco and Marin County are built on slopes greater than 35% that are safe with the correct engineering.
In the end, commissioners asked the planning staff to consider increases for lots up to 10,000 square feet, with a 3,000-square-foot cap and to encourage people to build garages for lots of up 7,500 square feet by not including the garages' floor areas in the total, according to Planning Director Jackie Young.
For the lots of greater than 35% slope, they recommended exempting improvements for which no permit would be needed, requiring an exception for minor improvements. A variance would continue to be required for major improvements, such as constructing a new home, Young said.
A variance is an official permit to do something normally not allowed by regulations.
The commission will take up the issue again at a July 10 special meeting, when there will be a focus on regulating setbacks and garages.
The Glens hearing was preceded and followed by a hearing on a plan for a new clubhouse at the Menlo Country Club that was criticized by a group of neighbors, principally over the potential for increased noise.