The use permit was granted Aug. 13, by a minority of the seven-member Planning Commission (Harry Bims, Lou Deziel, Henry Riggs) in a 3-1 vote, with Vince Bressler dissenting and three members (Kirsten Keith, John O'Malley, Melody Pagee) absent. Acting Chair Lou Deziel declared in the hearing that it is "open season" for development on substandard lots.
The appeal concerns 578 Olive, but the community issue is site-appropriate development on substandard lots throughout Menlo Park. The neighbors believe the Planning Commission is abdicating its responsibility under the zoning ordinance provision for substandard lots, which requires an affirmative finding that the proposed use would not be detrimental to the neighborhood.
The lot in question has three heritage redwoods in its backyard, and three on its border with the Harris' home, next door. The adjoining neighbors both have much smaller homes — a 2,237 square foot on one side and 1,415 square foot on the other. Each has a detached two-car garage and no basement.
The developer, Mandana Jamishnejad, of J5 Development Co. and Coldwell Banker, has requested a permit for a 5,400 square foot house on this substandard lot three times before the Planning Commission. Three times, up to 18 immediate neighbors have unanimously opposed the proposal, believing that the house would cause significant detriment to their heritage redwoods, sunlight, and privacy. Specifically, the neighbors say:
• The autocourt/parking lot will cover much of both the front yard and the root structure of two of the Harris' redwood trees. The neighbors request the autocourt/parking lot be eliminated.
•The 1,939 square foot basement will require digging into the root structure of several heritage redwoods. The neighbors request that additional precautions be followed when building the basement so as to protect the redwoods, and ask for a bond to assure these precautions are followed.
• The first floor is 2,367 square feet, and the second floor 961 square feet. The neighbors do not oppose the size of the second floor, but want it to be re-massed toward the front of the house so it will not harm their sunlight and privacy.
It will now be up to the City Council to decide whether to continue the open season for the development of substandard lots in Menlo Park.
Nancy Cox and Kevin Harris
560 Olive St. and
Lee and Jim Crowley
592 Olive St., Menlo Park