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Menlo Park: Big new house OK'd despite neighbors' objections

Original post made on Jul 27, 2017

A controversial plan to demolish a one-story single family home and build a 4,900-square-foot, two-story, Spanish-style house at 445 Oak Court in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park was approved July 18.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 11:21 PM

Comments (18)

Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 27, 2017 at 8:51 am

The house looks pretty nice to me!

It's incredibly hard to comply with the zoning codes. I know multiple people who have remodeled or rebuilt their houses in the Willows (usually because it was cheaper than moving to a bigger house in a different neighborhood). If anything, our zoning codes are too strict and make life worse for residents. The people who complain are often motivated by a desire to prevent change in their neighborhood rather than actual externalities to their property.

If the house complies with code, let it be!

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 27, 2017 at 8:53 am

Why do we even bother with a planning commission or city council. Thought they were supposed to watch out for residents, not developers.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 27, 2017 at 11:54 am


"usually because it was cheaper than moving to a bigger house in a different neighborhood" I have to disagree, the Willows is a great neighborhood with lots of great people and has completely been revitalized in the last decade from predominatly "empty nesters" who had been in the area a long time to young families raising children. I think people are remodeling their Willows houses because they like the neighborhood and want to remain there.

I do agree that if it meets the code then they should not have to jump through hoops to get it approved. Some neighbors have moved in and added to their house and are now happy and don't want change around them. Well unfortunately this is the wrong place for that. It is sad to see the animosity that is generated in these cases because they will end up being neighbors and would benefit greatly from getting along, working together and helping each other out.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 27, 2017 at 12:13 pm

It's s beautiful house. It was approved by the planning commission.

What's wrong with the opposing neighbors? Why are they so vicious? What's all this vitriol for?

Just welcome the new neighbor. And his beautiful house to the neighborhood. Stop the vitriol.

Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 27, 2017 at 12:34 pm

For context, I've expanded my house's square footage by 50% since I bought it. You couldn't tell from the street, as it still matches my neighboring homes. Most of them have also been remodeled, most expanded, but all tastefully.

This is an existing 1100 square foot house -- too bad the Almanac doesn't show that photo -- on a large 1/3 acre lot. A developer's dream! Buy it for $2.6 mm (last year's selling price), quadruple the size, and flip next year for $5-6mm or whatever the market will bear.

The question is not whether it's a well-designed house. Oak Ct is a cul-de-sac, and if you take a look at it, you'll see the houses fit a certain aesthetic without being cookie cutter. I can't blame the neighbors for objecting to a house that junks up the street, especially when it was designed without any consideration for the neighborhood, most likely as a quick profit investment (the inclusion of a basement is a clue).

Someone who wants a house like that should find an appropriate location for it. Not expect the neighbors to bear the consequences. Too bad the PC and CC once again caved to the deepest pockets instead of the residents they are supposed to serve.

Posted by tecsi
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jul 27, 2017 at 12:40 pm

I would estimate that 80%++ of the "additions for parents" I have seen become rentals. Unless rentals are explicitly approved, there should be restrictions so that the "parents" don't become renters which put additional costs in the city: schools, traffic, ...

Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 27, 2017 at 1:11 pm

Checking the last name of the owner smacks of possible racism against Asian neighbors. For years, reported in the Almanac, the loudest objections to new homes are those of owners with Asian last names. Check it out.
Additionally, the addition of an in-law unit, for parents, or outright rental is good for Menlo Park in their requirement to add additional housing.
The Asian culture generally cares better for their parents than western Europeans.
Smaller units make living in Menlo Park more affordable. Maybe a school teacher will be able to afford to live here.
Don't forget that every new square foot of livable space is charged a school impact tax too. More money for schools.

Posted by CodeCompliantMaybe
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 27, 2017 at 1:43 pm

For those assuming this is a case of someone jumping through hoops for a code compliant building: I doubt it. A number of years ago, the city approved an 'envelope' rule where houses that fit inside the (generous) three dimensional envelope (including coverage ratios, lot clearance, height, etc.) did not need to go through the arduous approval process. It was a compromise that allowed for automatic approval for much larger projects than in the past but put a boundary. So I have to assume that this project EXCEEDS the envelope in one or more ways. Probably in total sq. ft. coverage and basement and 'auxiliary' unit.

Posted by Menlo Values
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 27, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Wondered when the 'race card' would get pulled. Be much more concerned about Faceplant's impact on the community than individual homeowners. The intrusion of the 'techies', their sudden wealth and resulting lack of values has changed the entire sense of community for Menlo Park. It has become 'ANYWHERE, USA' sadly and will most certainly get worse. Did get to enjoy the place for 50 years!
'God Save the Queen!'

Posted by lowly renter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 27, 2017 at 1:53 pm

tecsi makes a great point about the guest houses becoming rental units.

Where on earth do you think new housing comes from? We demonize development while creating thousands of jobs and expect those workers to live in Stockton?

The property owner should have the right to rent the house, or the guest house if they need or would simply like to. They ARE the ones paying the property taxes after all. (and that's after jumping through every code and rule thrown at them, not to mention a menacing suit in this case.)

Posted by OldGuy
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 27, 2017 at 2:07 pm

If the planning commission approved it without a variance, it must fit the current zoning rules. So it should be allowed.

Our procedures reward the NIMBYs and discourage the owners. And what in the world is wrong with this large lot accommodating a small rental unit?

Sometimes the citizens of Menlo Park act like a crabby old man who hates the world because he is old. Since he cannot get younger he tries to make life worse for everyone else.

Posted by Barbara Moll
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm

My husband and I purchased our first home on Oak court in the 400 block. The house was small but had a very large lot, perfect for a young family with 3 active boys. (My youngest was born there).
The neighborhood felt comfortably rural and safe for the boys to walk and/or ride bicycles with friends to Woodland School. We attended school activities and I worked in the library. Cub Scouts met there, too, as well as at our house.

We had a beautiful garden both front and back with a huge sandbox in the back yard.My mind is filling up with so many memories, for our years there were happy ones. We outgrew it when the boys reached upper grades and we moved.

The big live oak tree in the front yard gave us shade and a lovely Liquidamber was a neighborly beautyspot visited by school children.

Our little house is gone now, replaced by a very large house, but memories of our Oak Court neighborhood will be with us forever.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Looks like the Oak Court contingent is at it again. I'll have to give it to them though - they sure are unified whenever they don't want something. I recall sitting in a hearing where no less than 15 different households stood up and complained that Upper Laurel was going to ruin their way of life because the buses might run a few times a day on their street.

Posted by Belle Haven Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 27, 2017 at 5:33 pm

I have no horse in this race but I was at the council meeting where this happened. One of the council members, who may well be right, opined that the whole conflict might have been avoided if the homeowner who wanted to remodel had communicated more clearly with the rest of the neighborhood before going to the planning commission.

Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jul 27, 2017 at 7:01 pm

"the whole conflict might have been avoided if the homeowner who wanted to remodel had communicated more clearly with the rest of the neighborhood"

That council person displayed horrible "passing the buck". The structure MEETS CODE in every way, and the state of the code is within the realm of the council to change. Sorry, but the homeowner shouldn't need to do that.

Granted, IMHO there are aspects to code that I'd support being changed, but if the neighborhood wants a different size structure there, then change the code.

Posted by Property owners rights,
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 28, 2017 at 12:02 am

Property owners rights, is a registered user.

Get used to it Willows. it's your destiny, It started in West and Central Menlo, Then Allied arts, The Willows is next,

Personally I think the system played itself out the way it was designed.

I don't think the lawsuit is fair or appropriate,

FYI, I live in Atherton so no dog in this fight.

Posted by Property owners rights
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 28, 2017 at 12:10 am

Property owners rights is a registered user.

I'm sure I'll catch flack about living in Atherton and being registered as a resident of Menlo Park. I should update my registration, Too lazy up til now, but still own property in MP, Will probably catch hell for that too. Can't win with some people.

Still a property rights proponent anywhere as long as the rules are followed or appeals are transparent.

Good luck Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen

Posted by Yellow Dog Real Estate
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 28, 2017 at 7:42 am

Every city is so pro growth. I went to the Redwood City Council where Habitat for Humanity was doing a build on Jefferson that did not me met several requirements of the city plan in terms of height, parking, square footage of backyard, casting shade on its neighbors, etc. The neighbors to this building were up in arms, very angry that the city did not keep its promise to the agreed upon plan. The general consensus "was "we are in a housing crisis, it is more important that people have housing than bending a few rules" and it passed unamimously...It appears this is how they will vote every time. On Oak Court, I don't think it's an Asian thing, or a race card thing. There are alot of Asians with money, good for them.

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