August 26, 2012

Advice Request: What to do about neighbor planning ginormous addition?

120825-adviceBurbed gets all kinds of mail.  Usually we get suggestions for houses to review or links to interesting articles that our readers might enjoy.  Occasionally we get requests for help.  Burbed reader Protennoia writes in and asks for your suggestions in dealing with a situation in the neighborhood.

A neighbor is turning a 3/1 into a 6/4.  Today, he had an open house for neighbors before he submits plans to the city of San Mateo. I went and asked him to tell me about it.

His roof leaks and he wants the space of a second story. He says his timeline is six months and that he’s building it for his family.  This neighbor is a few houses down, so I can’t argue that his second story will affect my privacy. He’s been there over 15 years and says he has no plans to move or rent out the place.

But plans can change.

I am nervous about a 6/4 house being built on the block.

A 6/4 house being rented involves a lot more traffic and street parking than a 3/1.

A 6/4 house, significantly, would maximize the potential profit of a halfway house. Up to six residents, a halfway house is considered a single family, even if their residents are six transient parolees with substance abuse problems.

People have the right to rent out rooms or to turn their house into a group home, so I don’t know that these complaints would have any effect

Other readers, how would you handle this situation?

120825-bryant-streetviewFor now we’ve taken out the name of the city.  Protennoia can add it in in the comments if it’s absolutely critical, but we will say this is a city in San Mateo County.

Updated 23:59 — Sorry about not fixing this until now.  I put San Mateo back in with Protennoia’s permission, but forgot to rewrite the about graf.  –ed.

We were looking for a good graphic of a house that completely dominated the block, but this video does an even better job getting that idea across.  And the article it came from suggests 10 signs a house is overbuilt for the neighborhood.  Several of them seem to apply to our reader’s situation.

So, Burbed Readers, what advice do you have on dealing with a neighbor doing so much expansion on your block, given that that the home’s purpose could change and then affect your ability to enjoy your home?  Is this NIMBYism or preserving neighborhood character?

If you don’t want to post your comment publicly, you can send email directly to Protennoia at this email address.

Comments (13) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am

13 Responses to “Advice Request: What to do about neighbor planning ginormous addition?”

  1. SEA Says:

    Sometimes light bulbs and Drano alone aren’t enough to keep up with the ‘automatic RBA price double.’

  2. smparkster Says:

    FYI, you said you removed the name of the city but it’s still up there in the first quoted paragraph ;-).
    As far as advice… no personal experience, but I do know that certain towns/ neighborhoods have requirements for how many parking spaces you have to have on your property. Maybe you can argue from that route… that if they are expanding to 6 bedrooms, can they be required to have off-street space for at least 3 or 4 vehicles? Don’t know if that would help or not.

  3. L G Lorax Says:

    if the house in question is to go before the Planning Commission, write a letter, plan to speak, ask other neighbors to join you, or even others on nearby streets. Does this city have a ‘general plan’ that talks about the character of the neighborhood? Point out how the new house plan will be different, taller, wider, roof lines, setback, anything. Make it abundantly clear, this is not personal, and not for personal gain, you said yourself that you’re far enough away, but for preservation of the character of the neighborhood. Enlist the closest neighbors, probably reluctant to speak out alone. good luck!!

  4. nomadic Says:

    How many kids does this guy have? If four or fewer, then argue he needs only a max of five bedrooms. That’s too small for a group home, right?

  5. madhaus Says:

    Whoops! I thought I rewrote that part out about not specifying the city. I might fix it later but it’s a little tricky to do involved editing on a tablet.

    The photo above is in South Palo Alto. It was really easy to find streetviews of huge houses looming over tiny ones. The trash bins were just a “bunus.”

  6. the San Jose Alex Says:

    So … the guy plans to turn his house into a halfway house, and I suppose, get something like $10k per denizen from the city/state/yourtaxes to house each disreputable character?

  7. nomadic Says:

    #4, you could find good examples in Willow Glen too. We’ve seen them here on burbed too.

  8. Jb Says:

    We just looked at a house on sweet narrow street in WC near shell ridge. Every house but two are from the 50’s – maxing out at 2,000 sq f or so – except for 2 built in 2008 on what had been one huge parcel – one is 4,000+ , the other just under 4,000 – big lots, lots of lawn – but the houses just take over the entire formally sweet street. We won’t make an offer – the house looms over the one we were looking at. Good luck fighting it – where we live you need to provide parking. I think the more folks that oppose something – or request limits – the better chances it will make a difference.

  9. Protennoia Says:

    Madhaus, it’s OK that you left in the city. I figure anyone who knows it might have some additional insight.

    I could say: “My concern isn’t about ___’s personal use of the property as he’s stated them, but what use such a property could be put to if his circumstances or ownership change. A 6/4, with three full bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, could generate six additional tenants with six automobiles that will impact on-street parking in a way that a 3/1 rental could not. A house of this size and configuration, in addition, would be an attractive proposition for housing exempt from the city’s tenancy tax, including a CDCR community release facility like that up the street. I suggest that ___ can achieve his objectives for office space and recreational use by installing one additional bathroom upstairs, and by not installing closets in two of the three proposed rooms.

    What do you think?

  10. Protennoia Says:

    Nomadic, he has one kid, one MIL, and a wife.

  11. Protennoia Says:

    There’s regulations requiring parking spaces if you’re building another unit, but not if you’re building three extra bedrooms and three extra baths.

    That configuration could bring in six additional tenants with 6+ automobiles requiring street parking. The 6/4 configuration also maximizes this home’s attractiveness as a halfway house. (Psst, 5: It’s $14,000 for 90 days. CDCR/county paid.)

    As Mr. A has expressed no interest in these uses for his property, it seems that Mr. A’s interest in expansion can be satisfied with the addition of one or one and one-half baths on the second floor, and by not placing closets in those rooms he has designated as other than bedroom space.

    What think?

  12. Crissa Says:

    It wouldn’t matter in my neighborhood, we’re in a mountainous, one-lane forested area. Things neighbors would complain about are changes to the trees and hillsides., landscaping. If someone were to take out a half-acre of trees, that changes our neighborhood much more than adding bedrooms does.

    But yeah, impact of traffic an potential use is very important to a neighborhood. It could impose a huge change in security requirements on the neighbors – even if it’s not a halfway house, a big house is a big target. A big target among big targets isn’t a surprise, but one amongst smaller, less secure houses…

  13. madhaus Says:

    Comments released from moderation jail: #3, #9-11. That means comment #7’s reference to comment #4 should now point to comment #5 (hey, that’s me!). And comment #11’s reference to #5 ought to be incremented to #6.

    Who is #1?
    You are, #6.

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