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FW: Support the Appeal Filed Re 752 Gilbert

From: Morris, Michele T <"Morris,>
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2018 03:36:52 +0000

Mr. Mayor and City Councilmembers,

Below is a piece of correspondence on the appeal of the use permit for 752 Gilbert Avenue.

Thank you,

Michele T. Morris
Assistant Planner
City of Menlo Park

From: margaret spak [mailto:pegspak_at_(domainremoved)
Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2018 4:31 PM
To: Morris, Michele T <mtmorris_at_(domainremoved)nlopark.org>
Subject: Support the Appeal Filed Re 752 Gilbert

Dear Ms. Morris and members of the Menlo Park City Council,

As a resident of Menlo Park, residing on Santa Margarita Avenue around the corner from Gilbert, I am writing to you in SUPPORT of the appeal filed on 12/27/17 to construct a two story home on a substandard lot at 752 Gilbert Ave . (See below for a copy of the original letter in italics sent to City Council on 12/27/17)

I have lived in this neighborhood since the early 1990's and enjoy the residential neighborhood character. A house as large as the one that is proposed on a non-conforming lot is disharmonious and out of scale with all the current structures on the block and in the area, as stated in the letter below. Perhaps the new owners might have purchased a larger lot where the scope of this type of home would have been permitted rather than attempting to fit a home that is way too large on a non-conforming lot.

In addition, I was very disappointed that the new owners either were unaware or demonstrated no regard for our heritage tree ordinance, since they proceeded to chop down two heritage trees on the property. One of our treasures in Menlo Park is our tree canopy which adds oxygen and much needed shade for our homes, parks, and sidewalks. I am delighted that we have city ordinances in Menlo Park that protect our large beautiful trees and am saddened whenever those ordinances are violated and a heritage tree is destroyed.

I urge the city council to scale back this project for the reasons that are stated in the letter below, thereby, rendering it more harmonious and conforming to our neighborhood.

Thank you for your consideration of this request,

Margaret A. Spak

381 Santa Margarita
Menlo Park, CA 94025
650 325-1442 (land line)
650 208-2578 (cell)

December 27, 2017

From: Residents of 700 block of Gilbert Ave, Menlo Park

 To the Menlo Park City Council:

 We are writing to appeal the decision made by the Planning Commission on December 11, 2017 approving the permit request to construct a new two story home on the substandard lot at 752 Gilbert Ave .

 We are appealing for the following reasons:

  * The commission did not adequately consider the input from the neighbors regarding the proposed height of the new construction, which is nearly 2x the height of most houses on the block. Furthermore, the original report by the City team does not adequately consider the significant height difference to all surrounding structures both on this block of Gilbert, and to the Nash tract in general. We disagree with the Staff’s conclusion on p.3 of Staff Report 17-070-PC that the “scale… is compatible with the neighborhood”, and we would like understand the facts or data used to make that determination. The report also states “The design would set the second floor back from the first floor…helping reduce the perception of mass and bulk.” The second floor is not set back from the first floor interior, it’s set back from the from the distance of the front porch. The second floor basically starts at the same vertical plane as the front door. The set back is considerably more in the rear of the house, where it would be less noticeable from the street.

  * The proposed height of the new building was 27’ 3”, on a block where 13/14 of the homes are single story. (There is one two story house on the corner of Gilbert and Santa Monica, it’s max roof height is 22’, but the second story is considerably smaller than the first story). The house that currently sits at 752 Gilbert is nearly the tallest house on block at 19’, and the proposal is for a full 8’ taller. This abnormally large height will be quite disharmonious and out of scale with all the current structures on the block and in the area, particularly as it is situated on a side of the block that has substandard lots.

 During the discussion on the proposal at the Planning Commission Meeting on Dec 11, 2017, two commissioners and two citizens stated concerns about this height, and the commission asked the architect specific questions around why the house needed to be so tall. When it came time for the commission to move, the original proposal of an 18” reduction (which had been offered straightaway by the applicant’s architect) was arbitrarily amended by two of the commissioners to require only a 12” reduction, where other commissioners (and the citizens who had attended and spoken) had wanted at least a 20” reduction.

Of additional concern was the lack of action taken by the commission regarding the deliberate unlawful modification of the heritage tree on the property prior to the permit application, leading to the Menlo Park arborist to declare the tree “poor” and needing to be taken down. The tree was previously healthy, and the owner admitted that she hired a contractor who unlawfully began to remove the tree until the police were called to halt the contractors. This maiming of the tree led to its classification as “poor”, and conveniently for the property owner, OK’d for removal. This in itself is concerning, but also that there was no mention of replacing this with a tree of sufficient age and height to help provide a visual break from the large building to be constructed.

We ask that the Council reject the decision of the Planning Commission on this matter, and move to require a max height that is more harmonious with the current surroundings, as well as to investigate and provide restitution of the heritage tree that was unlawfully disfigured.

As homeowners on the block, we are happy to see this property improved with a new two story home. However, the proposed height would result in a monolithic structure that is abnormally high compared with surroundings, not compatible in scale with the neighborhood, and that would cause significant visual disharmony and awkwardness.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Received on Thu May 31 2018 - 20:37:44 PDT

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