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  • Writer's pictureLinda Bogue

How will you enjoy a 24ft. tall ADU looming 4ft. from your property line? A 4-plex next door?

Updated: May 7, 2021

The City Council, needing to bring into City code the provisions of State law allowing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to be built with minimal local input or approvals, Monday night overrode staff recommendations and made the State’s mandates even more expansive — meaning intrusive.

City staff recommended adopting the State’s provisions with explicit intent to then gather citizen input on the few areas left to local jurisdiction and with that input, tailor the code to San Mateo insofar as possible. A sensible, open and transparent approach, right?

Instead, the Council adopted an ordinance that met State requirements — and then some — with no stated intent to open up to citizen input for fine tuning. Ca. law requires allowing ADUs at least 16ft. tall, with only a 4ft setback from the property line with neighbors.

The Council expanded that height allowance to 24ft, which means Accessory Units can loom as tall as the main home on a property here. And by State law, ADUs are exempt from the protections The Park’s zoning affords neighbors: 7ft setbacks, daylight plane calculations to avoid overshadowing neighbors, and — for code conforming ADUs that must be rubber stamped — from anything much in the way of input from affected neighbors.

The State is running roughshod over local jurisdiction in a number of areas. Now, thanks to our City Council piling on with maximally intrusive height allowances, we’ll have little recourse if any neighbor wants to build a 24ft tall ADU closely overlooking our home or backyard.

In the works, but not yet passed: State legislation eliminating single family zoning throughout California. It appears 3 of our City Council members (a majority) will be content to “address” San Mateo’s real housing issues by riding the State’s one-size-fits-all, fiat coattails on legislation such as this. 4-plexes in The Park? Some developer with no skin in the neighborhood might well think the numbers on luxury condos add up, and if the State follows form, deed restrictions or other covenants and maneuvers aiming to preclude such development will be null and void.

If it comes to that, so much for our historic, unique, 120 year old neighborhood whose Neighborhood Association was founded precisely to win the zoning protections that preserve the neighborhood character we now enjoy.

If I have misread or am mistaken about any of the above, please weigh in and correct the record. (This is not my area of expertise; it is my dread.) If this does reflect the lay of the political landscape reasonably accurately, what are we — individually, collectively -- going to do about it?

Posted in General to San Mateo Park

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