Revisions to design guidelines for single-family homes intended to make the approval process more flexible are up for a final vote tonight after several years of discussion, but some residents say the proposed new rules still make it too hard to renovate.

San Mateo first adopted guidelines in 2001 at the request of neighborhood activists to prevent residents from building oversized “monster” homes in established neighborhoods. Since then, however, the guidelines have drawn complaints from residents who say they are too rigid, forcing property owners who want to build or renovate to conform to the existing style of the neighborhood.

Tonight, after more than two years of debate, the city’s planning department is asking the City Council to finalize amendments to the guidelines intended to answer those concerns and make the process more flexible. Some changes, however, such as a requirement for a design-review process for second-story additions and for the addition of new garage spaces when a fourth bedroom is added are meeting with resistance from some residents who say they will impose an undue burden.

The new parking requirements, intended to keep extra cars off the streets, will be a financial hardship for many residents, according to architect Stephen Lesley.

“This is going to kill anyone doing an addition. Basically, you’d have to rebuild your home,” Lesley said.

For Greg Grialou, president of the San Mateo/Glendale Village Neighborhood Association, adding a second garage space would mean building it toward the back of his property and destroying his patio, or across the front of his house — into his dining room and kitchen.

“Think of the cost of that when all I wanted to add was one room,” said Grialou, who works as a realtor. That can be a challenge for homeowners in his neighborhood, who are struggling to buy houses for $650,000 to $890,000, he said.

Homeowners who want to add a fifth bedroom will be required to create another parking space, although it may be an uncovered spot. The city will classify new offices or dens as bedrooms because they can be converted, according to Planning Director Ron Munekawa.

Given that many of Grialou’s neighbors currently use their garages for storage while they park on the street, he is skeptical that the amendment will make a difference.

However the City Council votes, members are sensitive to residents’ concerns, said City Councilmember Carole Groom.

“I fully understand the tension between too many cars on the street and the extra expense of adding another garage or room,” Groom said.

But city officials are hoping the amendment will reduce neighborhoods’ parking problems, City Councilmember Brandt Grotte said.

“Many areas are suffering from inadequate parking. Even if you are able to get one car off the street, that’s one less car on the street,” he said.

The San Mateo City Council meets tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

SF Examiner
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