Age question inhibits home sale

Burlingame — Planning officials — caught in a property rights battle about whether a home for sale on Newlands Avenue has historical value — on Monday will discuss how to best proceed in the future with historic designations for homes in the Burlingame Park neighborhood.

When Sarah Groves Hobart and her husband tried to sell their home earlier this year they did not think it was historic.

In 2004, when they first purchased the house at 1540 Newlands Ave., Groves Hobart said she and her husband contacted the Burlingame Historical Society to have them research whether they had purchased a historic property. Documents came back weeks later saying the home had no historic value.

Five years later, while trying to sell the house, a prospective buyer was told by city staff that a historical assessment of the property would be required for any project requiring action by the Planning Commission.

Groves Hobart said the potential buyer had gone to the city’s planning department to find out what kind of permits he would need to add another story to the home. City officials say an inquiry was made about possibly demolishing the existing structures.
In response, the couple paid $3,000 for an independent review that determined the home has no historic value. That determination, however, came too late.

The buyer subsequently withdrew the offer to purchase the home.

“It’s been disturbing to find out how vulnerable a house over 50 years old is,” Groves Hobart said.
If the home was historic, any changes to the house could require environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. 

According to Burlingame’s Web site, the city has taken inventory of 23 homes that could possibly be considered historic, but no research has been done to find out if they are.

On Monday night, the Burlingame planning commission will discuss the city’s role to determine if any of these 23 potential properties are historic.

Bill Meeker, the city’s community development director, said the Groves Hobart situation specifically will not be discussed at the meeting.

“We need to know how the city is required to handle any discretionary decisions that involved properties,” he said. “When the city receives information that it could be historic, we must perform a review and find out if it is.”

Groves Hobart said the city’s lack of a process has cost her family an all-cash sale — and $3,000.

The couple will be at Monday’s meeting, she said.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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