Board of Supervisors shuts down home design committee

In a rare move indicative of the level of community agitation surrounding the issue, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to immediately disband a committee that oversaw new home design guidelines in the hills above Redwood City

The emergency vote, approved 5-0, temporarily disbanded the controversy-marred Emerald Hills Design Review Committee, made-up of three appointees chosen by supervisors. By declaring an emergency, supervisors were able to disband the committee at once, rather than wait for several weeks.

The vote came after hundreds of neighborhood homeowners — with the support of the community representative on the committee, Nancy Mangini — complained in recent months that the current guidelines have stalled dozens of projects and led to micromanaging of new home construction, including dictating what color a house can be painted.

“This is a blatant example of a small vocal minority being able to falsely claim the support of the majority and getting their policies implemented by government,” Mangini said of the guidelines.

Appealing for cooler heads, supervisors declared the next few weeks an “opportunity to back away and regroup.”

Supervisors hope to reform the review committee after meeting with the various factions early next year. The Emerald Hills Design Review Committee is just one of about six such committees in the county, and the only one to face recent controversy, officials said.

“The committee has been torn apart by this design review process,” Emerald Hills property owner Lorraine Rumley said. Rumley, also a Sequoia Union High School trustee, criticized the guidelines for deteriorating into a matter of “personal style,” saying she supported supervisors’ decision to split up the group.

Emerald Hills Homeowners Association members also applauded the dismantling of the committee. “We think that the existing [design review committee] was clearly dysfunctional,” said Milo Medin, an association board member for the last two years. “We want a working [committee] that implements the guidelines in an open, quick and consistent manner.”

To prevent a backlog of delays, county planning staff will take on the responsibility of reviewing new home designs to ensure they conform to the neighborhood guidelines for the time being, officials said. Decisions by the staff will be appealable to the county Planning Commission, then the Board of Supervisors as necessary, Supervisor Rich Gordon said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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