Burlingame housing squall heats up

A recent residential remodeling proposal has rekindled complaints from irked residents — including a comparison to the Queen Mary cruise ship — and brought newcalls to revisit the city’s design-review standards to keep homes from becoming “mini-mansions” on regular-sized lots.

“This is becoming an economically divisive town,” said resident Pat Giorni.

Giorni and monster-home critics are specifically outraged over a proposal to change a one-and-a-half-story home at 2212 Hillside Ave. into a four-bedroom, 3,242-square-foot home — a mere six square feet shy of the city’s legal maximum.

Other recent remodels include the home on the corner of Columbus Avenue and Hillside Drive, and a home on Bloomfield Road off of Bayswater Avenue. Linda Dyson-Weaver, who lives on the 1500 block of Burlingame Avenue, said of her neighbor’s new house, “The Queen Mary is now docked next to my home.”

Irate neighbors contend the Hillside Drive proposal is the latest in a series of oversized, disproportionate homes that intrude on neighbor’s privacy, erode public infrastructure and alter the small-town character.

“The result will be a giant house for at least $2.5 million that will preclude anyone who is middle class,” Giorni said.

City code allows for a home’s square footage to equal up to 55 percent of the lot plus 1,500 square feet, a standard some say is too generous. In 1998, city officials tried to mitigate the monster-home trend by allowing construction of basements, meant to dissuade aboveground “bulk” in new homes. That idea is not working, residents say.

“They are building both to the max, and with huge basements,” said Delores Huajardo, a neighbor to the Hillside Drive house.

But advocates of larger homes point to the remodeling trend as a tax-base boost. Kendrick Li, the Hillside Drive project’s applicant, said current design-review standards are sufficient. He also denied that the house will be a monster home.

“It’s not a 10-bedroom home. I don’t think it’s very extreme,” he said.

Others agree, saying Burlingame’s remodeling process is considerate of neighbor input.

“It’s not changing the character, it’s adding to the character,” said Tim Auran of the Planning Commission, who said the designs complement houses built in the 1930s.

It is unlikely the City Council will revisit design standards and city codes in the near future. Councilwoman Cathy Baylock said the council “lacks the political will” to revisit design standards.

bfoley@examiner.com

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