Lawsuit decries proposed building’s height

A lawsuit against the city of San Mateo over a proposed apartment complex is set to go before a county judge next month, as one resident fights a development she says will keep her home in the dark.

Jennifer Diamond, a resident of the Ironwood Homes townhouse complex, has filed a lawsuit to halt the construction of the Delaware Place complex on Delaware Avenue northwest of Bay Meadows.

In preparation for the lawsuit — to be reviewed by a judge on June 16 — the city held a closed meeting Monday night with the City Council and legal counsel.

If Delaware Place is built, Diamond and someof her neighbors say, the four-story, 111-unit complex will block their exposure to the sun for much of the year. It may also damage the jasmine and other flora that line the center walkway of the community.

While darkness is a concern for neighbors on the south side of Ironwood, Debra Rosenfeld on the north half says her privacy may be threatened by four-story windows with a direct view into her home’s second story.

While Diamond originally sued on grounds that the city was damaging her quality of life by allowing the project, her lawsuit was amended to focus on what she says was the city’s misrepresentation of the May 15, 2006, meeting during which the council approved the project.

“The public did not know that the four-story version was on the table, if they were going to bring it back. They should have let the community know it, because we would have had a lot more support at the meeting,” Diamond said.

Prior to the meeting, the San Mateo Planning Commission had approved the site plan of the project but added a condition that the project would be seven units smaller and that the part bordering Ironwood would be only two or three stories to prevent shading.

Ironically, it was the neighbors themselves who allowed the council to overturn the Planning Commission's compromise.

“They warned them, ‘If the City Council votes with you, it won't get built, but if they vote against you, the compromise is no longer an issue, it would go back to the original proposal,’” Planning Commissioner Robert Gooyer said.

Because the commission’s decision — including the lower height and density — was appealed, the council was tasked with discussing the project as presented by the developers, Toll Brothers. At that meeting, Councilwoman Carole Groom said the 111-unit complex would better serve San Mateo’s housing needs, and the council approved the project without any reduced heights or densities.

“If it had stayed with the planning commission and not gone further, then the only thing they would have been able to build was the 104-unit complex,” said City Attorney Shawn Mason.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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