Council Meeting of
October 24, 2000
Agenda Item: A
Mayor and City Council
Community Development Department, Planning Division
AGENDA ITEM: STUDY
SESSION: Review Results of the Work of the Residential Review Task Force and
Direction on Potential Changes to the Zoning Ordinance Regarding Single-Family
City Council should discuss the findings of the Residential Review Task Force
and give direction to staff on potential changes to the Zoning Ordinance
regarding single-family residential development.
The process to examine changes to the current regulations
and review process for single-family residential development began in June 1999.
Several residents in Menlo Park approached Council Member Mary Jo Borak
with a proposal to modify the current Zoning Ordinance, specifically, to
maintain and improve the character and stability of Menlo Park’s existing
residential neighborhoods. Council
Member Mary Jo Borak presented this proposal to the City Council and Planning
Commission. After this meeting, a working group composed of Council
Members Mary Jo Borak and Chuck Kinney, staff, the City Attorney, and a group of
residents of Menlo Park met and determined that potential changes to the current
residential review process would proceed in two phases.
The first phase would include changes in the public notification and
review process that could be implemented on a short-term basis.
The second phase would explore the potential to make changes to the
development regulations and review process in the current Zoning Ordinance. Due to the nature of the second phase, the City Council felt
that it would be appropriate to appoint a citizen task force for input on the
discussion of potential changes.
October 1999, the City Council adopted enhanced notification requirements for
all residential projects that currently require discretionary approvals from the
City. The primary changes to the
administrative procedures were lengthening the time for public review of an
application and sending two notices instead of only one notice to property
owners within 300 feet. The first
notice is sent within 5 days of receipt of an application and includes a copy of
the proposed plans. A second notice
is mailed 25 days before the scheduled public hearing date with the Planning
Commission. The Planning Division
is currently implementing the enhanced notification process.
Council directed staff to initiate Phase Two of the Residential Review Study in
November 1999. Phase Two included
the development of a work plan to consider modifications to the development
standards and review process for development of single-family residential
properties and the authorization of a Residential Review Task Force to identify
possible strategies for addressing issues related to the development of
single-family residential properties.
RESIDENTIAL REVIEW STUDY
Review Task Force Members
In January 2000, the City advertised for positions on a
citizen task force to consider possible changes to the Zoning Ordinance related
to development of single-family residential property. Approximately 70 applications were received from citizens of
Menlo Park who expressed interest in serving on the Task Force.
In March 2000, the City Council appointed 21 citizens of Menlo Park to
the Residential Review Task Force (RRTF) from a variety of professional
backgrounds and representation from the 16 different neighborhoods of Menlo
Park. A list of the members on the
Task Force is provided as Attachment A.
In May 2000, Dan Dippery resigned from his seat on the Task Force.
Since he resigned early in the process, the City Council appointed a new
member, Dick Poe as a replacement member. However,
in mid-July, two other members resigned from the Task Force, Lynne Marianni
Pogue and Bridgit Louie. At the
time that Ms. Marianni-Pogue and Ms. Louie resigned from the Task Force, there
were only three scheduled meetings left for the Task Force to continue its work.
Since then, the City Council approved an extension to the original work
plan, which added two meetings to Task 1 of the work plan.
Scope of Work
In May 2000, the City Council approved a scope of work and
work plan for the Residential Review Study.
The Council formally identified the central issue as being new or
remodeled houses that are large and intrusive ("Monster Houses"). The
City Council identified that the role of the Residential Review Task Force would
be to act as a resource to City Council on the issue of house size.
The City Council specifically indicated that the RRTF was not expected to
reach a consensus, but that their work would be reviewed and discussed by City
Council. The City Council
identified the following study elements for input from the Residential Review
The work plan for the Residential Study included two
principal tasks: 1) input and suggestions pursuant to the scope of work as
defined by City Council, and 2) recommendations on draft changes to the Zoning
Ordinance. The approved Work Plan is provided as Attachment
The first task in the work program focused on getting input
from the Residential Review Task Force on the size and scale of residential
development and to identify potential changes to the Zoning Ordinance that would
assure that new construction and major remodeling fit in with the size and scale
of established neighborhoods. This staff report represents the completion of Task 1.
The meetings, process, and work products of the RRTF are described in the
Task 2 will begin in late-October 2000 after the presentation of the finding of the RRTF to City Council. The focus of Task 2 is to make recommendations for changes to the Zoning Ordinance regarding single-family residential development. Following a discussion of the RRTF’s work, the City Council is expected to direct staff to prepare a draft of the recommended changes to the Zoning Ordinance and initiate a schedule for amending the Zoning Ordinance. The original work plan allocated two meetings with the City Council to review and finalize recommendations for proposed zoning changes. After staff has prepared a draft of the proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance, the Task Force was expected to review and comment on the final zoning recommendations. The review of the proposed changes as recommended by City Council with the Task Force will take no more than two meetings. It was expected that the RRTF review of the draft changes would be conducted with a facilitator and that the City Attorney’s office would also be present. The Task Force comments will be summarized in abbreviated meeting notes, which will be forwarded to the Planning Commission and the City Council as part of their consideration of the proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments.
City Council approved $28,500 for the study ($16,500 was approved in the
original work plan in May 2000, $12,000 additional expenditure was approved in
August 2000 for additional RRTF meetings).
The budget for the facilitation was $17,500, of which $12,800 has been
paid. There is $4,700 remaining in
the budget for facilitation services. The
City Attorney's office has provided support to the Task Force by attending the
meetings. This work is outside the scope of the regular retainer agreement with
the City Attorney. The budget for this work was $11,000.
The budget expended to date for the City Attorney's work is approximately
$7,100. There is $3,900 remaining
in the budget for City Attorney’s fees.
remaining budget for facilitating and City Attorney support was expected to be
used for no more than two follow-up meetings with the RRTF for review and
comment on a draft of the changes to the Zoning Ordinance.
The average cost of facilitating one 3-hour meeting of the RRTF with
preparation, set up and clean up time has been $1,400.
In consideration of the results of the work of the RRTF, the City Council
may wish to specify the number of facilitated meetings with the RRTF.
If more than two meetings are desired, then the City Council should
modify the work plan and/or budget to reflect the new number of meetings
expected with the facilitator and/or City Attorney.
Residential Review Task Force began meeting regularly every other Wednesday
beginning on May 17, 2000. The
meetings ran from 6:30 pm until 9:00 or 9:30 pm.
The RRTF met 10 times, with an average of 15 members attending each
meeting. The meetings were
facilitated by Geoff Ball, Principal, Geoff Ball & Associates.
Mr. Ball used a variety of facilitation techniques and equipment to help
manage and cultivate discussion. In
addition, City Attorneys Dan Siegel or Bill McClure attended the meetings to
provide information or guidance on legal issues that came up during discussion.
Summaries of the discussion at the RRTF meetings were reported regularly
to the City Council as information items on the City Council Agenda.
was opportunity for public comment at each meeting.
A total of three members of the public attended the meetings, two of
which asked to speak to the RRTF about their positions on proposed changes to
the Zoning Ordinance and on their personal experiences with the current review
worked with the Task Force to determine the process to accomplish Task 1
of the work plan as outlined by the City Council.
Early in the process, the RRTF decided that they would like to try to
achieve consensus on as many issues and solutions as possible, even though City
Council indicated that reaching consensus was not expected or required.
Ultimately, the process for the RRTF that was developed began with
intensive education of Zoning Ordinance terms and provisions, an assessment of
individual “level of support” on alternatives or choices, and concluded with
affinity group discussions. The
Task Force made tremendous effort to understand the current Zoning Ordinance in
order to have knowledgeable and focused discussion on potential changes to it.
Following many exercises that explored individual thoughts and positions,
the Task Force split into subgroups with members who shared similar opinions and
approaches to addressing the issues. The
subgroups developed proposals that address the City Council’s study elements
and other issues that were important to members of the RRTF.
first step in the process was educating the group on the purpose, terms,
development regulations, and the process for review of single-family residential
development as defined in the current Zoning Ordinance.
Due to the complexity of the subject matter, every regular meeting of the
RRTF was an opportunity for education about some aspect of the Zoning Ordinance.
At the request of the RRTF, staff also offered two special Zoning
tutorial sessions in May, 2000, to learn about the current Zoning Ordinance.
The handouts from the sessions are provided as Attachment
C. Nearly half of the
members attended each of these meetings.
addition to learning the provisions of the current Menlo Park Zoning Ordinance,
staff provided information on single-family development regulations and review
processes from other cities in the Bay Area.
Staff has collected many documents from other cities.
Several cities in San Mateo County have been considering or have made
changes to Zoning Ordinances related to single-family residential development.
Other cities have adopted design guidelines to address concerns about
architecture and neighborhood character. A
list of the contents in the Planning file on other cities is provided in Attachment
D. A private consultant
conducted a survey of changes that other cities in San Mateo County are
considering related to single-family residential development.
This survey was prepared for the City of San Mateo in January 2000, as
they considered changes to their Zoning Ordinance regarding demolition of
residential buildings and design review. The
summary is provided as Attachment E.
Melody Pagee and Sam Sinnott, RRTF members, conducted additional research
on other cities’ zoning ordinances: Melody
prepared charts that compared floor area ratios of other cities (Attachment
F); and Sam prepared a graphic comparison of daylight plane regulations from
adjacent jurisdictions, including San Mateo County and Palo Alto (Attachment
G). Floor Area Ratios (FAR)
in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County were distributed to the RRTF, which
are also provided in Attachment H. In addition,
an example of design guidelines from research material from the American
Planning Association is provided as Attachment I.
Once the RRTF developed a basic understanding of the
provisions of the Zoning Ordinance and started learning from other cities, they
began to take a critical look at the development standards and review process
related to single-family residential development by considering the City
Council’s study elements, identifying issues and perceived problems, and
exploring potential solutions to the problems in the context of regulations in
the Zoning Ordinance. At one of the
meetings, staff asked the RRTF to break into small random groups.
They were asked to identify issues related to house size and start to
explore how these issues could be addressed.
The results of this discussion are provided as Attachment
Based on the City Council’s study elements in the
approved scope of work, the RRTF discussed the issues related to review of
projects on substandard lots, the potential to create incentives in the Zoning
Ordinance to encourage developments with less impacts, and discussion of the
current use permit process. The RRTF’s discussions are provided as Attachments
K, L, and M.
The group and staff developed a detailed list of choices
regarding development regulations and alternative review processes for the RRTF
to consider. The RRTF and staff
identified 52 choices focusing on development regulations for front and side
setbacks, building height, daylight plane, building coverage, and floor area
limit. The RRTF was asked to indicate their “level of support” for the
choice by voting “strong yes,” “moderate yes,” “neutral,”
“moderate no,” and “strong no.” The
choices were recorded by hand voting, however, an individual’s voting record
was not documented. The choices and
voting record of the group are provided in Attachment
N. The RRTF considered four review
process alternatives: use permits, administrative reviews, design review, and
neighborhood review. Staff prepared
three development scenarios and asked the RRTF to determine the appropriate
review process for each scenario. The
results are provided in Attachment O.
Voting to determine the level of support for a specific
modification to the Zoning Ordinance proved a valuable exercise.
The group refined their understanding of the complexity of the provisions
of the Zoning Ordinance. In addition, the voting results indicated that there were a
few areas (“choices”) where the group could reach consensus (Attachment
P). The voting record
demonstrated that there were small groups of people who may be able to come to
agreement. Given that some people
shared similar views and approaches to the problem, staff asked the RRTF to form
affinity groups, subgroups, to develop proposals based on shared opinions.
There were four original affinity groups. However, the affinity groups merged to form two subgroups at
their final meeting. The
development proposals prepared by the subgroups are described below.
The last two meetings of the RRTF focused on the
preparation and presentation of the subgroup’s development proposals.
In addition to the intense work by the members of the RRTF on the
proposals at the meeting, the subgroups met on their own to continue to refine
their proposals for presentation to City Council.
When the final development proposals were submitted, two minority
opinions on the subgroup proposals were also included, one for each proposal.
Subgroup 1 consisted of 10 members. The focus of the development proposal is an enhanced neighborhood notification and review process and an incentive-based approach to floor area limits. The proposal reduces the role of the Planning Commission in the review of new construction or remodeling of single-family residences, and introduces a mediation process. The mediation process would be used if a neighbor objected to a proposal. Planning staff would act as a mediator or would arrange for an outside mediator between the project proposers and the objecting property owners/residents. Conflicts that are not successfully mediated would be forwarded to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission would only be allowed to take action on the unresolved conflict and would not be allowed to introduce other changes to the project. The proposal recommends modifying current development regulations for daylight plane (more restrictive, but still allow architectural diversity), FAL exclusions (garages/uninhabitable accessory structures, if detached and located in rear, uninhabitable attic space over 5’ on second story, one-story ceiling heights over 12 feet), and light wells in required setbacks. Subgroup 1 proposal is provided as Attachment Q.
There were 4 members of Subgroup 1 who prepared a minority
opinion on the proposal. The
minority opinion recommends the following: 1) Planning review of new
construction or remodels should be conducted by Planning staff, and should be
based solely on development regulations in the Zoning Ordinance; 2) The role of
the Planning Commission should be to resolve conflicts of interpretation and not
as a de facto architectural review; 3) The development regulations should be
objective and clear, rather than vague and uncertain; 4) An objection by a
neighbor that triggers the mediation process should not be limited to Zoning
Ordinance provisions, but Planning Commission review must be limited to the
development regulations in the Zoning Ordinance; and 5) The City should allocate
additional resources to the review process and establish maximum time limits on
the review process. The minority opinion to Subgroup 1 is provided as Attachment
Subgroup 2 consisted of 7 members.
The proposal identifies problems with residential development, a mission
statement, goals and specific recommendations for changes to the building
standards in the Zoning Ordinance and to the zoning administration and approval
process. The proposal recommends
the following: 1) change Floor Area Limits (FAL) for all lots over 5,000 square
feet; 2) modify the daylight plane; 3) limit bulk and intrusiveness of 2-story
development; 4) restrict visibility from side- and back-facing second story
windows; 5) encourage landscaping; 6) eliminate the designation of substandard
lots between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet solely because of size and or
dimension; 7) allow neighborhoods to create design overlays for more restrictive
or more flexible standards; 8) limit use permits to extraordinary situations;
and 9) prepare and distribute design guidelines.
Subgroup 2 proposal is provided as Attachment S.
There were 2 members of Subgroup 2 who prepared a minority
opinion on the proposal because they agreed that the proposal should be more
restrictive in regards to daylight plane and FAL. The minority opinion recommends that the daylight plane
regulations should be more restrictive, and follow an example in the City of San
Mateo. San Mateo's daylight plane
regulations are measured at the property line, up a distance of 12 feet and
inward toward the center of the property at an angle of 45 degrees.
The minority opinion also recommends more restrictive FALs, whereby lots
that are 5,000-7,000 square feet would be limited to 40% floor area ratio of the
lot to house size. For lots over
7,000 square feet, the minority opinion recommends a reduction of FAL by up to
an additional 10% more than the Subgroup 1 proposal.
The minority opinion to Subgroup 2 is provided as Attachment
Although the subgroup proposals differ substantially in
regard to details and implementation, the subgroup proposals are similar in
several respects. First, each
subgroup has proposed to eliminate the “substandard” lot classification as a
trigger for a use permit. By
eliminating the “substandard” lot classification, each group developed
alternatives to reviewing proposed development that included a more involved
neighborhood process. Each subgroup
agreed that the neighborhood should have a significant, but defined, role in the
review process. In addition,
each subgroup addressed the need to modify the current daylight plane regulation
to make it more restrictive than the current regulation.
Both groups agreed that this would address bulk, mass, and privacy
issues. The proposals differ
fundamentally in regards to floor area limits.
Ultimately, each subgroup agreed that eliminating the classification of
substandard lots for a discretionary review, establishing a review process with
the neighborhood, and modifying the daylight plane, will make the process more
predictable for homeowners and neighbors.
FOR CITY COUNCIL CONSIDERATION
Council should direct staff to proceed with one of the following options:
A: Proceed with the approved
work plan; provide direction to staff to prepare a draft of the changes to the
Zoning Ordinance related to the development regulations and review process for
single family residential development based on one or a combination of the
Subgroup 1 Development Proposal.
Subgroup 1 Development proposal with the Minority Opinion.
Subgroup 2 Development Proposal.
Subgroup 2 Development Proposal with the Minority Opinion.
Specific modification of the Subgroup Development Proposals or the
Specific discussion and direction from City Council outlining changes to
the Zoning Ordinance.
this option, the City Council should schedule a second study session to review
and finalize recommendations for proposed zoning changes, as was outlined in the
original work plan. In addition the
City Council should specify the number of meetings that should be held with the
Residential Review Task Force to review and comment on the proposed changes to
the Zoning Ordinance.
Continue discussion of potential changes to the Zoning Ordinance
related to the development regulations and review process for single-family
residential development to a future study session.
With this option, the City Council may wish to consider the following:
Requesting that additional information or analysis be prepared by staff.
Requesting that additional information be prepared by the members of the
Residential Review Task Force. (If the City Council chooses this option, the
City Council should indicate whether an additional meeting with a facilitator is
necessary. This may require additional budget expenditure for meeting
Modify the work plan to account for potential additional meetings with
the City Council for public comment and City Council discussion of potential
changes to the Zoning Ordinance.
COUNCIL REVIEW PROCEDURE
1. Brief presentation by
2. Task Force
of the RRTF and/or staff.
City Council discussion and direction to staff.
5. Public Comment.
Public notification was achieved by posting the agenda, at
least 72 hours prior to the meeting, with this agenda item being listed, and
publishing notices in the local newspaper on October 11, 2000 and October 17,
Not all of the
attachments to the staff report are included on this website, but they are
available at the Administration Building, or by calling Tracy Cramer, at