November 09, 2003

Citizens Score In Double Header

Variances Denied On Sub-Standard Lots
By Fred H. Arm
Success was in the wind on two matters heard before the Planning Commission giving the neighbors their rightful due by enforcing the City Zoning ordinances that building on lots less than 6,000 sq. feet is no longer tolerated. The Chandler lots on 130 East Scenic and the Murphy lots on Pacific Avenue must now conform to the one house per 6,000 sq. foot law. It was a long battle, however, it may be far from over.

Anthony Murphy, the applicant for the Pacific Avenue lots cites the many other lots in the Point who were granted such variances in the past. It is true that there were previous requests for variances for sub-standard lot construction at the Point, even though opposed by neighbors and the like that were easily passed. The more recent grant of a variance was on Santa Fe on about a 3200 sq. foot lot (I think it was Candeotti), near Water Street that they are building on right now. I was one of the citizens that argued against granting the variance. The Commissioners seemed to feel that the poor landowner needed to be able to put a house on his lot, if he wanted to. Murphy claims that there are five sub-standard lots that were recently granted a variance at the end of East Richmond Avenue that are now under construction for five houses. I do not know if this is true or just more of Murphy’s active imagination.

Whether Mr. Murphy will appeal the Planning Department’s decision is still up in the air. If he does, he will not sail through unopposed. If Murphy should prevail on appeal, the citizen’s are angry enough to take the matter to Superior Court where it is more likely that serious attention will be given to the law, rather than the watered down pomposity the Commission and the Council wheedles out from their legal and Planning gurus.

In my humble opinion, the Planning Commissioners are nothing more than “yes men/women” for the Planning Department with their own distorted opinions on what the law is or should be. At last Thursday’s bizarre encounter, they blithely stated that “they couldn’t very well allow building on a substandard lot of Murphy’s, when they had just disallowed the same type of variance on the Chandler lots.” I would not have been surprised to have seen Murphy successful had Chandler’s two lots not been argued that same evening. It appeared that little weight, if any, was given to anything presented by the speakers from either side.

It is frustrating to have to deal with a governing body that has so little regard for ordinances that were designed to keep the density of the Point at a manageable level and not create such a high-density suburban sprawl so common elsewhere in the Bay Area. Hopefully, this turnabout by the Commission will become a precedent to finally follow the zoning ordinances as they are written, rather than attempting to fatten the city coffers by wholesale grants of variances to get as many houses built as possible. What ever happened to our forefather’s declaration of “a government of the people, by the people and for the people”?

Posted by fredarm at November 9, 2003 09:40 PM
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