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Noise in the hills: Burlingame neighbors in bitter dispute over home construction
July 10, 2013, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal

John Lucero Michael Gaul has posted this sign for his neighbor to see. It includes the term ‘GFY' which could be considered threatening to some.


A simmering brouhaha in the Burlingame hills started with a beehive near a pool and a first complaint between neighbors, escalated when tortoises started burrowing across property lines, came to a fever pitch when band saws roared at 6 a.m. and will come to a head when the two parties finally sit down for mediation, which has been delayed three times already now.

The dispute pits San Bruno school teacher John Lucero against his neighbor Burlingame Planning Commissioner Michael Gaul and the sizable home Gaul is building above Mercy High School on Adeline Drive.

Gaul pulled permits for the property back in 2005 and has been working on the home ever since. It is near completion but Gaul will first have to address a code enforcement violation that Lucero pointed out to Burlingame officials.

Lucero asked Gaul if he could quiet it down during early-morning hours on the weekends last year and got 13 other neighbors to sign a letter seeking a meeting to discuss all the construction noise that rings through the hills.

Gaul allegedly refused to meet with the neighbors so Lucero got the city involved by pointing out what he thought were code enforcement violations during construction of his home and then alleged that Gaul was not doing work on his home but instead was running his general contractor’s business out of his garage. Lucero even photographed and videotaped some of the construction activity to prove his case which caused Gaul to display a sign that read “GFY” with the time the next work would be done on the home.

“Considering that some of these violations have existed since the building permit was ‘finaled’ approximately seven years ago, it is the neighborhood perception that the Gauls’ affiliation with the city entitles them to flaunt the violations and disregard the polite requests and well-being of their neighbors,” Lucero wrote the city in October.

The city ultimately was unable to verify most of the violations, however.

Gaul is the only residence on that stretch of Adeline Drive that is actually in Burlingame proper. All the rest of the homes nearby are in unincorporated San Mateo County. The dispute has often had the city and county saying it was the other’s problem to solve, Lucero said.

So Lucero decided to file a complaint for nuisance in San Mateo County Superior Court seeking relief that then prompted Gaul to file a cross complaint for harassment.

When the two finally meet in mediation, Lucero hopes the outcome will be that Gaul keeps it quiet on the weekends.

Gaul, however, has a different goal.

“I hope he gets a life,” Gaul told the Daily Journal. “It is ludicrous. He has taken it too far.”

Lucero’s family has owned the home on the 2800 block of Adeline Drive for 25 years, well before Gaul moved into the home he started building from the ground up in 2006. The Luceros used to look out at a big empty lot from the living room but now face a large multi-level structure with the garages facing the bedroom.

“You may not realize it, but the noise is affecting the enjoyment of our homes and our neighborhood,” the neighbors wrote in the letter to the Gauls.

President of the Burlingame Hills Improvement Association, Steve Epstein, has taken Lucero’s side in this situation and said he’d be a little fearful living next to Gaul considering the “GFY” sign.

“It is very unfortunate. It pains me to see,” Epstein said.

Gaul’s cross complaint accused Lucero of being far more than noisy, it accused him of “aberrational sexual gawking behavior” related to Gaul’s 13-year-old daughter.

It also accused him of running an illegal bed and breakfast and renting out his home to a film crew that disrupted the Gauls’ ability to sleep, according to the cross complaint.

It also alleges Lucero “has lewdly and lasciviously photographed [his daughter] and followed her in his car.”

Gaul has since dropped the cross complaint, he told the Daily Journal.

“It’s a waste of time and money,” he said.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: lucero, complaint, neighbors,

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