With the Peninsula’s home prices remaining sky high, a project to demolish a 6,260-square-foot Hillsborough home built in 2013 and replace it with a 12,986-square-foot residence on a lot adorned with a swimming pool, pool house and tennis court may make eyes widen.
Up for review at Hillsborough’s Architecture and Design Review Board Tuesday, Sept. 3, the proposal aims to level a two-story, modern-style home at 2186 Parkside Ave. and build a two-story, farmhouse-style home with a detached garage in its place. The plans also include new fences and gates as well as stone paths and enhanced landscaping, according to a staff report.
But projects of this nature are not exactly a rarity for those working at Hillsborough’s Planning Division, which has processed 61 applications to demolish existing homes and replace them with new houses between 2014 and Aug. 30, according to associate planner Liz Ruess.
Ruess said a neighbor of the 2186 Parkside Ave. project has expressed concerns about the impact of construction, an issue she and Liz Cullinan, the city’s director of Building and Planning, have strived to work on with several sets of property owners and builders in the past few years. With construction management requirements aimed at mitigating everything from the dust a construction project could create to the impact of construction noise, Hillsborough has taken steps to ensure teardown projects — and construction projects on the whole — are being planned with opportunities for neighbors to weigh in and coordinate where possible, she said.
Ruess and Cullinan felt the rate at which property owners are opting to do home teardowns is likely on par with the construction activity taking shape in other Peninsula communities with similar, largely single-family home zoning. With very few vacant properties in Hillsborough, the city’s construction activity could be driven by interest in a particular location or lot as well as a strong economy buoying building activity, they noted.
“We are pretty built out,” said Ruess. “If somebody wants to live in town, they might find the perfect lot but not the perfect house.”
According to the San Mateo County Assessor’s Office, the 2186 Parkside Ave. property was purchased for $15 million Jan. 8. The current homeowner’s plans propose to keep the lot’s existing pool, pool terrace, sport court, lawn and several mature trees but replace the existing home, according to the staff report.
Ruess said a careful deconstruction process is likely to be used by those carrying out the plans, which the city’s Architecture and Design Review Board approved Tuesday. By ensuring specific components of the existing home can be reused in other projects, the destruction of the current home at 2186 Parkside Ave. will not resemble the kind of wrecking ball process some associate with demolitions, she said.
Cullinan said that what struck her as unique about Hillsborough’s planning process when she began work at the city 11 years ago was its emphasis on ensuring property owners, architects and others involved in the construction process have opportunities to meet before any decisions are reached on project proposals. Like the plans most recently submitted for 2186 Parkside Ave., projects of this nature are reviewed at a minimum of two public hearings, one of which is aimed at gathering feedback and guidance before another hearing is held to allow officials to weigh its approval, she said.
Because it exceeds 8,000 square feet, the 2186 Parkside Ave. project must be submitted to the City Council for review, though that step may be waived if there are no unresolved concerns and if the project was approved by the Architecture and Design Review Board with no dissenting votes, according to the staff report.
With a goal of ensuring early and frequent outreach between neighbors and those involved in construction projects, staff strives to be available to facilitate communication and a process that takes into account as many perspectives as possible, noted Cullinan.
“We find that during good economic times … there’s just more construction going on,” she said. “I think that’s really what construction impacts are about, especially in neighborhoods where maybe there are two to three [projects] going on in one specific area.”
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