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County Presses Pause on Palatial Home Construction

Having a home in unincorporated San Mateo County is about to get more complicated.

Residents of the Stanford Weekend Acres neighborhood celebrated the decision of the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that bars the construction of any homes in the area for 45 days, while new zoning regulations for the area are being drawn.

"This is America at its best. And this is local government at its best" said Rob Cochran, who lives on Bishop Lane near where Ramin Shahidi attempted to build a 5,000-square-foot dormitory style home on the single parcel. It would have featured more than 15 rooms. But opposition to the development inhibited that. 

Shahidi changed his plans and instead tried to divide his property into two smaller lots, so he could build two smaller homes. But that was by the Board of Supervisors; they opted to update zoning regulations in the area instead.

Cochran said that he supported the decision of the supervisors, even though he does plan on expanding his own house. And if restrictions on bulky homes end up taking money out of his pocket, he feels it's justified. It's important to preserve the bucolic character of the neighborhood, said Cochran.

Today's decision implements a 45 day moratorium on the construction of any new homes in the area until the county's Planning and Building Department develop what the new zoning rules may look like. County Planning and Building Director Jim Eggemeyer said there would likely be restrictions on the size of homes that are based on the size of the property, as well as building height limits.

Currently there are no restrictions pertaining to the size of homes that can be built in the neighborhood.

During the moratorium, Eggemeyer said he and his staff would meet with neighborhood representatives to develop a consensus on what would be fair.

At the end of the 45 days, the Planning and Building staff will recommend the board implement zoning regulations that allow building homes in the area that are in compliance with what is considered an acceptable size. Should the board approve those recommendations, building permits requested during the moratorium will be granted, so long as they adhere to the newly approved regulations.

Eggemeyer said his staff will then move forward on developing a longer term plan that addresses more details about development in the area, such as how far a home needs to be setback from San Francisquito Creek, which flows near the backyard of some homes.

Short term, Shahidi and his attorney Ash Pirayou, would not confirm nor deny whether they intended to file a lawsuit against the county to push through the development of his home. Shahidi said that the county should exclude his property from the moratorium, because he began the application process for his home years ago.

Residents of Weekend Acres say they have warned the county and supervisors against caving to threats of litigation from Shahidi in the past.  In all, eight county residents came to voice their support to the board on their decision. On behalf of them, Barbara Ann Barnett thanked the supervisors for standing for the longtime residents of the area.

"There are people coming into the neighborhood that don't care about it," Barnett said. "And I know people cannot legislate caring. But I am hoping for attention to some aspect of that as things move along," she said.

Supervisor Don Horsley, who represents the area, expressed frustration that the zoning regulations were not addressed earlier.

"It's overdue for us to actually deal with this," he said.

He also said that going forward it is important to create regulations that maintain the character of the neighborhood.

Both Supervisors Adrienne Tissier and Dave Pine said it is important to establish and implement the new set of rules for development in the area as soon as possible.

"We need to move quickly for the benefit of all residents," said Tissier.

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