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San Mateo Nimbys Fret About Views. City Says "Tough"

Scott Lucas | July 29, 2014 | Story Real Estate

Stop us if you've heard this one before. A city facing a housing crunch—with nowhere to build but up—has to decided on a project that would include a mixture of market-rate and set-aside units. Long-established neighbors, worried about losing their views of the Bay and the negative impacts of increased density, go up in political arms. The soul of the city is at stake.

Sound familiar?

It's not San Francisco's waterfront, though, it's a single home of San Mateo's Verdun Avenue. The home-owning couple, Michael and Terri Schmier, wanted to build a second-story addition to their ranch-style house to manage a density increase—as in growing children and aging parents. On the other side, the neighbors up the hill from the Schmiers, who raised concerns about their Bay vistas being blocked by the new construction, and others who feared a view-blocking precedent.

One opponent of the plans at the City Council meeting last night said that the dispute was over more than just intangibles. "The adverse financial impact on the uphill neighbor’s property hasn’t been addressed. Buyers are paying significant premiums for views." Other homeowners in favor of the project said that increased density was key to attracting middle-class families to San Mateo. "Restricting vertical additions will keep families away," said one.

Since the project was found to fall within Planning Commission guidelines, the City Council voted unanimously to allow it to be built. Said Councilmember Jack Matthews, "Just because you were there first, doesn’t mean you have a necessary right to that view in perpetuity. I think that’s a very regressive way of looking at things. We’re a community experiencing change."

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