Neighbors Lash Out Against Palatial Homes

A Weekend Acres resident's plan for property was shot down by the Board of Supervisors; Neighbors pleased.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to stop the development of a property in the Stanford Weekend Acres neighborhood after an overwhelming community outcry.

Ramin Shahidi will have to wait until the county reviews the zoning regulations for his property at 21 Bishop Lane before he is able to build on the land he owns in unincorporated San Mateo County, near Menlo Park.

The board was revisiting their previous rejection of Shahidi's proposal to either subdivide his 12,500-square-foot lot into two parcels where he would build two smaller homes, or build a single much larger home on the single piece of land.

But after nearly 15 neighbors and residents spoke out against allowing Shahidi to follow through with his plans, the Board decided it was best to place a moratorium on any development in the area until local zoning code is updated.

Shahidi, the director of the California Institute of Computer-Assisted Surgery in Los Altos, said he hoped to subdivide the land and then build a 2,800-square-foot home on the front of the property, and then another about 2,500-square-foot home in the back.

But Supervisor Adrienne Tissier did not look kindly on such a proposal, saying two houses of such a size did not match the character of the neighborhood.

"When I think of two houses of that size on one lot, it tells me we haven't done a very good job of zoning in the neighborhood," said Tissier. "We have to rezone the neighborhood. We have to start from square one, and see what is best for the community."

Ultimately her fellow supervisors agreed.

Neighbors Chad and Jennifer Kinzelberg, who live at 20 Bishop lane, led the opposition against Shahidi's proposal. They claimed the subdivision would fly in the face of the neighborhood's character, which features smaller single family homes on a single parcel. 

Chad Kinzelburg said that had Shahidi's proposal been approved, the neighborhood would have soon become known as "Stanford Subdivision Acres." Stanford Weekend Acres came into the public's eye after famous American author Ken Kesey began calling it home years ago.

The two small cottages, one which backs up to edge of San Francisquito Creek, are currently constructed on Shahidi property that would have been demolished to make way for the development of his proposed subdivision plan.

The health of the creek and native wildlife living in it became a point of concern for some neighbors who opposed the development.

Shahidi denied that his proposed development would adversely impact the surrounding environment.

Alternatively, in June, he had proposed to build a 5,000-square-foot dormitory style home on the single parcel that featured over 15 rooms, which the board of supervisors previously could not deny; it instigated the outrage of neighbors.

And he is not the only resident in the neighborhood with the desire to construct such a palace.

County planning staff said there has been at least one other development proposal currently submitted for approval that is nearly 4,000-square-feet large.

Supervisor Don Horsley said other development in the area "looked like it belonged in Disneyland."

This only fed the fire of fear from folks in the neighborhood concerned about the rapidly growing size of homes in Weekend Acres, where the current zoning allows homes to be built as large as 5,000-square feet.

Residents who spoke to the board Tuesday against the development claimed Shahidi only planned to subdivide the property in order to sell it, since he faced opposition when attempting to build the home of his dreams.  These are claims Shahidi acknowledged, yet he said he planned to move forward with the plan for the much larger house, should the subdivision be denied.

"The neighbors have been nothing short of malicious in their attempt to demonize me and financially damage me," said Shahidi. "I have to start construction on this one way or the other. I will prevail through a moratorium. I guarantee you."

He said the process leading up the decision today has nearly bankrupt him, as he has spent up to $500,000 on planning for building the home. That is an additional cost to the purchase of the land, which he quoted at $1.3 million. And any new construction of a building is yet to take place on the property.

Shahidi himself dubbed the debacle "the backlash of prosperity."

Others opposing the project questioned the board's reasoning for revisiting the issue after initially denying it in November, citing the possibility of Shahidi filing a lawsuit against the county in order to push the project through the approval process.

But County Counsel John Beiers nipped those concerns in the bud by claiming the county administration and board of supervisors are not persuaded by the threat of litigation. And the decision of the supervisors ultimately reflected Beiers' comments.

Horsley directed county planning staff to look into zoning options for the area that would allow homes to be built on a ratio to the amount of land on the property. Under the board's ruling, all additional development in the Weekend Acres neighborhood is on hold until the zoning code is updated. The moratorium is retroactive to the time of Shahidi's proposal.

Afterwards, Jennifer Kinzelburg celebrated the meeting's outcome.

"I'm thrilled with the results," she said. "I'm thrilled that the supervisors decided to move in the right direction."


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