Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 13, 2012

Ramona Street home no longer 'historic'

City Council sides with homeowner, takes Queen Anne-style home off Historic Inventory

by Gennady Sheyner

Christopher Pickett's Ramona Street home was built in 1895, but on Monday (Jan. 9) the Palo Alto City Council agreed with Pickett that the Queen Anne-style house isn't technically "historic" and should be erased from the city's Historic Inventory.

The council voted unanimously to remove the home at 935 Ramona St. from the inventory, making it possible for the family to remodel the home without conducting lengthy environmental reviews. In doing so, the council overturned a decision by the Historic Resources Board (HRB), which voted in September to deny Pickett's request only the second such request that the city has received in a dozen years.

It took a city analysis, two consultant studies and two public hearings, but the council on Monday ruled that the Historic Resources Board relied on the wrong standards when it concluded that the house, despite major renovations, maintains its historical "integrity." City staff had disagreed, noting that the house had been remodeled so significantly since 1976 that it no longer qualifies as historic.

The list of modifications includes a "substantial redesign of the roof," "alteration of the entire right side facade" and replacement of almost every historic window and door with the modern variety.

Staff's conclusion was independently confirmed by the historic-architecture firm Garavaglia Architecture, which concluded that the building should not be listed as historic. Pickett then hired another architecture firm, Page & Turnbull, to review the Garavaglia study. Page & Turnbull reached the same conclusion as Garavaglia.

The Historic Resources Board, however, focused on the building's front facade and identified several original features before unanimously concluding that the house retains its historic integrity. The board voted to deny Pickett's request and keep the building listed as Category 4 historic (the lowest designation). A Category 4 (contributing building) is defined as a building that maintains an appropriate design for its neighborhood and maintains its historical integrity, such as not having been moved from another location.

Board Chair Martin Bernstein said the board focused on what the building looks like to the public, not on the additions to the interior, the sides and the rear of the building.

"From the public's point of view, which is our main focus, we just didn't see those things to be applicable," Bernstein said.

The council disagreed with the board's conclusion. The results of the two studies, along with the concurring conclusion from the city staff, convinced members the building should no longer be classified as historic, a designation that Councilman Larry Klein said isn't always welcomed by homeowners.

"Being on the Historic Inventory is not a blessing," Klein said. "For some people it is; they're proud of historic houses and that's great. But for others it's a burden."

He said homes listed as historic typically cost 10 percent to 15 percent less than those that aren't. That's because homeowners who wish to remodel such houses are required to conduct environmental-impact reports, comprehensive and often expensive analyses.

"We shouldn't be putting through that process unless there is good and sufficient record to justify the house being on the Historic Inventory," Klein said. "I think clearly now, for this particular house, there isn't."

Councilwoman Karen Holman also supported striking the building from the inventory and noted that just because a building is old doesn't mean it's historic.

Pickett, who was joined in the Council Chambers by his family and neighbors, argued that because his house was found to have no "historic integrity," its inclusion on the city's Historic Inventory means that the inventory "means nothing."

"Our house lacks the sufficient historic integrity to be on the inventory and that should mean something," Pickett said.

The council agreed. Councilman Sid Espinosa said that while he enjoys walking by and seeing old homes like the Queen Anne-style house on Ramona, the resident's property rights should be respected. And Vice Mayor Greg Scharff said that while he is sympathetic to the HRB's concern about the building's "public presence," the home isn't "historic" as defined by the city's ordinance.

"We have to have an open and transparent process in which we follow the rules," Scharff said. "I think the Pickett family followed the rules, and I think that the conclusion should be the staff recommendation."

TALK ABOUT IT

Do you think the Ramona Street house should remain on Palo Alto's Historic Inventory? Share your opinions on Town Square on Palo Alto Online.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Norman Beamer, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 7:12 am

I'd like a better explanation of why alterations to a Catagory 4 building would require an environmental impact statement. My understanding of the ordinance is that owners of catagory 4 buildings must seek the advice of the HRB, but it is purely voluntary whether that advice is followed.

If it is true that Catagory 3 or 4 building need an EIR, then the same incentives that are given to Catagory 1 and 2 (e.g., flood plain regulation exceptions; other zoning exceptions) should be given to 3 and 4.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2012 at 8:21 am

Historic is the most overused word in Palo Alto. Heritage? possibly. Historic? no!


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 8:26 am

"the Historic Resources Board relied on the wrong standards when it concluded that the house, despite major renovations, maintains its historical "integrity." "
The standard that the HRB uses is that everything in Palo Alto is "historic"--after all the board members would not want to live in a city that is not full of "historic" homes.
AGree with resident--"historic" is the most overused term in Palo Alto--there is little to nothing historic in town.


Posted by YSK, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

More of these lovely homes should be protected. Enough of these Casa de Tacky's


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

"More of these lovely homes should be protected."
Buy them and protect them. Property owners have rights also. Enough of non-owners attempting to control property they have no stake in.

"Enough of these Casa de Tacky's"
I find most of the "historic" homes in the city tacky. However, if the owners like them that is fine. Seems to me that people just love to denigrate other people's homes, which they like. I guess homeonwers should let the neighbors and the "historical" experts determine what is nice and what is tacky


Posted by Carroll Harrington, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

Kudos to the council for making this decision! For those of us involved in overturning that onerous 1998 historic preservation ordinance,this indicates a significant change in thinking, one that is more realistic and respects the homeowners.

I must take issue with Chairman Bernstein's comment that we need to "focus on how the building looks like to the public." Palo Alto is NOT a movie set...it is the many individuals and families who chosen to live here make it one of the exciting cities in the US!


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 11:04 am

@svatoid: yeah, those cheaply built spanish style southern california mass housing development homes with the fountains in front (like on churchill avenue) have soooo much character. and what makes you think i don't own a house? snobbery and elitism? how DARE the common masses venture forth an opinion. we have lost many homes that gave this city character and charm in favor of uniform conformity.


Posted by Front to the Future, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 11:12 am

Really, how did the owners not know the building was on the Historic register when they bought it?

Meanwhile, over the years it was the Historic Resources Board itself that approved the $400,000 of alterations that eventually led to the Councils decision to remove this building.

As a result of Council's decision, look to the HRB to get stricter and vote against future upgrades of other applications for alterations for fear those upgrades will eventually push them off the list. That's not good for anyone.

That being said if we want to allow for modern living while maintaining historic character of certain areas/homes, then homes on the margin (Category 3? and 4) should really get greater incentives and rewards for staying on the list than they do today or better yet certain upgrades shouldn't push homes with historic exteriors entirely off the list. That's throwing the baby out with the bath water - improvements over the years, particularly interior, shouldn't add up to being able to demolish an historic facade.

There are all sorts of examples in SF of "historic" exteriors now with recently rennovated, albeit trendy modern (read Dwell) interiors. Neighborhood character is preserved with facades and private owners are happy with modern amenities and look they might prefer inside. All without the heavy hand of a Historic Resource Board or a City Council vote.

The difference is, many of those homes in SF started out with a lot more square footage. Many of Palo Alto's historics that weren't already demolished as part of the mid-century New Frontier and turned into large lot multi-unit high density "affordable" aparments, instead started out more as working class cottages with sq footages not as amenable to modern desires and lot sizes that now would otherwise allow for some expansion if not historic.

Square footage and expansion is really where the rubber meets the road here and non-historic interior alterations are the proxy for that. There's got to be a better way to allow for renovations and rear expansion of historic buildings on the margin (Category 3? and 4) short of current system of either granting the owner permission to demolish the building entirely or having HRB have to get ridiculously strict on upgrades, interior or otherwise.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 11:17 am

"yeah, those cheaply built spanish style southern california mass housing development homes with the fountains in front (like on churchill avenue) have soooo much character."
They may not appeal to you, but it is not your property. The owners liked it or they bought it that way. As long as homeowners follow the rules, it is none of anyone's business what type of house they build. Everyone has their own taste.


Posted by rem, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

rem is a registered user.

YES Councilwoman Karen Holman - just because a building is old DOES MAKE it's historic.

IT would be "nice" if some of our Council people would do their HOMEWORK and NOT worry about reelection and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$....


Posted by Please listen more carefully, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm

rem,
Councilwoman Holman said she hoped one outcome of the discussion last night would be that the record can be set straight once and for all.

1) Age of a building does not determine it to be historic. Age is only one consideration.

2) The current (and formerly proposed preservation ordinance) does not consider the interior of single family homes except very very rarely, when an interior feature is indicated in the designation of the property.


Posted by Eichler owner, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm

@Enough!

You said "yeah, those cheaply built spanish style southern california mass housing development homes with ..."

Well, what do you think of our eichler neighborhood which shares the charactors you described --cheaply built, mass development... and more leaking roof, clogged pipes, and more...while historic expert like you want to crown them as histroic houses and trying to prevent owners from tearing it down and rebuild?.


Posted by Please listen more carefully, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Carroll Harrington, you are mistaken. This in not a significant change in thinking. it is consistent with the standards in the ordinance.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm

@Eichler owner: Ooooh, I'm an expert now? Good, I needed additional income for my leaky roof and clogged pipes. I too live in an Eichler, and they are a perfect example of what can happen when people start tearing down homes with individuality and building cookie cutter houses. Thanks for making my point.


Posted by Eichler owner, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm

@Enough!

Thank you for mentioning that your eichler home has leaky roof and clogged pipes too. Now , tell me, what if someone tell you that you can not tear down your house and rebuild?

Apparently, there are people in Eichler neighborhood think that Eichler has its unique individuality and has historic value just as you think of the Romona St home.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm

"people start tearing down homes with individuality and building cookie cutter houses. "
Cookie cutter homes in your opinion--a home that the owner wants and likes in his opinion. Of course in Palo Alto, the mindset at times seems to be that the property owner has no rights--his neighbors and "historic" boards get to tell him what his taste should be.
I though we had gotten past this when we repealed the historic ordinance (aka everything is historic land grab bill) over a decade ago.


Posted by lyndon, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 10, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Tragic story. Palo Alto is in a sad state. Case point...many, many ugly Ikea style homes popping up in all neighborhoods. No more please!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Neighborhoods evolve and don't stay the same for long, except of course some of the condo/town home developments which can't change very much.

I love the look of the different styles as I go through the neighborhoods in Palo Alto. What one person thinks of as charming is ugly to the next, but the important thing is that their owners are showing individuality. I would hate to see row upon row of the same houses, in the same styles, in the same colors.

Some of the old ugly teardowns really needed to go and it would have cost more in time and money to bring them up to par.

If a home is supposedly worth putting on some type of national register, then it should be moved piece by piece to a museum. Otherwise, some of these old, dangerous homes should be allowed to be replaced with something more modern.


Posted by Mind your own business, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Lyndon, do what you want with your home but do not try to impose your standard for taste on individual homeowners. Private property owners do have some rights, even in palo alto. We have too many lyndons in palo alto going strong judging other peoples homes. Took many busy bodies in town.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 6:25 pm

I can see why the photo of this house was deemed historic I think.

So, this guy wants to tear down this house or something? Why? It is a very nice house, is there something wrong with it? What ought to be done is if we value historicaly housing, or heritage or whatever is to make it easy for peolpe to get into and out of them. Let this person buy another property to tear down. This is a perfect example of a house that "appears" to be useful still, very charming and appropriate to the neighborhood with a lot of space and value.

As these houses are torn down and the weirdo looking houses that we see more and more of that someone up there called IKEA houses abound the whole character of the city changes. These assymetrical BORG-like boxes are really ugly compared to a nice Victorian. Of course not everyone has the same taste as me or should they, but this new style is like a deliberate eyesore. Did any of these people go to architectural school the insides of these houses seem to be getting less efficient as well. Ceilings 20 feet high make heating costs rise.

We should be making progress is some way besides raising the right to build the ugliest house above all others!


Posted by Mind your own business, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Anon like lyndon has issues with property owners having certain rights to do what they wish with the property they own. They have appointed themselves ad judges of what is tasteful or not. Must be nice to control others property without any financial obligation.


Posted by galen, a resident of Ventura
on Jan 11, 2012 at 8:55 am

Another bonehead move by the City Council. If you have no interest in nor intention of protecting old, historic structures, you should buy them just to tear them down. This is a crime and a crying shame. How many houses built then do we still have?


Posted by Professor Villian, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 11, 2012 at 10:14 am

I am getting quite tired of people moving into a historic district and tearing down homes, yet they move in because they like the look of the neighborhood.

It is only because Professorville has had some restrictions, that is doesn't look like downtown north with it's combination of stucco apartments and Victorians. I like that neighborhood, but people who bought into Professorville when it did have some protection as a federal historic district, should have some right to have that neighborhood historic character protected.

People in Professorville know the history of houses from their inception as housing for Stanford professors. This is being lost as the history is replaced with yet another Silicon Valley multi-millionaire's expression of entitlement. (Many of the same live in Professorville and respect the historic homes, I might add.)

The other problem for residents is the constant construction that has been going on the last 12 years or so as people buy the old homes and completely rebuild, remodel or demolish them in a process that takes 2-4 years. The noise, dirt, traffic, safety, parking are unbearable as a result. Plus, you are living in a multi-million dollar home with views of porta-potties and chain link fences.

Of course, these property owners are not living in the neighborhood and are not subjected to the disruption.

Why would you buy an old house which is rare and irreplaceable just to tear it down?

This is why I don't respect the property owners who do so.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

> Mind your own business, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood

Your implictaion of total property rights is just a foolish simple-minded argument. The question is where to draw the line and what property rights are. The city is doing a poor job of regulating things because of the all the support they get for chaos from people like you. In the long run it is making Palo Alto less liveable and will reduce property values.

As I said I have not read the particulars of this case but I don't think people should buy there historic houses in historic neighborhoods without the understanding that they have some responsibilities, after all a city is like a common development and there are restrictions on your actions. If you do not like those restrictions fight to change them.

They did, and got them changed, I am just not sure the city did the right thing mostly because most times I read about decisions of our city they seem bad and made simply due to money and not quality of life - there is not a very good balance in Palo Alto, although they do talk a lot to make people think they are considering things.


Posted by Wendy, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

"I am getting quite tired of people moving into a historic district and tearing down homes, yet they move in because they like the look of the neighborhood."

That about says it all. Disclaimer here - I do not live in a house in College Terrace, I live in a 60 year old studio apartment hovel.

But, while living in Telluride, Co, I was a member of the Architectural Review Board for the town which is a National Historic District. We usually turned down applicants wanting to build (or change) something that did not fit the Victorian Mining Town era if it was on a street that was completely from the turn of the century (the last one). The changes to existing houses or the building of new ones had to fit the view scape, site coverage, mass and scale, set backs etc. In the historic warehouse district areas more lienency was allowed and more angled, warehouse style houses with corrugated metal were approved. A gentleman who came before us who had a completely visable lot on the hillside in town with plans to build a Swiss style A Frame home was astounded that we turned him down. He threatend law suit, he threatened lawyers, he had property rights after all! Not when the community has passed Planning and Zoning ordinances that restrict what can and can't be done in a community. And not when the Town is NOT acting in a capricious manner by applying the rules to one and not to another. We asked this person why he wanted to build an A Frame in Telluride and he said he loved the look, feel, history, quaintness and architecture of the town. Go figure. He left Telluride and sold the lot and I assume built his A Frame elsewhere.

A city or community needs to decide what is important to them as far as the look, feel, historical value, neighborhood styles, mass and scale, site coverages, set backs etc. These are the Planning and Zoning ordinances that the whole community needs to agree upon. If historical areas or individual buildings are of value to the community they need to be protected and those who come in and buy in these areas need to be informed of what they are getting into. If you have strong ordinances and they are farily applied to everyone then they shouldn't be able to come into an Eichler overlay neighborhood and insist that they be able to tear their Eichler down and build a 3 story McMansion for example. That seems clear to me. Why do people have such a hard time with this? There are property rights and then there are community values and ordinances that govern what happens to a street scape, a neighborhood overlay, historical protections. Let the buy beware and let the buyer do their homework about what can and can not be done to their property based on the the City's Planning and Zoning ordinances. This can all be investigated with the City Planning Department before a house is sold. Again, seems clear to me. I value Palo Alto for it's diversity of styles, neighborhood feel, history here, modern there, small shotgun styles (historic) here, large lots there, old cotteges there, large Victorians here. It makes it a community of residents who may feel that they are here because they care about their life style and their community. So many other cities around here are newer, more recently developed, that do not have this history and background. Many people choose to live there and enjoy it. Many find an "older" community more to their liking. Tradeoffs. Do your homework before you buy and want to change it all and cry "property rights!" A community does have the right to decide and write ordinances that protect what it values. Property buyers and owners should be informed that they will need to adhere to these ordinances, restrictions and values or seek property elsewhere. (We insist on this compliance with our Building Codes, do we not? At least I don't think we back down when a person doing a new construction or remodel wants to install not-to-code wiring when they cry "it's my right to install what I want to!") And the City of Palo Alto should work hard to make their Planning and Zoning ordinances, documents and retrictions clear, solid, enforceable and be willing to do the enforcement. And that goes for Historical Preservation for all qualifying buildings in the city.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

No one, especially the city, should have any right to regulate what someone does with their property as long as the construction meets safety codes. If the city or a private property owner wants to preserve a certain look, then they can buy the property or building and do as they wish. You has the right to impose what someone's property should look like? What might be unfitting to one, is a treasure to another. People should indeed mind their own business.


Posted by Mind your own business, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Anon, my comments regarding property rights are that as long as the owner follows the rules and builds or remodels according to those guidelines, he should be free to build the home he wants, be it an "ikea" home our whatever insulting term you chose to denigrate someone elses home with. Input from busybodies and historic home zealots should be minimal. Especially when they have no financial stake in the matter.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You are absolutely right Mind You Own. These zealots have no problem dictating to others what they should do with their homes as long as they have no stake in the matter. I wonder how they would feel about these policies if it involved their own home.


Posted by Cindy, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2012 at 7:07 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 9:31 am

One can still respect the community they live in and still design and decorate their home however they choose. One is not exclusive to the other, and race has absolutely zero to do wit it. So long as the property owner is adhering to proper safety codes, nobody has the right, especially a government agency, to dictate to that person if and how that property should be developed or even demolished. I would resent anyone with no stake on my property or life to tell me what to do with something I earned. This is another example of how the government should be keeping out of people's lives.


Posted by Wendy, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2012 at 10:58 am

To Marrol and Svatoid -

There are still many areas in the country that have no Planning and Zoning rules and regulations. Often unincorporated areas in counties have no Planning and Zoning. And I know of some unincorporated areas that don't require building permits and have no building codes which is pretty scary. There are areas where one can purchase property that will allow you to do what ever you want. I can get you started with a list so that you can purchase property elsewhere and you can live happily ever after, enjoying your "property rights."

But please refrain from saying that communities don't have the "right" to tell you what to do if there are Planning and Zoning ordinances in place, building codes in place and architechtural and design ordinances in place. They do have the "right" because there are laws in place that property owners need to or should be required to abide by if the community has a strong sense of enforcement. If enforcement is spotty, capricious and selective then the community opens itself up for trouble. Perhaps Palo Alto has skated along some of these fine lines.

Welcome to the 21st century.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:18 am

"But please refrain from saying that communities don't have the "right" to tell you what to do if there are Planning and Zoning ordinances in place, building codes in place and architectural and design ordinances in place. "

Wendy-perhaps you were too busy writing your post to actually read what I and others have written. I, at least, have made it clear that as long as the home owner abides by the rules and regulations, then he should be allowed to build whatever he wants. I agree with other posters comments that attempts by others (who do not have a financial stake in the property) should be minimized.
Let me know if you want further clarification


Posted by Wendy, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:23 am

Marrol - one more comment based on your last entry.

We ARE the government. Government is made up of its citizens and whatever is governed is an agreement amongst the citizens. Resources are pooled, prioraties are decided on (do we want a police department, a fire department, roads, bridges, health and safety, building codes, Planning and Zoning standards?) laws and ordinances are passed and enforced. Government, local or state or Federal, is not some entity that is separate from the populace. We are the government through voting, involvement in writing ordinances and laws and participating in what the majority feel is best for the country, the state, the community. If you want to be free of some government agency or government involvement in your "life" than as I suggested in my previous post, there are plenty of places where this is possible. This is why I say one should check into a city, state country, neighborhood etc before they spend money on a piece of property so that they are sure it will give them the freedom they are looking for - not after the fact. If you find, after the fact, that the restrictions are harsher or worse than you thought then you have the responsibility and the "right" to work with your neighborhood, city, state, country to change the laws and the ordinances. It is called democracy. It requires constant vigilance and participation in the process. Again, welcome to the 21st century and good luck.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

And I respectfully disagree Wendy. It is my belief that government is far too involved in our lives, this being just one very personal example in my opinion. Especially when it comes to matters of taste, preference, and artistic sense. I fully support laws and ordinances that regulate safety measures. As for the rest, I would resent a zealot group bent on maintaining what they feel is the status quo.


Posted by Professor Villian, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

While I may not have a financial stake in YOUR property, I have a stake in my own, and while you spend years demolishing a beautiful and meaningful historical property, the value of my home is diminished due to construction disruption, and destruction of the integrity of the neighborhood.

Don't expect me to be happy when someone comes into a place where many people have lived for decades and generations, to see someone entitled enough to threaten the city council with a lawyer for the right to tear down a home in a federal historic district.

I have lived in Professorville for decades, and I choose to do so because I love the look and stories of the beautiful old homes. There are very few intact homes left in Professorville which can tell the stories of early Palo Alto residents.

Please tell me why so many people want to buy a historic home and then destroy it. It is not economically sound. There are plenty of truly deteriorating homes in non-historic neighborhoods that could be torn down if someone wants to design and build their own home. Of course, these neighborhoods aren't as charming as Professorville.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

"While I may not have a financial stake in YOUR property, I have a stake in my own, and while you spend years demolishing a beautiful and meaningful historical property, the value of my home is diminished due to construction disruption, and destruction of the integrity of the neighborhood."
And your "stake" trumps that of the actual homeowner. The homeowner has s et of rules and guidelines to follow. The project is reviewed by the relevant boards. That ispart of living with others--you may not like what is going on next door, but you should have limited input in that matter.

"Don't expect me to be happy when someone comes into a place where many people have lived for decades and generations, to see someone entitled enough to threaten the city council with a lawyer for the right to tear down a home in a federal historic district."
Your happiness is not an issue. The house in question was deemed by two experts, on the city's list of historical experts, to be not historic. The council agreed. times change, people move out, new people move in--sounds like you object to new people in our city---let's keep things the way they were in 1959.

We already tried a decade ago to declare everything over a certain amount of years to be declared historic. The voters rejected that ordinance.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Professor Villian, you cannot impose your sense of values on others. If you cherish the historical value of your home, or its quaint nature, then fine, you may choose to maintain it however you wish. Who's to say that a complete renovation of a neighboring home may not add to the surrounding property values and overall quality of life. You can't, so you should respect what someone wants to do with their own property. If you wish to keep your world the same, then you're free to make offers on any property you'd like and do with it as you wish. Otherwise I resent being told what to do with my property as long as I adhere to safety regulations.


Posted by Wendy, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 12, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Marrol -

Not sure what you are respectfully disagreeing with - how our system of democracy works? Again you speak as if "government" is something separate from yourself. It isn't. You have the option of being a full participant just as much as the next person. Resenting a zealot bent on maintaining the status quo or even working towards strengthing preservation of historic homes and neighborhoods is basically saying that they shouldn't have a right to participate in the system by working towards change - the same right you have to work at change as well. The world cannot be kept "the same" but if a community values historic preservation, maintaining what the past has to offer as it relates to the quality of a home or neighborhood or community, and the majority of the populace acting within their rights as citizens to work towards preservation, are successful in getting ordinances passed, that's how the system works. I would hope that the citizens in Palo Alto who would still like to see an ordinance passed that preserves the historical values of this community keep working on it. Just as you have the right to fight that. But continuing to say that "they" (government)are too involved in our lives, you are really pointing a finger at yourself if you are in fact a citizen of this country. If you choose not to vote or to participate in the process whether local or national then you abdicate your responsibility as a citizen. And we must all take responsibility for the state of our community, abide by the laws and ordinances that have been passed by the majority of the people or by our representatives (through voting) until we can work towards changing what we would like to see changed. Or move to a place where this is not an issue. Again, plenty of places to go.


Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Wendy, I worked mightily to defeat the proposed ordinance a decade ago that would define a historical property built before a certain year, and yes, I will continue to campaign and vote against any local measure that places unfair restrictions on property owners. And suspecting that I have been here in Palo Alto even longer than you, no thanks, I think I'll stick around and continue to work toward people respecting the artistic and creative expression of others.


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