Jun 7 2016

Garage Enlargements At the Planning Commission

Proposed Three-Car Garages: One Approval and One Denied

    On May 9th, 2016, I attended a Planning Commission meeting in order to protest the housing modifications that the owners of 132 Hillside Avenue were proposing. The Planning Commission is a group of Piedmont representatives that make decisions on proposals for housing modifications and any construction projects that may come to fruition. The Commission meets on the Monday of the second week of every month in order to settle disputes between neighbors and, most importantly, come to compromises that will benefit the entire public rather than just one party.

    During this meeting, there were two major proposals, both involving modifying the structure of the current house in order to construct a bigger, more modern garage. The owners of the 122 Monte Avenue had their plan approved with some minor changes to further comply with the wishes of some neighbors, who argued that the garage would look aesthetically unattractive.

   However, I focused more on the project that was being proposed by the owners of 132 Hillside Avenue, whose plan entailed cutting down a California Sycamore tree. The owners, who spoke at the meeting, expressed their desire to construct a bigger garage, that also doubles as a guest house, while demolishing their older, smaller garage.

During this process, the plan was to move the separate garage structure forward, while also enlarging the structure by one hundred and nine square feet, which, from the point of view of their neighbors, would create a bulky, not to scale garage. The residents of 138 Hillside Avenue argued that the house at 132 Hillside Avenue already sticks out due to how big it is compared to the houses on the street and creating an even bigger structure would accentuate that characteristic.

    Moving their garage structure forward would not only make the facade of the owner’s house much larger but it would also mean that a California Sycamore would be cut down in the process. California Sycamores are an iconic symbol within Piedmont and, as I stated in the meeting, the, “cutting down of the Sycamore should be avoided at all costs.” Sycamores are precious and should not be cut down just to benefit one party’s wishes for a third garage space but should instead be seen as a relic of the past in need of being conserved.

    Commissioner Ode and Ramsey expressed their support of this argument by ordering the owners and architect to change the plan to better accommodate the concerns of the entire public.

   Therefore, this plan was rejected and the Planning Commission prompted the owners and architect to revise the project so that the garage structure is less bulky and forward, which included suggestions such as: making the in-ground pool smaller, reducing the square footage of the structure and not including the third garage space in the plan.

    After the meeting I interviewed the architect for the plan, Gary Parsons, who was there to give the Commission a proper overview of the plan and to find a compromise that would benefit both the owners and the neighbors. After hearing the verdict he did not seem to be surprised, stating, “[we] heard what they said and we will be back here with a revised plan but it is the [owners and neighbors] that need to come to a solution.”

by Chris Driscoll, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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