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[whitespace] Council delays decision on home regulations

Cupertino--After months of work, the changes to the residential homes ordinance will have to wait another week before they are approved, or sent back to the Planning Commission.

The City Council got its first look at the plans to regulate size and design changes to homes at the Feb. 1 council meeting. The council chose to continue the issue until Feb. 16.

To help councilmembers better visualize how the new regulations could effect the look of homes, council directed city staff to create examples based on 10 recently constructed homes for the next meeting.

While the council was pleased with the efforts of the Planning Commission, there were some minor issues regarding design techniques to mask the look of big homes.

Councilmembers wondered how certain numbers were chosen in regard to floor heights and setbacks, but overall, they concurred with the recommendations made by the Planning Commission.

"I think the controls, in general, are good to have homes look less massive," said Councilmember Don Burnett.

Lynn Lee has lived with her husband and two children in an 800-square-foot house on a 5,000-square-foot Rancho Rinconada lot for five years. Lee has been working with an architect on a design for her home, but with the dimensions of her lot and the new regulations with specific setbacks, she won't be able to construct the home she wants.

"I dream of a new house," Lee said. "But it's very restrictive because of the new regulations."

The majority of the debate centered around the FAR, the ratio used to determine the maximum size of a house. At the Jan. 6 Planning Commission meeting, commissioners chose a sliding scale FAR rather than the flat maximum FAR of .45--meaning a home can take up no more than 45 percent of the total lot.

Commissioners adopted the same ratios used in Palo Alto: a 5,000-square-foot lot would have .45 FAR, while a 10,000-square-foot lot would have a .375 FAR.

Of the 20 community members who spoke, the majority were against the ordinance because reducing the FAR would reduce property value and infringe on homeowner's rights.

"Most homes in Cupertino are worth $300-plus per square foot," said Mark Burns, an agent with Century 21 Contempo Realty. "When you look at an 11,000-square-foot lot and reduce the home size by 900 square foot, you lose $27,000."

Several homeowners said they had been saving money for several years to build a new home and the new regulations would unfairly restrict their ability to construct the homes they wanted.

Larry Mattheakis, who is in favor of the reduced FAR, reminded the City Council that during the last election, councilmembers addressed the issue of large homes.

"Remember the silent majority of Cupertino who supported your views expressed in the last campaign," Mattheakis said. "People campaigning suggested reducing the FAR."

Linda Roy questioned why the Planning Commission chose to go with the sliding scale rather than the flat FAR at virtually the last minute.

"I was at the meeting the Planning Commission chose to go with a sliding scale," Roy said. "I left the meeting when I believed there would only be one or two minutes left. After I left, they cut the FAR down to Palo Alto's level.

Councilmember Michael Chang echoed Roy's sentiments. "The Planning Commission went through this very long process and then, in the last minute, put in this [sliding scale FAR]," he said.

While Burnett was in favor of the sliding scale, other councilmembers were wary.

"I am leaning very much in favor of the sliding scale, but what bedevils me is when I was going door to door, people were becoming unhinged about large homes on small lots," said Councilmember John Statton. "For that end, I'm leery of leaving large FARs on small lots."
Michelle Ku

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