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[whitespace] Monster law discussion is postponed once again

Willow Glen--Councilman Frank Fiscalini's "monster home" ordinance seems to be becoming more of a monster than the sprawling houses it intends to tame. A public hearing to discuss the proposed design-review law, which was slated for July 14, has been pushed back to August 11--the fourth time the planning commissioners have postponed the hearing in as many months.

Some residents say the proposed law is too strict and doesn't allow enough freedom to homeowners. Other Glenites, however, argue that the ordinance needs to lay out more detailed architectural guidelines to protect San Jose's historic neighborhoods.

City planners, in the meantime, are scrambling to gather community input, looking at alternate home-review options, and analyzing the additional workload the ordinance will bring into the department.

"We don't look at any single-family homes right now, so any proposal that's out there's going to bring in a decent number of projects," senior planner Jean Hamilton says.

Under the current proposal, a "site development permit" would be required for the construction of all single-family homes. Planners would also review plans for some remodels and additions.

The planning department is also exploring alternate design-review plans, separate from the current proposed law. One option, Hamilton says, is changing the list of factors that would trigger a design review. Planners are also considering a proposal to create distinct "characteristic lists"--specific design factors to integrate new houses and rebuilds into the city's historic neighborhoods--for Willow Glen and other parts of the city.

As planners look at alternate design-review options, however, they also have to look at the increased work each option would bring into the department, Hamilton says.

J. Michael Gonzales, president of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association, says the proposed law as it stand now won't do the job.

"It doesn't protect Willow Glen from monster homes," he says. "There's nothing in the ordinance that would prevent any size home from being built. I would ask them to take it one step further and provide Willow Glen that protection.

"This ordinance may work well in other parts of the city, but I think that Willow Glen deserves a specific characteristic list that doesn't need to apply in other parts of the city."

At WGNA's May general meeting, 80 percent of attendees said they supported a law that would require new construction and major remodels to follow a characteristics list. Some common design concerns include architectural style, roof slope, garage configuration and house size.
Jessica Lyons

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