The Los Altos City Council last week upheld a Ray Avenue resident’s appeal to construct a new home deemed too bulky by some neighbors.
The council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Jan Pepper dissenting, May 27 to uphold homeowners Anand and Stefi Ganesan’s appeal of a design review application for a 3,278-square-foot two-story home at 1055 Ray Ave. – provided that its overall mass is reduced to fit in with the surrounding neighborhood. The home’s design meets the city’s zoning requirements for the area, according to a city staff report, and includes a 2,337-square-foot basement not considered part of the overall floor area.
The council specifically suggested that the owners lower the home’s eave line from 14 feet to 12 feet and discuss the landscaping design with neighbors. A revised design will return to the council for final approval at a future date.
Reached by the Town Crier, Ganesan called the council’s decision “definitely positive,” adding that he intends to meet soon with his architect, Malika Junaid, who serves on the Planning and Transportation Commission. Ganesan said he plans to address concerns by lowering the home’s eave height as the council suggested.
“They did uphold the appeal, which is positive. … We’re trying to see how we can meet the conditions they asked for,” said Ganesan, who called additional conditions listed as part of his home design’s approval “not that difficult” to achieve.
Ganesan conceded that the contentious issue, which he hopes to put behind him soon, has caused a rift with some neighbors.
“It’s sad that it’s come to this,” he said. “It doesn’t deserve to be this controversial.”
The council’s decision comes after the city’s Design Review Commission (DRC) reviewed the design plan twice before rejecting it April 30 – prompting the Ganesans’ appeal to the council. The commission cited unresolved problems related to the bulk and scale of the project.
Prior to the council’s vote, several neighbors spoke for and against the project. Ray Avenue resident John Fadely, the Ganesans’ next-door neighbor, told the council that approving the home design would set “a terrible precedent,” noting that it was out of character with the remaining homes in the area.
“If you allow this house to be built, I will be staring at a 14-foot eave line in a neighborhood of 9- to 10-foot eave lines, and a 20-foot (tall) clearstory in a neighborhood with no clearstories,” Fadely said. “The house would be an outlier, even in comparison to the largest two-story home on Ray (Avenue).”
Ray Avenue resident Michael Posch, however, said he supported the Ganesans’ request, calling the family’s current home “too small” to meet their needs.
“This project should go,” Posch said. “It’s Anand’s dream house (and) he should be allowed to build it.”
Council approves appeal
The council approved the appeal, with councilmembers Val Carpenter and Jarrett Fishpaw noting that it met the city’s zoning guidelines.
Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, however, said the home’s eave heights were “areas of concern” that should be addressed. She noted that the higher eave heights proposed could have a potential crowding effect on next-door neighbors.
Pepper cast the dissenting vote after she sought a provision in the council’s motion to reduce the bulk of the second story, which includes an attic and a clearstory element. She called some of the design aspects “kind of on the extreme.”
“I just think that this project is pushing too far on how bulk and mass are added.” she said.