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2304 Bunker Hill Drive

The San Mateo Highlands is one of the oldest and most comprehensive Eichler Communities in California. There are numerous coffee table books about this neighborhood and its developer Joseph Eichler, a pioneer of the Mid-Century Modern movement who parlayed his efforts into affordable California Modernism for the masses. The all-steel X100 house is here, the bemusing alpine Eichler, the rare two- and even three-story Eichlers.

Some of you may already know that on our block a neighbor is about to get the permits to built a 5,000 square foot Monster House on a parcel slightly smaller than 8k s.f. (link to the case). The current Eichler house there is 1,470 square feet. The proposed house is therefore over three times the size of the current house. (Click on the sketch to see more details.)

Initially, several people were concerned that a landslide that once occurred near the property would be a detriment to development of such scale, but it didn’t make a difference for the County Planning and Building Commission. If we were in San Mateo proper, likely it would. But as our attorney told us, if you want to build anything without regard to your neighbors and community, move to unincorporated San Mateo County.

Even though the owner is living in an Eichler himself, that’s not enough to stop him from creating a highly-visible eyesore: there’s no harmony at all in regards to architectural style and scale. The plans tell the tale of a bland, traditional house writ large.

We tried to fight it, even created a Google Group. And many people are outraged. The problem with the San Mateo Highlands is that it is unincorporated, so only San Mateo County rules apply. The single true restriction is you can’t build on more than 40% of the lot. He is building to 39.98%. There are no zoning overlays as the county doesn’t see the value in any kind of architectural preservation (in fact, it seems more hostile to the idea than anything). Even though the majority of residents want some sort of protection, this historic neighborhood is now prey for self-indulgent developers.

It appears that the current owner wants to maximize his investment and build as big a house on the property as he can to sell it at a premium to someone who has the capability to live in a bubble. We say this because the numbers bear out the fact that developing non-Eichlers here doesn’t reap significant financial rewards. I mean if you’re a Rothko fan are you going to hang your painting above a Louis XIV settée?

The permit is about to get approved, and as Marie is working from home and Nina is a light sleeper, we need a different solution at least until the house is built. Very reluctantly we are looking for a sublet for a year (great, rent and a mortgage!), ideally somewhere in San Mateo County.

Any other ideas greatly appreciated too.

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