One interesting tidbit in the report on San Mateo’s downtown by San Francisco-based consulting firm Economics Research Associates: According to developers interviewed for the study, there is a general discontent with the city’s planning process, which is filled with uncertainty and “red tape.”
“The Planning Commission’s decision-making process is considered by some in the development community to be lengthy, subjective and arbitrary,” the report stated.
We’re reminded of Jennifer Diamond, who recently settled a suit against the city over a 111-unit housing project on South Delaware Street. Diamond filed the suit last year on behalf of herself and other residents of Ironwood town homes, who felt the four-story Delaware Place project would rob their own complex of sunlight.
The suit arose when the City Council rejected a Planning Commission recommendation in 2006 to reduce the height of the building on its north side to accomodate neighbors’ concerns about its size. Diamond appealed the commission’s recommendation, because the city never conducted an impact report with a shadow study to back up its finding.
After a year of legal wrangling, the city agreed to bring the size of the building back down to the size recommended by the commission, which helps but doesn’t solve the sunlight loss for Diamond and her fellow residents of Ironwood homes, located at 2080 S. Delaware St.
In a recent interview, City Councilman John Lee defended the settlement as a solution that left all the parties satisfied. Just how satisfied is Jennifer Diamond?
“I am very angry that I had to spend my money and time to force the City Council to this settlement,” Diamond told us. “It was a significant amount of money … I shouldn’t have had to spend one penny on this. If the City Council and Planning Commission had done their jobs, I wouldn’t have had to.”
Diamond said she agreed to the settlement, though it was far from ideal, in part because she couldn’t afford to fight the case any longer. Meanwhile, the taxpayers picked up the bill for the city to defend the suit.
Diamond said the city should have paid greater heed to the clause in its transit-oriented development plan that calls for new projects to respect the conditions of existing neighborhoods.
When he heard how Diamond felt, Lee acknowledged that there may be a difference between legal and emotional satisfaction.
[Ed: This post has been modified since it was first published.]