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Frequently Asked Questions

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Is my house affected?

The San Mateo Heritage Alliance (SMHA) has now nominated 444 Baywood homes in this map. Is yours a 'Contributor'?

Click image to see details. 

How am I affected?

If Historic Districting goes through...

- The cost and time to remodel your Baywood home will increase by an estimated 2X-5X.

- This will affect the appeal of homes in Baywood to buyers because they will be concerned about the remodeling restrictions on a 'historic home'.

- Changing the exterior of a contributing home will be virtually impossible.

When you want to remodel, a un-elected committee who may not value the same things as you (more eco-friendly, more space for evolving family, etc.), who doesn't have the same urgency as you and certainly isn't as vested in your property as you, may decide, after you've spent money to architect a solution that meets City Building Codes and City Design Guidelines, that your changes aren't, "maintaining the character of the neigborhood".

The Heritage Alliance says that having my house in a historic district will increase its value, is that true?

There is no clear evidence that living in a historic district increases the value of your home over time, and most of the evidence presented by preservationists (the Heritage Alliance included) is, quite simply, propaganda. Many legitimate academic research studies show a decrease in home values, others show no change or a slight increase

 

Some people like living in “historic” homes, but many potential home buyers are turned off by the increased regulatory and cost burdens of owning a home in a historical district. We believe that Baywood’s core value as a neighborhood is not its “history”: the reason people love Baywood is that we have wonderful schools, well-kept homes and streets, close access to San Mateo’s downtown, and proximity to Silicon Valley and the larger Bay Area.

But if we don’t make Baywood a historic district, won't Baywood be overrun by “McMansions” and multi-unit buildings? That’s what the Heritage Alliance implies.

No. The City of San Mateo already has rigorous design standards in place that limit house sizes relative to lot sizes and incorporate neighborhood design reviews, as well as other regulations which help ensure the character of the neighborhood. (Find the Single-Family Dwelling Design Guidelines on the San Mateo City's Planning Resource Documents page.) Historical designation only adds additional substantial time, expense, and greatly limits the types of changes you can make to your home.

With respect to Apartments and Duplexes...

Baywood is not zoned for Apartments. Duplexes are highly unlikely in Baywood. 

- Lot Splits for Duplexes Don't Make Financial Sense: Single Family Homes are more valuable than Duplexes. Owner-Occupancy is a requirement for Lot Splits which makes them unattractive for Developers.  That's why only one application has been filed in San Mateo City in two years and none in Baywood.

- The only realistic option is an Accessory Dwelling Unit. ADUs add value to homes and are desirable as they can be a separated home office, space for aging parents or adult children, and guest quarters. Historic districting makes ADUs more complex, expensive and forces weird choices to preserve historic lay-outs.

The Heritage Alliance is attempting to scare you into thinking that our neighborhood is “in trouble” and that historical districting will “solve” the problem.

I love my house the way it is and have no plans to change it, so why should I be concerned if it is located in a historic district?

Historic districting is a “forever tax” on your home. Many layouts of Baywood houses that were built 70-90 years ago have not kept up with the needs of modern families, not to mention seismic and other safety standards (knob and tube wiring, old plumbing/sewer, asbestos, etc.). At some point in the future, you, your children, your grandchildren, or someone you sell your home to might want to update your home. At that point, you will discover that the renovation process is much more difficult and expensive – easily 2-5x more – and in many cases impossible if your home is considered a “contributing resource” in the historic district.

Won’t historic districting keep Baywood homes beautiful?

Historic districting doesn’t keep Baywood beautiful, it prevents change. In some cases, historic designation makes our neighborhood uglier. For example, the home at 236 3rd Ave was a vacant, crumbling, rodent-infested eyesore for 35 years because it was deemed “possibly historic” and the costs and risks to demolish it and build something new were too high as a result. Only when threatened with imminent legal action due to the safety risks of such a dangerous property did the City allow its demolition. Today, a beautiful new home exists in its place, but for decades, this property was an ugly daily presence for local residents.

 

If the historic district is enacted, we will see many more of these eyesores, since many homeowners and potential home buyers will be unwilling or unable to deal with the red tape and additional costs of renovating their properties in a “historic” manner.

Won't I just have the opportunity to vote against a Historical Designation on my house?

No. Owners will not get to vote on something so significant. To get more time to have this issue adequately discussed at the local level, affected Baywood Owners need to send in an Objection Letter.  (See About Page for how to do this.) Even if you are in favor of more guidelines, those should be clear before a historic designation is applied given the significant financial implications of a historic district. The default is to be historic so Owners need to act to stop this.

As an affected resident, can I opt out?

You cannot opt-out. If 51% or more of the affected residents do not send an objection letter within 45 days of receiving the notice letter from the state, your home will be 'historic'. 

What if I don't receive the letter from the State when it comes time to object?

If the State Historical Resources Commission (SHRC) sends a letter to the Home Owner and they don't respond within 45 days, that will be considered an acceptance of the nomination.

What could go wrong?

- The address that they have on file could be wrong.

- There are multiple owners and notifications aren't received by each owner.

- The home owner could be living at a different address.

To increase the likelihood that you'll know when to object:

1) Sign-Up for Email Communications from this group.

Email support@lessredtape.com and provide your email and phone number so that we can notify you when it is critical that you respond.

2) Verify the registered owner(s) of the property and the mailing address(es) on file.

What if I want to remodel my house?  What if I want to demolish my house and build something new?

On top of the regular steps that you will go through to remodel (assess your needs, determine you budget, hire a licensed architect to design something that will support your needs and optimize resale value, etc.), if the historic designation passes, your submitted plans for permitting will need to go through an additional historical compliance review.

If your house is a 'contributor', demolition is nearly impossible. In addition to the architectural review for aesthetics currently performed by city staff, the new structure must be approved by the personnel monitoring historic compliance. There is no specific rule but currently when historical requirements come into play the process takes up to four times as long and cost up to four times as much.

Fear of historical designation was the issue with the house at 236 W 3rd Ave.  Abandoned and a community eye sore for nearly 35 years! Learn more HERE.

What does a historical compliance review entail?

If the nomination for historical designation is made, the City will have to interpret the designation into the ordinances and assess its obligations. 

What letter(s) do I need to write to oppose the Historical Designation?

Most critical is the Objection Letter.  See a sample HERE.

How much time and cost does a historical designation add to a remodel or rebuild?

It will vary greatly from permit application to permit application depending on what is involved in the remodel. For one couple, the work they wanted to do took 9 months and $40k when it should have taken 90 days and $9k.  Our average estimate is a 4X increase in time and money.

How does a Historical Designation affect me when I want to sell?

Just like swimming pools, historical restrictions eliminate a percentage of buyers.  That means your house will be harder to sell.  There are arguments about increase and decrease in sale price but, here in Silicon Valley, price has mostly been driven by young families in the tech industry.  Those families may need to update the house to meet the newer needs of today and are planning for the next 20 to 50 to 100 years.  The inability to remodel, update or demolish will affect demand.

What is the difference between my house being designated a Historic House versus being designated as within a Historical District?

A Historic House is a home that has been registered by the owner.  If your home has historic significance, Historical Registration is available to anyone that wants it. 

 

A Historic District is an area outlined by boundaries.  All homes located in that boundary are included.  There are no exclusions or exemptions.  And a district can be registered over the objection of up to 49% of its resident owners.  Furthermore, even if the district is not registered but is found to be “eligible”, the restrictions ("protections") of a historic district apply.

Why would someone want to designate my house into a Historical District?

To have oversight control on the aesthetic of the neighborhood that restricts your rights to modify your house to better suite modern living needs (ex: open floor plans) within already established City Guidelines that cover things like roof pitches, etc.

Who decided what classification applies to my house?

The San Mateo Heritage Alliance (SMHA) commissioned a consultant, Page and Turnbull, and they classified the properties.  You have no say in the classification but you can reach out to the SMHA to request re-classification.  (info@smheritage.org)

What is a 'Contributor' house versus a 'Non-Contributor' house? Can I get my house reclassified?

CLASSIFICATION CRITERIA

The firm hired by the San Mateo Heritage Alliance (SMHA), Page & Turnbull, determined that houses in green on the map are a 'Contributor' and houses in yellow are a 'Non-Contributor' to the historical designation.  Being a 'Contributor' house significantly reduces the actions an Owner may be able to take on their house which in turn reduces resale value.

Generally, if your property was built (or rebuilt) after the 'period of significance' (in their report this is 1950), it was classified as a 'Non-Contributor.' If your property was built before 1950, it was by default a 'Contributor' unless substantial modifications have been made to the property.

Regarding 'substantial modifications'...per Page & Turnbull:

"Having some alterations does not make a building a non-contributor.  Buildings are determined to be non-contributors if they were constructed after the end of the period of significance or have been significantly altered, such as instances where alterations have caused significant changes to character-defining features and cause a significant loss of integrity."

For example, 450 Parrott Dr was determined to be Non-Contributor.  It had been "...drastically altered, including: recently remodeled, form and details altered."

REQUESTING RECLASSIFICATION

If you think your house was incorrectly categorized as "Contributor', we can help you prepare the case to have your house reclassified as a 'Non-Contributor'. Email us at support@lessredtape.com.

Below are some of the reasons houses were classified as 'Non-Contributor' in the report submitted by the SMHA to the California State Office of Historic Preservation (OHP):

"drastically altered, including: recently remodeled, form and details altered."

"was built after the period of significance."

"drastically altered, including: extensive replacement of cladding, windows, and doors, and additions to primary facade."

"drastically altered, including: replacement windows; doors; altered porch, and two-story additions to the rear."

"drastically altered, including: cladding and windows replaced, and addition at the second story."

Additionally, there are some houses that were built in 1940 to 1949 which are the exact same building style of houses built 1950 and after. This may also be a reason that you can request SMHA reclassify your house to 'Non-Contributor'.

One argument that the SMHA makes is, "The most sustainable, climate-friendly development is rehabilitating existing properties, not replacing them."  What are the counter arguments? 

If we all were still using colonial-era wood-burning stoves, they would certainly be historic! 

In this rebuttal by CP Chang, a Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Atmospheric Sciences and also a distinguished professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, he talks about old houses and the environment. Find his points HERE

How do I get a 'No Historical District' sign for my lawn?

Fill out the Contact Us Form and someone will get back to you!

Can't I just ask my City Council Representative to stop this effort?

You should definitely express your objection to the historic effort with the City Council, especially the undemocratic way that a small group of people can put a major restriction on a property that you bought as non-historic. 

This historical designation effort is making me very angry.  How can I get involved?

1) Be on the look out for a designation letter from the State and make sure you send an objection letter 2) Write your representatives and tell them that you disagree with this effort 3) Put a sign on your lawn 4) Join the volunteer group and ensure that your neighbors object when the time comes. More ideas on the Contact page!

2023-11-14 Map 2 from Page and Turnbull Contributing Non-Contributing.png
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