Video:  Design Review Committee rejects two houses on Birch Street in Montara

Posted by on Tue, April 17, 2007

Darin Boville
The community's work is often done in small, crowded windowless rooms by overworked volunteers. It may not be videogenic, but it's the real deal. width= | Quicktime | Flash |

Even grade-schoolers know Ken Menasco’s name, now.

After she learned I was going to film the Design Review Committee meeting last Thursday, which would be considering the building of two new large houses on Birch Street in Montara, my daughter (a student at Farallone View) asked me whether the builder was the same "bad man" who wanted to build the seven houses immediately adjacent to the elementary school.

"That’s him," I said. "I hope they stop him," she said, "He doesn’t care about anyone but himself."

The adult citizens of Montara felt the same way. About fifty neighbors showed up at the Moss Beach Sheriff’s substation where the meeting was held, cramming the small room. More chairs were brought in but still many had to stand.

My kid and the neighbors all got their wish—both structures were rejected. (Mr. Menasco, who lives now in the East bay, has the right to appeal.)

This video—which is a long one, just over an hour and a half—can be enjoyed on many different levels. At its most basic level, it is a video about a builder who, though he insists he plans to live in one of the houses, has met with little success in making friends with his future neighbors (many of whom called off work to attend this afternoon meeting and who came armed with bar charts, maps, photographs with which to attack the proposed buildings). The neighbors were, almost universally, intensely hostile to the proposal.

But it is also interesting to watch this as an example of a community choosing its own destiny. The Coastsiders made it clear in their public comments that they have grown tired of seeing the limits of the building code treated as a standard rather than a maximum and have grown angry over builders doing everything possible to enlarge the size of their structures without concern for the character of the community or the well-being of the neighbors.

I hope Mr. Menasco finally gets the message. The residents of Montara are wise to his ways as clearly demonstrated by yet another huge turn out to voice opposition to his ludicrous building proposals.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on upon him not understanding it.”
—Upton Sinclair

I would just like to say “Thank you” to all the supporters who took time out of their busy day to attend the meeting.  I attended the first meeting but had a vacation scheduled for this one.  Great job.

Barbara Campbell

Hi folks,

My family is moving to Montara (all the way from Moss Beach) in two weeks and I am very proud of the community as represented in this video. We’ll be over on the northernmost block of Acacia so will be fairly nearby Mr. Menasco’s next monstrosity, the 7 lot subdivision he’s planning just below Farallone View. I also watched Darrin’s video of the pre-planning meeting for that and was equally impressed with the fighting spirit shown there. I know from personal experience that it takes a lot of concerted community effort to thwart these developers who know all the tricks in the book.

Congratulations and keep on fighting!

Joel McKinnon

Where I was from in a small coastal town back East, we had the same thing happen. 

In my case, a tract of land behind me was all wooded and the zoning had been changed a few years back toward larger lot sizing so as to take some of the burden off the developmental congestion that was creeping in elsewhere in town. We attended our equivalent of your Design Review Committee meeting only to find that the developer had now become “three best friends” who, to quote them, had always wanted to live in our seaside community. They dreamed, so they claimed, of having all their summer homes side by side one day, but, they claim, they never heard of the zoning change that would have only allowed one home to be built where the three were to be placed.

So, armed with a flea bag attorney, they waltz into the meeting and lay out their tale of woe, after which I warned the committee that this was all a ruse and that if the committee were truly looking into the best interests of the town and had looked into this issue a little further, it would find some way to ensure that these three “friends” actually be required to live in those houses where they were fabricating this story for.

The committee approved it anyway, despite the minor detail that the developer never even came close to the zoning change appeal deadline. And guess what? The three houses were all built; two of those “best friends” never showed up at all; the developer lived in one house for a summer, and within a token two year period, all the houses had been sold.

Why is it that developers all seem to come from the same gene pool?

“Why is it that developers all seem to come from the same gene pool?”

Don’t know, but because there are few exceptions, it becomes easier to and more legitimate to paint them all with the same brush in one’s comments. The only caveat is to keep one’s mind open for those exceptions.

Carl May

Welcome to Montara Joel,

The fight against Menasco’s planned development below Farallone View is far from over, in fact it’s just beginning. If we as a community do not band together to keep on top of these guys we will end up with a town that looks like something from the valley, a sprawling badly planned ugly mess.

I hope you will join your neighbors in the fight.



The house we just bought on Acacia is our first. After renting for ten years in Moss Beach, we’re looking forward to being homeowners for the first time and becoming permanent members of a very special community. You can count on us to get involved and help out in any way we can.

The project at Farallone View seems even less justified than the one on Birch as far as fitting in with the community. It just appalls me that the developer refers to a beautiful living creek as a ditch and plans to essentially eliminate it via culverting. One of the public voices at the meeting referred to culverts as a crime against nature and I’d have to agree. The traffic and water supply issues look like major concerns as well.

As far as the houses themselves, I assume they’ll all be essentially identical in plan (a mini tract development) which obviously doesn’t suit the character of Montana.


Ahem. “Montara.”

But welcome—I think I’m your neighbor if I know which house you are talking about—I’m exactly one block away in a straight line, on Birch.


And here I thought we’d bought in Montana. I was going to ask directions to Glacier Nat’l Park… Would you believe I have a wierd keyboard where the “n” and the “r” are right next to each other? Didn’t think so.

We’re in the A-frame two houses from the end of Acacia as of May 4th. I look forward to getting to know the neighbors; particularly if one of them came up with this web site. Great job!

Sorry, Joel, the joke about Montana was maybe a little obscure.

A few months back some folks from southern California pretended (for pay) to be from Pacifica for the purposes of promoting online their paymaster’s development in Pacifica. I believe they kept getting “Montara” and “Montana” mixed up. Something like that…

See, in Montara even the jokes are about development!