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

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.