The site for this newly proposed Marin County residence had all the hurdles; a very steep hillside lot, next to the Golden Gate Recreational National Area, required a fire truck turnaround area and the adjacent neighbors are part of a neighborhood homeowner’s association. The only hurdle not involved was an endangered species (although this was an early challenge we hired an expert to quickly dismiss).
The other major challenge was the proposed home itself. The site required extensive grading, retaining walls, a long driveway, a fire hydrant and new drought tolerant/brush fire resistive landscaping. The only way to make the site financially viable was to place a large home to offset the extensive site work cost. The proposal was for a 6,500 sq.ft, five-bedroom home plus a 3-car garage. This is the largest home in the neighborhood and significantly larger than most of the adjacent homes. This is a fact that was duly noted by some of the neighbors.
What was the key to receiving approval? We did extensive neighborhood outreach both before and after we designed the home. This allowed the design to minimize the impact on the neighbors while still preserving our client’s property rights. We also took full advantage of the City of Sausalito’s zoning ordinance by utilizing setback requirement exceptions so we could place the home in the most suitable location on the site. We then turned around and used the zoning ordinance’s language and allowances to document how our design complied with the intent of the ordinance and fit in with the neighborhood.
Although we went in to the Design Review hearing with some neighborhood objections to the proposal, our upfront work and creative design ultimately required no changes and received City staff and City Planning Commission approval during the first hearing – something generally unheard of in Sausalito.
Couture Architecture has a strong belief in personal property rights and we have a 15-year perfect Design Review approval record in Marin County for new homes, additions and variances. By creative design, clear articulation and a comprehensive understanding of the zoning codes it is possible to balance personal property rights with neighbor impacts and receive quick approvals.