In the game of extra-local housing politics, call the proposed housing renovation you don’t like a McMansion

Cases like these happen frequently: a homeowner wants to enlarge their existing home. (This is a different but related ballgame to cases of teardowns.) If the neighbors don’t like it, there is common tactic they can use: dub it a McMansion.

The commission unanimously voted Oct. 9 to allow the homeowner to keep a permit to build a 2,692-square-foot single-family residence on the property located on Huntridge Lane. The project property is located in a standard zoning district, which permits two-story homes up to 28 feet in height. The project was initially approved by the city’s community development director on Aug. 23.

However, the city received several letters, emails and telephone calls from neighbors voicing concerns about the project, with issues ranging from concerns about privacy to the compatibility of the proposed two-story residence in a predominantly single-story neighborhood, as well as the size, bulk, height and mass of the project.

During the public hearing, one neighbor referred to the home as a “monster house” or “McMansion,” and others suggested reducing the scale of project.

City staff stated that the project is consistent with all aspects of the R1 zoning ordinance and other related city ordinances. In addition, the project was not subject to design review by the city since the proposed second floor is less than 66 percent of the square footage of the first floor and there are 15-foot side yard setbacks on either side of the second floor.

It sounds like the homeowner followed the zoning guidelines in the community and made some adjustments to cut back on the project when asked by the city. But, the McMansion tag used by opponents can be quite effective: it suggests the home is garish and unnecessary. It puts the owners and/or builder in a bad light as it suggests they are not looking out for the interests of others. While 2,692 square foot is not that big since the average new home is the US is around 2,500 square feet, it is larger than the surrounding homes which look to be (on Zillow) around 1,200 square feet without any additions. In the end, calling it a McMansion wasn’t enough in this case in Cupertino, California but the same tactic will be used again elsewhere. It would be interesting to see if the neighbors opposed to the project continue to call the particular home a McMansion in the years to come.

Through the magic of Google Street View, you can check out Huntridge Lane in Cupertino, California. The street is about one block and 13 houses long. It looks like (and Zillow also suggests) the homes were built in the early 1960s as single-story ranches. As the news article notes, several homes in the area already have second story additions. Also, Zillow suggests (and this could be a ways off) the homes on this block are worth around a million dollars. Is this one proposed addition, the so-called McMansion, really a threat? Perhaps this should lead to a new maxim: all housing politics are extra-local (usually within a few minute walk in each direction).

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