« Rent Control: Another Man's View | Main | Fireworks Downtown! »

July 03, 2016



There is another issue that compounds this problem-- Given the large projects on very small lots, the integrated garage debate that was a hot item about 20 years ago (during the creation of residential Design Review in Burlingame) has again become very relevant. To reiterate what was discussed at that time--there is significant aesthetic virtue in the use and integration of negative space, particularly given loss of light and lack of privacy on narrow parcels.

Currently, integrated garages seem to be "preferred" by many applicants who cite "safety" and "convenience". (I won't waste space on that debate, nor whether garages are actually used to house vehicles). These "integrated" structures are typically attached to the main structure and are located in the front third of the parcel. "Detached" garages, the type of which are more prevalent in our city, are typically located in the rear third of a long driveway--These have created what is essentially, a built-in wider setback on one side of a parcel. On a block that vigilantly follows this pattern, ideally there is or should be light and space on both sides of a residence.

But here is where it gets problematic. In the most unfortunate scenarios, there may be a neighborhood of traditional homes (albeit, usually post-bungalow 1930s and beyond) with a pattern of integrated garages. As is encouraged by this city's guidelines, prevalent patterns and styles on each block should be emulated.

If the new or renovated designs follow the "traditional" type of architecture, it is possible to hide the visual impact of the bulk on a second story using gables (sometimes too many gables, but I digress).

However, in the ever increasing scenario where a "modern" design is the chosen style, typically sporting a flat-or low pitched roof, it is far more challenging to camouflage bulk along the frontage AND sides of a 50ft. narrow lot, with minimal setbacks on either side. This pattern becomes cumulatively overwhelming for the character of a block if there is no room for visual relief (via some landscaping or simply a driveway void). It gets very difficult for a new structure to "blend" with its neighbors, particularly if there is a pattern of flat roofs with integrated garages. The integrated garage has eaten up the visual relief on the side of the parcel where the traditional longer driveway guaranteed it.

The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Burlingame Advance Star in 1963, when flat-topped Eichlers were being built in the Mills Estate. Keep in mind that Mills Estate parcels, as well as other Eichler enclaves like Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale, have significantly wider property widths (typically reflecting the 1950s era subdivisions in which they were developed) than the narrow parcels that dominate the bulk of Burlingame's subdivisions:

Wed. Jan. 30, 1963 – Burlingame Advance Star
Residents Rap Eichler Project

The new neighbor in the Mills Estate ran into some difficulties with the older-timers this week.

He is Joseph Eichler, Palo Alto builder who recently bought the remaining unsubdivided acreage from Trousdale Construction Company.

His Bay Area developments are characterized by what can best be described as “the Eichler house.”

And the possibility of Eichler houses in the top part of the mills Estate is not welcomed by the owners of more conventional houses down the hill, the Burlingame planning Commission was told by Harry K. Wolff Jr., President of the Mills Estate Homeowners Association.

There should be conformity “to maintain a particular style of home” in the area, he said. “The people here do not want a flat style roof sitting up in one area.”

“We do not want a tract,” Wolff said. “We want similar character and value throughout all of the Mills Estate.” A tentative subdivision for the area, showing 294 lots, was before the commission.

Burress Karmel, city attorney, said the city could not control the architecture. If there are deed restrictions on style – several protestants insisted there were – they’re none of the city’s business, he said.

Karmel added that he was not aware of any such restrictions applying to the entire Mills Estate. He said he understood these had been applied, subdivision by subdivision.

A.L. Shapro, VP of Eicher Homes, said houses will sell in the range of $34,000 - $38,000 (Some other Mills estate houses sell in this price range). He called them “contemporary.”

The tentative subdivision map is similar to one previously approved when the land was held by Trousdale. A park site, which will be donated to the city, has been enlarged. Shapro agreed that a further lot would be designated as a firehouse site.

A tree belt along skyline Blvd. would be retained, being deeded to the city, which would grant householders easement for driveways.

Several persons questioned the pressure that the development, with houses of three to five bedrooms, would place on the school system...

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

About the Voice

  • The Burlingame Voice is dedicated to informing and empowering the Burlingame community. Our blog is a public forum for the discussion of issues that relate to Burlingame, California. On it you can read and comment on important city issues.

    Note: Opinions posted on the Burlingame Voice Blog are those of the poster and not necessarily the opinion of the editorial board of the Burlingame Voice. See Terms of Use

Contributing to the Voice

  • If you would like more information on the Burlingame Voice, send an email to [email protected] with your request or question. We appreciate your interest.

    Authors may login here.

    For help posting to the Voice, see our tutorial.