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Dear Sausalito City Council

Updated: Jan 30

It is with immense frustration and disappointment that we write this letter following the events that unfolded at your City Council special hearing on January 22, 2024. We believe that what transpired must be made broadly known, so it may serve as a catalyst for positive change within our community. This is our official request for you to schedule a hearing and decide on the appeal.


For the past three years, we have doggedly pursued the expansion of our home in order to accommodate our growing family of five. Our dedication to Sausalito and its potential as a vibrant, family-friendly city has been the driving force behind this seemingly fruitless endeavor. It is no secret that it would have been easier to move to Mill Valley, as many have suggested. However, we believe that would be a disservice to our community of local families as it would perpetuate the red tape and rampant sense of entitlement that Sausalito is known for. Last Monday night, your Council did not uphold the unanimous approval of our remodel designs granted by the Planning Commission for our home. Nor did you overturn the Planning Commission's decision by taking up the appellant’s grounds for appeal. In fact, you did not decide at all. You deferred the appeal of the approved project to an indefinite future date, placing your burden of proof as an appellate body back onto the applicant. In doing so, you undermined your own planning commission’s expertise. And you failed to support your burgeoning constituency of young families, leaving the future of families in Sausalito hanging in the balance.


We are aware that the City Council was acting as the appellate body and  tasked with considering an appeal for a project that had already received approval. Now it is essential to underscore the distinction between the appeal process and the separate Planning Commission Design Review process. The Design Review is the determination of whether a project meets zoning requirements and the findings under city code made by a panel of experts. The appeal hearing is not a mechanism for considering the merits of the project, but simply to assess the appeal’s assertion that the lower governing body misapplied the law or made a procedural error or evidentiary error in their process. The Council's options are to 1) affirm the Commission’s decision denying the appeal, 2) modify the decision or remand the application back down to Planning Commission for reconsideration in light of stated procedural error or misapplication of law, or 3) reverse the original decision (see Sausalito Municipal Code, Section 10.84.050 of the Zoning Ordinance)


None of these actions were taken.

We acknowledge Mayor Ian Sobieski and Council Member Former-Mayor Melissa Blaustein’s sincere attempt to move our project forward, and thank Mayor Sobieski for moving to deny our project (approve the appeal) and thus provide us a path for recourse. Yet, their effort was road-blocked by Joan Cox, Janelle Kellman, and Jill Hoffman. Despite their 18 years of collective experience as planning commissioners and clear preference toward the appellant's baseless arguments, they refused to move to approve the appeal. Therefore they did not have to defend their unspoken assertion that the Planning Commission's decision was flawed. The Council completely ignored the Staff Report meticulously prepared by their Community Development Department (link to report here), which states,

Staff recommend the City Council deny the appeal, uphold the Planning Commission’s decision, and approve the project, subject to Planning Commission imposed modifications and conditions. (emphasis added)

The City Council is NOT tasked with rehearing our Design Review application. That can only be undertaken by the Planning Commission if the project application is remanded back down for further consideration. Nevertheless, Council voted 4-0 ( Mayor Sobieski abstaining) to continue the hearing, ordering a removal of a proposed rear deck with a stipulated deed restriction prohibiting us submitting a future application, and ordering the appellants to determine whether they think any additional modifications are required. 


Not sure when the neighborhood appellants were allowed to usurp the Planning Commission’s job. But as Mayor Sobieski astutely pointed out, the appellants have no incentive to ever reach a compromise with us, since as long as they do not, our project is stalemated. Further, Vice Mayor Joan Cox nor the City of Sausalito hold any authority to place a deed restriction on a property.


It was a disheartening lack of leadership and an obstruction of due process in the three-hour deliberation. The Council's disregard for the Planning Commission's 5-0 unanimous decision in support of our project raises serious concerns about the integrity of the system. They have opened a wide new door for all future design review applications to be appealed and left to wither in purgatory. 


Vice Mayor Joan Cox's staunch reliance on outdated statements made by a city planner and her attempt to undermine the fire department's determination on fire code compliance was an alarming belittling of our public service professionals. It was disconcerting to watch Vice Mayor Joan Cox proudly highlight her yet unsuccessful five-year collaboration with Michael Rex to create an “Objective design review process”, only to succumb to the subjective and ambiguous interpretations that are keeping our project in limbo without clear resolution. This contradiction raises serious questions about the fairness and consistency of the decision-making process and has created a hardship for our family.


Moreover, it became apparent that certain Council members had not thoroughly reviewed the facts and history of our project application before the hearing. The lack of preparedness adds another layer of frustration to an already exasperating situation. We provided comprehensive documentation, including a full set of approved plans, a photo-realistic 3D model, multiple sun studies, communication logs, and emails exchanged with the individual appellants over the years in order to ensure transparency.



It has been 1,115 days since we started our collaboration with the City of Sausalito's Historic Preservation Commission. During Monday’s hearing, Vice Mayor Joan Cox expressed delight, incorrectly stating that it had not been a year since we submitted our design review permit. In reality, we submitted our plans 366 days ago on January 25, 2023. These plans were subsequently, and erroneously, deemed complete on February 23, 2023.

As anticipated, Michael Rex presented testimony on behalf of appellants Conrad and Shana Gann. His testimony was fraught with false and inaccurate statements. Two additional appellants, Sam Chase, and Stuart Rabinowitsh, asserted view claims without providing A SINGLE PHOTO of their respective views. Appellate Sam Chase persists in asserting that our project obstructs his cherished bay views, a claim that lacks merit. See the photo below from Sam's third-floor library window.



In reality, any potential obstruction would involve inches of minimal "blockage" of his panoramic view from a specific, constrained vantage point at the edge of his third-story library, offering secondary views. The blockage could simply be mitigated by taking two steps away from the edge of his library. See below a photo.




It is crucial to note that Sam's property at 19 Bonita Street exceeds both floor area ratio and lot coverage, featuring a four story, 2,486 sq ft house for only two occupants on a mere 2,787 sq ft lot. In ironic contrast, Michael Rex, the architect with four decades of experience, persistently characterizes our proposed 2,192 sq ft house on a 3,598 sq ft lot as "massive" and "out of scale" with the neighborhood. 


Additionally, Rex claims that we failed in our neighborhood outreach, despite dedicating 3 years and over 150 hours to working directly with the neighbors who are now appealing. Rex in fact never responded to any of the four attempts we made to work with him as seen in this email thread. Not to mention that he canceled the only meeting he actually scheduled with us just minutes beforehand. Now Rex is pleading with the city council to force us to go back to the drawing board to redesign our entire project under these false pretenses. Thus it appears that Michael Rex's mathematical acumen and logical reasoning have long expired, along with any semblance of a moral compass. Though some assert that he never possessed one. Regardless, it is regrettable that he has chosen to destroy his own legacy and take down the credibility of our city leadership in the process. 


The unsubstantiated claims and inconsistencies presented by these individuals further underscore the need for a fair and impartial evaluation of our project and all design review appeals that follow it. We remain committed to transparency and adherence to the facts, and remain confident that the City Council is capable of acting in good faith to opine on the validity of the appeal, and by extension the validity of the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision for a just and speedy resolution.


In light of the aforementioned, we request you, City Council, to schedule a hearing date to perform your appellate duty; approve or deny the appeal, or remand it back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration. We request confirmation of a hearing date from the city clerk no later than January 30, 2024, with the hearing taking place no later than February 10, 2024. Considering the unnecessary cost and delay the city has imposed on our family, we believe that this is ample time for Council to re-review the facts at hand and provide a fair and expeditious resolution, potentially avoiding any protracted litigation.


As stated by our Designer during the hearing, we remain willing to remove the rear deck over 40' 3.5" to resolve any outstanding concerns. But we will adamantly protect our property rights and oppose any deed restriction stipulation prohibiting future building applications not presented here.


Sausalito deserves a City Council that values due process, transparency, and the well-being of its residents. We believe in the potential for positive change and hope for a swift resolution to this matter.


Sincerely,

Georgia and Jake Beyer


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