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Menlo Park: Louise Street conflict escalates

Original post made on Jun 26, 2013

If a tree branch falls on Louise Street, someone will be there to hear it, watch it and photograph it, as the conflict between neighborhood residents and a Menlo Park developer heats up.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 10:20 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by Marty, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm

The long and the short of this situation is that the developers want to change the property address from Santa Cruz Ave to the quieter, more desirable Louise Street address. They pre-emptively removed plants and other greenery and "accidentally' destroyed an oak tree, and now want their neighbors to knuckle under.

I had a developer neighbor who removed beautiful bushes on my property boundary, and then planted huge trees that robbed my plants and trees of sunlight. Consequently, I lost a tree and more shrubbery. My only recourse would have been through the civil courts, which was cost prohibitive. I absolutely sympathize with the Louise Street residents and i really hope these developers do not get a Louise Street address.

Posted by Redonkulous, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm

Note to self: never puchase property on Louise Street. I wouldn't want that mob of angry neighbors working against me! Now I know why there are so many outdated ramshackles for sale in this area.

Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 26, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Note: The council voted 3-1 to revoke the driveway permit, not 4-1. Councilman Ray Mueller was recused from the vote.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

Note to Redonkulous: Sinnott did not purchase property on Louise Street. The "mob of angry neighbors" are actually law-abiding citizens working to protect their street. We are not aware of any "outdated ramshackles for sale" on our street. You must be referring to Sinnott's house at 1825 Santa Cruz Avenue.

Posted by Sam Sinnott, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm

For clarification purposes, all the dense undergrowth removed was on my property. It was choking a heritage oak which we are saving and protecting. I have been working with the arborist for over a year. We finally had our access to the property directly from the Louise Street right of way restored because the parking that was blocking the driveway and existing gates was illegally installed by neighbors, without the necessary encroachment permits,and they were forced to remove it.

My workers were not sited by the police, who were warned in advance of eroneous neighbor calls and charges, because I have the same legal rights to access my property with vehicles from the street as any one of my neighbors. In state law they are called abutter's rights. Fortunately we have a system of laws to protect individual property owners from neighbors deciding who can and who cannot live on 'their street'.

Posted by Peter , a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 29, 2013 at 9:56 am

[Post removed for violating terms of use by posting under multiple names on same thread. Also, "AJ" is identified as a resident of Louise Street in one post and a resident of Menlo Oaks in another.]

Posted by AJ, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 30, 2013 at 2:03 pm

[Post removed for violating terms of use by posting under multiple names on same thread. Also, "AJ" is identified as a resident of Louise Street in one post and a resident of Menlo Oaks in another.]

Posted by Michael Schwarz, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Once again, Mr. Sinnott's version of the truth is incomplete, misleading and disingenuous. Let's start with two simple facts: first, Mr. Sinnott bought a house that is on Santa Cruz Avenue, not Louise Street (as he would have everyone believe). The house is in a completely separate sub-division from Louise Street. Second, there has NEVER been a driveway from Sinnott's property to Louise Street, as dozens of past and former residents are prepared to testify under oath. Mr. Sinnott's only "evidence" of a driveway or any previous vehicular access is a letter written by the previous owner two days before close of escrow stating that there once was a rutted dirt track—which again, none of the neighbors who have lived on Louise Street since 1947 ever saw.

As your article reports, two weeks ago Mr. Sinnott accessed his property from the Louise Street public right of way despite the advice and request of the city attorney that he not do so while the City Council is still considering the neighbors' request for abandonment. Since Mr. Sinnott is planning to demolish the existing house on his Santa Cruz Avenue lot, there is of course no conceivable reason he could not have cleared the underbrush on his property using its historical access from Santa Cruz Avenue. The only reason he instructed his crew to drive a truck onto the Louise Street green space—with his attorney present to oversee their work—was to bully and intimidate his neighbors, a pattern he has consistently followed since the Louise Street homeowners first united in opposition to his plans to build a new driveway. No doubt he also plans to use this incursion as evidence of his "historical access" in the lawsuit he has been threatening against the city should it rule in favor of the neighbors.

Furthermore, Mr. Sinnott fails to acknowledge that on at least two other occasions his crews have without any authorization from the city previously cleared from the Louise Street green space numerous trees--including a fruit-bearing plum tree--and much other vegetation. On those occasions he issued insincere apologies after the fact and stated he did not know he needed a permit. Most recently, Sinnott's workers removed the lower limbs of a heritage redwood tree in the public right of way despite clear instructions from the city attorney not to do any work there. The cumulative damage to the historical character of Louise Street is incalculable; where once there was a protective green barrier at the end of the cul-de-sac, now Sinnott has opened a clear view to Santa Cruz Avenue for the first time in 75 years.
Mr. Sinnott's claim that the neighbors "were forced to remove" the gravel parking spaces is also false. They did so voluntarily. After the City Council voted in March to deny Mr. Sinnott his driveway permit, the neighbors removed the parking spaces in order restore the green space to its previous state, in accordance with the wishes of all of the homeowners who actually live on Louise Street--unlike Mr. Sinnott.

Finally, Mr. Sinnott's assertion of his abutter's rights is also unfounded—a thinly-veiled rationale for his naked attempt to flip his property from its historical Santa Cruz Avenue frontage to Louise Street simply in order to increase his profits, at the expense of the rest of the neighborhood. The Planning Department has twice denied this frontage change but this remains Mr. Sinnott's end game, and indeed his latest plans still show the house facing Louise Street, not Santa Cruz Avenue. We can and will refute all of the arguments presented by Sinnott's attorney, and parroted in the above comments and implied threats by "Peter," whose diction bears a distinct resemblance to Mr. Sinnott's partner, Mr. Mircea, and who seems woefully and willfully ignorant of the true facts of this dispute. It is curious too that "Peter" calls into question Mr. McClure's fairness because "I know he currently socializes" with Louise Street residents but is not at all concerned about that fact that Mr. McClure has known Mr. Sinnott since they were about eight years old and that Mr. Sinnott's father-in-law is Mr. McClure's law partner. And of course none of this matters, because Mr. McClure has been the Menlo Park City Attorney for many years so of course he will know many people in the community.

As residents of Louise Street for 20 years, we believe it is indeed unfortunate that Mr. Sinnott and his colleagues have so little respect not only for all of the people who live on Louise Street, but also for the processes the City has established to resolve our dispute with him. Instead, he seems to think and act as though might makes right, money talks, and he can do whatever he pleases—now backed by an expensive attorney.

This is the same man who once introduced himself to us as "your good neighbor," promised he would only build a driveway if it was "win-win," and subsequently taunted us when we challenged his encroachment permit by saying he hoped we would be more willing to live with the City Council's decision than with staff's. That was before the 3-1 City Council vote in our favor, and before the Planning Commission's 4-2 vote in our favor--votes of course which seem to have had little to no impact on Mr. Sinnott's own hostile and aggressive behavior.

Posted by Kiki, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm

There is no "AJ" on Louise Street. The entire posting by AJ is nonsensical gibberish. [Portion removed. Please do not speculate about the identity of a poster.] The only neighborhood residents who were present on June 13th were Brad Taylor, John Brock, Michael Schwarz (you would know the correct spelling if you lived on the street), Alex Schelberg (who lives at 1833 Santa Cruz Avenue, and Michael Yantos. Moreover, Michael and I have no illegal parking in front of our home. In fact all of the residents of Louise Street remain united in opposition to Mr. Sinnott's and Mr. Mircea's plans. If you really lived on this street you would reveal your real name and not hide behind phony initials.

Posted by Peter, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2013 at 9:14 am

[Post removed for violating terms of use by posting under multiple names on same thread. Also, "AJ" is identified as a resident of Louise Street in one post and a resident of Menlo Oaks in another.]

Posted by AJ, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 7, 2013 at 10:31 am

[Post removed for violating terms of use by posting under multiple names on same thread. Also, "AJ" is identified as a resident of Louise Street in one post and a resident of Menlo Oaks in another.]

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