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Fremont Moves To Limit Size Of 'McMansions' In Established Neighborhoods

FREMONT (KPIX 5) -- A Bay Area city is taking action to control the spread of so-called "McMansions" in older, established neighborhoods.

The city of Fremont features neighborhoods of modest, single-story houses from the 50's, 60's and 70's. But since about 2010, buyers have been demolishing the old homes to build mega-homes or simply adding up and out until they dwarf the houses around them.

"To me it's like, they're all thumbs. All these mansions are just all thumbs," said homeowner Lezle Mott. "They just stick out."

In Fremont's Mission San Jose neighborhood there is an odd mix of small homes with others towering over them. Until recently, there were no restrictions on second story construction city-wide because it was never really an issue.

"We did not have homes next to smaller homes. It was only in the last 10 or 15 years where that got out of kilter," said City Councilmember David Bonaccorsi.

On Tuesday, the city council voted to create new standards which would limit the size of additions. Under the new restrictions, second stories can be no bigger than half the size of the house beneath it and homes cannot take up more than 40% of the lot they sit on.

In addition, home designs will be judged on whether they match the "character" of the neighborhood.

"Does it fit, doesn't it fit? Planners, architects, know it when they see it," said Bonaccorsi.

But why, you may ask, was this happening at all? A lot of this is cultural. Fremont has a huge South Asian population and in their cultures young people are expected to care for their parents in the home with them.

So more and more buyers were looking for homes that can accommodate three generations at once. Fremont resident David Wilson says he doesn't have a problem with the changing demographic, but he says it can be intimidating when the neighbors are looking down on you.

"It's just like when you're seated and somebody's standing over you. You get a little nervous. It's the same thing, you know?" said Wilson. "Who knows what they're watching? (laughs)"

Most of the restrictions are based on a standard 6,000 square-foot lot. Bigger lots would permit larger houses, but there would still be size limits for them as well.

The new rules still need a second approval at a future city council meeting.

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