NEWARK -- Second-story additions, restricted for years in the city's overwhelmingly one-story neighborhoods, could get another chance as the Planning Commission considers a different approach this week.
Commissioners will talk about loosening city guidelines, called the Single-Family Residential Design Review, that were established in 2007, when so-called "monster homes" were popping up around Fremont and clashing with the aesthetics of their suburban neighborhoods.
Newark wanted to avoid the controversy dogging Fremont neighborhoods at that time, said Terrence Grindall, Newark's community development director.
"Our land-use requirements are fairly lax to encourage investment in our community," he said. "But we were concerned that, without some review process, we could have some homes that are completely out of character with their neighborhood and, frankly, would be ugly."
Newark incorporated in 1955, and much of its housing stock consists of the one-story single-family residences that characterizes many suburbs built in that postwar era. Over the years, many homeowners added a second story before the city established the design guidelines six years ago, Grindall said.
Since then, the city has not outlawed second-story additions, but it has sought to study them more closely by evaluating each proposal in terms of scale, neighborhood compatibility and its impacts on neighbors' privacy.
As a result, some new second-story additions have been approved but others haven't, raising the ire of applying homeowners and drawing sympathy from some on the seven-member Planning Commission, who have asked to review the rules.
If the Planning Commission decides to ease the restrictions, the panel still would need to list the new criteria for building a home's second story, and then hope City Council members agree when they consider the item for final approval.
Grindall said he has no opinion on the issue but predicted that loosening restrictions would lead to many more second-story houses in Newark.
"The market tells you that two-story homes are popular," he said. "You can say goodbye to that single-story aesthetic."
However, he added, a change would not bring home construction anarchy, either.
"It doesn't mean homeowners could build whatever they want," he said. "It simply means they would have to build a good-looking two-story addition."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
WHAT: Newark Planning Commission meeting
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, Sixth Floor, 37101 Newark Blvd.