SAN MATEO — With an agreement in place to settle a resident's lawsuit, the City Council is poised to vote on a revised design for the first residential complex approved under the city's transit-oriented development plan.

Jennifer Diamond, 35, sued the city in June 2006 after the City Council overruled a Planning Commission recommendation to scale back the project. Diamond and her neighbors at 2080 S. Delaware St. argued that the development would block sunlight.

But after 14 months of legal wrangling, Diamond agreed to drop the suit, which claimed the council violated the California Environmental Quality Act, if the developer scales back the size of the 111-unit building.

The settlement is contingent on the council's approval of the new, smaller design at a meeting Monday.

Diamond, who works in technical sales in San Mateo, said the revised project isn't perfect, but it's "better than what the City Council approved" in 2006. The settlement does not include any compensation for Diamond's attorney's fees.

Diamond said the majority of the residents of Ironwood homes, a 28-unit complex consisting of three-story lofts and two-story cottages, opposed the original vision for Delaware Place, which will be erected on a property southwest of Ironwood.

"We wanted a development that wouldn't infringe on our quality of life so much," said Diamond, explaining that Delaware Place will stand directly in front of Ironwood's afternoon sunlight.


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City Attorney Shawn Mason said that rather than reduce the number of units in the building to 104, the landowner, Delaware Place LLC, will make some adjustments to fit 111 units into a smaller building that is just two and three stories tall on the north side of the property.

Bertha Sanchez, a former planning commissioner who is running for City Council in November, was on the commission in April 2006, when it approved a smaller building with 104 units. Sanchez said she was dismayed when the City Council, led by Councilwoman Carole Groom, reverted to the larger design at a meeting a month later.

"We thought we hammered out anagreement that appeared to us to be acceptable to the Ironwood people as well as the developers," said Sanchez, who said she thought the council was too focused on the interests of future residents.

"I felt they really did not consider the existing residents, the people who live here now, in terms of their experience and their quality of life," Sanchez said.

Groom said she pushed for the larger version of the building because reducing the number of apartments to 104 would have meant dropping a below-market unit, which she wasn't willing to do, given the strong demand for affordable housing.

"I believe that I listened very carefully to their concerns," Groom said of the Ironwood residents.

"It's just one of the hard, hard things you have to do as a City Council person."

Groom added that she feels strongly about the transit-oriented development plan, a long-term endeavor to encourage the construction of housing near the Hayward Park and Hillsdale Caltrain stations.

Sanchez noted that the development plan requires city officials to have consideration for existing neighborhoods.

The council will consider the new design for Delaware Place at its meeting 7 p.m. Monday in Council Chambers at 330 W. 20th Ave.

Staff writer Aaron Kinney can be reached at 650-348-4302 or akinney@sanmateocountytimes.com.