.Nightmare on Pine Street II: Sausalito flip-flops on approval of controversial project

Home—that safe, familiar, comfortable space offering respite from the world—often evokes deep emotions. 

In Marin, where home sweet home is a huge monetary investment, proposed renovations can draw battle lines among neighbors.

Ask Jake Beyer and his wife, Georgia Glassie Beyer, who live on Pine Street in Sausalito. Just over a year ago, the couple submitted design plans to the city to transform their 1920s one-story cottage into a modern three-story home with enough room for their family of five. The plans call for nearly doubling the square footage, from 1,319 square feet to 2,620 square feet, including an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

Most of the houses in this quaint downtown area of Sausalito are located on small lots, creating close quarters for neighbors. This is why some of the Beyers’ neighbors object to the proposed renovation, claiming the new structure would block their primary views, sunlight and privacy.

Houses on small lots are crowded together on Pine Street in Sausalito. Some neighbors fear they’ll lose privacy, sunlight and views by the proposed renovations at the Beyers’ cottage (c). Photo by Nikki Silverstein.

While the couple insists that they have changed the design numerous times to address those concerns, the neighbors argue that the revisions weren’t substantive and didn’t resolve the issues. Relations between the Beyers and several neighbors became strained fairly early in the process.

Now, the conflicts have grown quite contentious, with calls to the police initiated by both the Beyers and some neighbors. 

The pair say that they are currently in the process of filing restraining orders against three neighbors who separately harassed them in front of their young children. Neighbors counter that Jake Beyer intimidates those who oppose his project and disparages them on a website he posted about the renovation.

It appears that Sausalito’s governing bodies also disagree about the plans submitted to the city by the Beyers. On Nov. 15, the Sausalito Planning Commission voted 5-0 to approve the design, despite alleged code violations cited by neighbors. Two months later, the Sausalito City Council reached a different conclusion.

Architectural rendering of the proposed renovation at 426 Pine St. Photo courtesy of Jake Beyer.

Six neighbors filed a formal appeal of the planning commission’s approval for the Pine Street project, triggering a three-hour hearing by the city council on Jan. 22. Kristin Teiche, a principal planner in Sausalito’s planning department, told the council members that the design complied with the codes and recommended they deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision. After hearing from the concerned parties and their representatives, the council rejected that staff recommendation.

In a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Ian Sobieski abstaining, the council decided to “continue the hearing to a date uncertain to allow the applicant an opportunity to address the design review and heighten[ed] design review findings council as a body indicated were not able to and revise the designs to remove the decks as discussed with the proviso that it is a permanent removal, and applicant will not return in the future to seek approval of adding a deck.”

Let’s break down that awkwardly worded decision, which appears in the draft of the hearing minutes. The council hasn’t yet approved or denied the appeal, and didn’t provide a time frame for when it will. Additionally, the council members couldn’t find that the design met all the criteria necessary to approve the project, and they are allowing the Beyers to address these issues. Lastly, the council directed the couple to remove the two back decks from the plan and forbid them from ever submitting an application to add another deck to the home.

Although not voted on, most council members suggested the Beyers try to compromise with the neighbors opposing the project. Sobieski, however, stated that if he were a neighbor, he would say that he’s not going to agree with anything.

The Beyers are reeling from the outcome of the city council’s hearing, saying it raised more questions than it answered. Not surprisingly, they are considering legal action.

“Frankly, we are confused and disappointed by the lack of clarity the City Council provided at the January 22 hearing on the appeal,” Jake Beyer texted. “Nor can we understand what action the council intends for us to take per the motion as written in the minutes.”

Of course, the neighbors opposing the project believe the council reached the right decision. So does Michael Rex, a local architect hired by Conrad Gann, a neighbor with two homes adjacent to the Beyers’ property. Gann paid Rex to review the renovation plans and represent him at the council’s hearing.

It’s understandable that the Beyers and the neighbors who filed the appeal disagree on whether the council members got it right or wrong. But how did the planning commission and city council come up with such different findings?

City officials did not provide a response to that specific question. However, Rex, who has worked as an architect in Sausalito for more than 40 years, believes he knows the reasons for the dueling decisions reached by the commission and the council. 

It started when the Beyers engaged a designer to create the plans for their new home, according to Rex.

“They hired a non-architect who is not familiar with our codes,” Rex said. “The designer is looking to the planning staff for what the codes require. Our codes were developed in 1962 and have been amended time and time again. They’re badly written, resulting in a confusing law put together with Band-Aids.”

It should be noted that the City of Sausalito does not prohibit a non-architect from submitting a design for planning review. David Grabham, the Beyers’ designer, owns G-Design, a San Rafael firm specializing in residential “design-build” services.

Rex maintains that the high turnover in Sausalito’s Planning Division contributed to what he sees as the issue. He also explains that the staff provides inconsistent interpretations of the codes, with no sense of precedent.

“In this particular case, they didn’t have an inexperienced planner,” Rex said. “Kristin [Teiche] was one of our top planners 20 years ago and was recently hired again by the city. This planner has institutional knowledge, but not knowledge that is current.”

When the code is ambiguous, the planning division director may interpret it, according to Rex. That person is also relatively new. Brandon Phipps, who is the director of Sausalito’s Community Development Department and oversees the planning division, was hired in October 2022.

“The department interpreted the code willy-nilly for this project,” Rex said. “The applicant was not instructed correctly.”

The planning commission appeared to follow the planning division’s lead. But the city council had their own interpretations of the code. Hence, the different findings leave the Beyers puzzled about how to move forward.

“At this point, we can’t make the house any smaller and have it still be compatible for a family of five—and add a unit [ADU] to the lot,” Jake Beyer said.

Rex has made suggestions on how the pair can achieve their goals, albeit with a revised plan. The Beyers say that the current design represents their dream home.

Gann, the neighbor who hired Rex, thinks the path is clear for his neighbors. Because Gann raised his family in a modest-sized home next door to the Beyers, he understands their desire to expand the cottage they’ve outgrown.

“The council provided a course of action,” Gann said. “If the Beyers choose to continue the project and are willing to work on solutions, we’re available to provide feedback. We want to create a win-win.”

Nikki Silverstein
Nikki Silverstein is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Pacific Sun since 2005. She escaped Florida after college and now lives in Sausalito with her Chiweenie and an assortment of foster dogs. Send news tips to [email protected].


  1. First world, white people problems. But jeez, sounds like a nightmare! And what’s with the mayor??

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