The Beyers are the kind of family most people want living next door. For years, they lived harmoniously with their neighbors on a quiet block of Pine Street in Sausalito.
Now, they say some of their neighbors want them out.
To be sure, several neighbors are unhappy with the Beyers’ plans to renovate their traditional one-story cottage to a modern three-story house. Unhappy might be an understatement. It’s gotten downright ugly, replete with accusations, name calling and even a call to the police.
The saga had a joyous beginning. In 2017, Jake Beyer and Georgia Glassie Beyer were renting a Sausalito apartment. They loved the neighborhood and searched for a nearby home to buy. As luck would have it, they found 426 Pine St., a charming cottage built in the 1920s. And then they learned their first baby was on the way.
“It was serendipity,” Glassie Beyer told me in an interview. “I know this is where we’re meant to be.”
The couple checked into whether the zoning code would allow for expansion of the 1,319 square foot home. It did, so they plunked down $1.5 million and moved in.
One, two, then three children. The Beyer family quickly grew to five members, and the two-bedroom, two-bath home felt like it was bursting at the seams.
But the Beyers had a vision. Three years ago, they began designing their dream home. Little did they know that some of their neighbors would consider it a nightmare.
I stumbled upon the situation while scrolling on Nextdoor, a social media platform that often plays host to neighborhood feuds. Earlier this month, Beyer posted a plea for people to support the renovation project by sending letters to the Sausalito Planning Commission. To date, the post has garnered 270 comments, most positive, some not.
Beyer’s post provided a link to a professionally produced, 10-minute video about his family and their struggles to get their renovation approved. The Beyers also created a comprehensive website containing the proposed plans, a section on the dissenting neighbors and a timeline of project milestones.
Clearly, the Beyers are on a public relations mission, and with good cause. The city’s powerful planning commission and long-time residents have a reputation for resisting change.
From the beginning, the couple knew the approval process wouldn’t be a cake walk. They’d also have to work with the constant staff turnover in Sausalito’s planning department, which is responsible for reviewing and analyzing planning permit applications.
“We’ve been through six different city planners,” Beyer said during one of my several interviews with him. “Building in Sausalito is difficult.”
Brandon Phipps, Sausalito’s community and economic development director, confirmed that the planning department hired five new planners in the last year—100% turnover.
In addition, a design review by the five-member Sausalito Planning Commission, required for significant renovations, can take as long as several months or more, depending on factors such as the project’s complexity and opposition by neighbors. The commission’s decisions are based on both objective and subjective criteria, Phipps said.
Aware that they must receive approval from the planning commission to make their dream a reality, the Beyers developed an approach to make their journey easier. Their designer, Dave Grabham, of G Design, advised the couple to work with neighbors early in the process, prior to submitting the renovation plans to the city.
With that in mind, in May 2021—before the first set of plans were complete—the Beyers informed neighbors of the planned remodel. Eight months later, the couple presented neighbors with the renovation plans.
“Our goal was to try to make everyone happy,” Beyer said. “We wanted our neighbors excited to have a new family in the neighborhood.”
By Marin standards, the proposed design appears modest. The square footage of the house and ADU, or accessory dwelling unit, is just over 2,620 square feet. Some nearby homes are larger, others smaller.
However, the more the Beyers shared their plans, the more opinions they heard. Many appreciated the modern design, which boasts large windows and three decks to maximize outdoor living. Of course, there’s also a contingent who said the home won’t fit in with Pine Street’s traditional Victorians and wood-shingled cottages. A few immediate neighbors expressed concerns that the renovated home would negatively impact their views, privacy and sunlight.
In September 2022, the Beyers began communicating frequently with several interested neighbors. I reviewed dozens of emails showing that the couple hosted Zoom meetings, where Grabham walked neighbors through the renovation plans and 3-D models. Beyer also met with neighbors in person.
When Sam Chase, who lives uphill, became concerned about his view, Beyer and Grabham climbed onto the roof of the cottage and installed plastic story poles, which represented the rear outline of the proposed structure. While the city would require a full set of wood story poles later in the process, this preview determined the additional two stories would block a small portion of Chase’s expansive water views.
“We adjusted the roofline three different times,” Grabham said. “And brought a wall in.”
After a second set of plastic story poles was erected the following month to reflect the design revisions, Chase gave his “conditional” approval to the project.
In the meantime, Beyer was also in contact with Conrad Gann, the owner of two houses adjacent to the Beyer property. The three homes are in close quarters.
Gann voiced several concerns throughout the planning process, particularly about the renovation affecting privacy and blocking sunlight to his two homes. But the Beyers and Grabham said that as soon as they addressed one of Gann’s concerns, another objection surfaced.
Not surprisingly, Gann disputed this assessment when I spoke with him. In September 2022, Gann requested that the Beyers conduct a professional sun study, which is documented in emails. More than a year later, Gann said he still hasn’t received a report, and blocked light remains a concern.
Beyer, however, told me about a shade study. The design may cast nominal shade on Gann’s homes for about 30-40 minutes a day during about two months of the year, according to Beyer.
The couple worked with Grabham to address other issues raised by Gann. For example, to maximize privacy, they changed the position of windows to avoid direct alignment with the windows in Gann’s homes. Gann isn’t convinced this resolves the privacy problem.
“The front and back third-floor decks and oversized windows lord over the neighborhood,” Gann said. “And when the wood story poles went up, and I saw the shadows cast on both stories of one of my homes, I told them the design was detrimental to the natural light. I objected to the design.”
The project rolled forward. In January, the Beyers submitted their plans to the city’s planning department. They continued to work with neighbors, Beyer said. Soon, they received notice that the planning commission review was scheduled for July.
However, Gann had quietly hired his own architect, Michael Rex, to review the renovation plans. Rex found a code issue—the proposed home would be too close to the property line shared with Gann. The Beyers were forced to revise their design, losing the garage. This change also delayed the planning commission review by more than three months.
On Oct. 25—after the Pacific Sun print deadline—the planning commission will finally review a new iteration of the renovation plans, sans garage. The planning department’s staff report seems generally positive, though it notes some issues. It specifically states that elements of the design will negatively impact the privacy of Gann’s homes and cause reduced access to light and air. Rejecting or approving the plan are both possibilities.
Gann, of course, opposes the project. Chase changed his mind after the wood story poles were erected, and he is now against the current design.
But five people on Pine Street and 15 others submitted letters of support. Perhaps the Beyer family will soon be living in their dream home.