.Nightmare on Pine Street

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.

Architectural rendering of the Beyers’ planned renovation. Photo courtesy of Jake Beyer.

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.”

Conrad Gann’s two homes (left and center) and the Beyers’ cottage with story poles on the roof (right). Photo from Sausalito Planning Commission.

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.

Staff Report on Proposed Renovation

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. Such first world problems. If only we all had them…
    Great reporting yet again Nikki.

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  2. The author of this article did a disservice. This is a regurgitated Next Door summary. Nikki bought into a
    PR video without understanding the
    ask of the design over code and to neighbors . This is a heightened design review because it’s asking for exceptions to
    code . I think the author suffered from thinking NextDoor is a source of fact and nowhere does Beyer or this author explain the design details in is asking for entitlements. The PC will do their job but this one sided whine, with no discussion of the request beyond code is disrespectful to all involved. The facts are the facts and require discussion. What were all the objections in the staff report ? What findings for approval does this design not meet ? This is a biased , fluff piece passing
    as reporting half the story .

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    • Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your comments. In putting the article together, I did not rely on anything from Nextdoor. Instead, I interviewed several people, including the Beyers, the city official who heads up the planning department and a neighbor opposing the project. I also visited the site several times, reviewed countless emails, watched a July Planning Commission meeting where several people opposing the project spoke during public comment, brought the plans to a licensed architect to get a better understanding of the proposed renovations and read the planning commission’s staff report.

      You ask about the objections in the staff report. I did include a few. While I couldn’t list everything contained in the 15-page report, apparently you missed that the entire document is embedded in the article. In addition, the article contains links to the current renovation plans that were submitted to the city.

      Unfortunately, space limitations don’t allow a reporter to write every detail of a story. I strive to provide links to more information and embed pertinent reports and other documents in most of my articles, giving people the opportunity to delve further into the topics.

      Nikki Silverstein

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  3. You note that the Beyers are on a PR mission -could you please give a little back story on how this story cam to your attention?
    A glance at the proposed building in your article makes it clear why this has been a struggle for the Beyers. The sentiment that “the home won’t fit in with Pine Street’s traditional Victorians and wood-shingled cottages” is quite an understatement! It is disappointing this story is pitched as some sort of institutional problem with the Sausalito planning process. The process is not intended to approve any design, no matter how odd or at variance with its neighbors.

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    • Hi Richard,

      As I wrote in the article, I learned of the situation on Nextdoor, a social media website. While you might not believe there is a problem with Sausalito’s planning process, many homeowners who have been through it would beg to differ. In fact, during the Sausalito Planning Commission hearing last night, some commission members spoke of the numerous issues with the approval process and the need to change it.


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  4. Hi Nikki,

    Thank you so much for publishing this issue with the Sausalito Planning Commissioners.

    These statements about a neighbor calling the police sound so familiar. Like my neighbor calling the police trying to incriminate me when I posted the Approved Zoning Permit in 2017, and later alleging she did not recall having seen the Approved Zoning permit posted to justify a Late Appeal to my fully permitted and completed project. That same neighbor also called the police on me when I was in my garden, alleging that half of my garden was hers so she could further trim down my Oak trees to expand her view.

    Without doubt you have read Matt Smith’s book: “I am Applicant”. According to Math Smith research, on average the Sausalito PC will make their Applicants suffer for 7 years until the PC approves of a chopped up plan. By that time the Applicants either went bankrupt, ended up in a divorce, or lost interest in their project and the neighborhood.

    Matt Smith was also so kind to his uphill neighbor allowing her to use the top of his garden to grow her veggies. That uphill neighbor quickly trimmed down the trees on that section of his garden and later claimed view impact on Matt’s proposed project. She even went to the registers office stating that there is a mistake in the Land Survey and that part of Matt’s property belonged to her.

    That sure sounds familiar. After having gone through my own saga with the Planning Commission , Matt’s story and the Breyer’s story are both so predictable.

    How about another Sausalito Planning Commissioner nightmare story ?

    I have also worked hard to satisfy my neighbor to no avail. I compensated my neighbor for any potential view impact by giving her 5 times more view than my proposed project could have impacted. She signed consent to my proposed Addition. Once she had free access to my garden she butchered all my Oaks including cutting several 25 year-old limbs of our Heritage Oak. She obtained a World Class view of San Francisco, Bay Bridges all the way to Angel Island visible from her formal dining room at the expense of my once beautiful oaks gracing my property .

    After our fully permitted Addition was completed, she changed her mind and filed the Late Appeal claiming view impact. Our addition impacts less than 1% of that overall panoramic view she just acquired. As soon as there was evidence that the Approved ZP was indeed posted during the 10-day Appeal Period, the PC were still holding their temporary colleague’s back.

    This neighbor claimed 60% impact on the view she had at Time of Purchase in 2017. That was a stab in the back. That much about pleasing your neighbors. My motto is: “Never please nor trust thy neighbor”. And somehow this experience has negatively affected my relationships with new people I meet.

    Two weeks before the first PC hearing that same neighbor joined the Historical Landmark Board that meets twice a month with the Planning Commissioners, who are judges of our case, behind closed doors. The public nor I were invited to the PC site visits at my neighbor’s house to witness the true view impact.

    My neighbor even went that far as to change the formal dining room that has the most beautiful primary view into just a family room that is regarded as a secondary vantage point. Or turning a smaller eating area near the kitchen in the rear of the house into a formal dining room, so she could use a corridor as a primary vantage point that otherwise only qualifies as a secondary vantage point.
    Instead of arranging a view easement over our property benefitting our neighbor, on June 2019 we were instructed to partly demolish our once fully permitted and completed Addition, and you will soon find out why.

    We obtained a demolition permit and already installed welded brackets to stabilize the structure for demolition. However, before we started the actual demolition, our neighbor sold her house within her two years of ownership for 20% profit in July 2019 due increase in view. The new neighbor bought the house with the view “as is” including the view of our Addition, and did not oppose to us enclosing our Addition with glazing. So in effect the new neighbor has a viewing easement over our garden.

    Meanwhile the PC Resolution 2019 expired in 2021. In gratitude for not having forced me to demolish part of our Addition I trimmed down my Oaks more than I needed to widen our neighbors’ panoramic view even further, not knowing that the house was going to be put up for sale again.

    The realtor promised that if I trim down my other trees as well , we can keep our Addition FOREVER. So I did and the house got sold again in 2022 for $2.4M with a yet wider panoramic view than before. The new owner is an investor living in N.Y.

    By November 2024 it will be time for this investor to sell the house next door via the same realtor. Last month I received a Code Enforcement Citation stating that our Addition is non-compliant and should have been partially demolished. We got three options: 1. remove the entire Addition; 2. partially demolish Addition per PC Resolution 2019; 3. Apply for retroactive Design Review.

    We are applying for retroactive Design Review hoping that the PC will be consistent with its own ruling: View is determined at Time of Purchase, including the view of our elegantly designed Addition. We now have the property right to keep our Addition as built, as much as our new neighbors have the property right to a permanently protected panoramic view that was acquired at the expense of our Oak trees in 2017.

    So far the PC has been violating so many Sausalito Municipal Codes. The Hearing is such that you only have 10 minutes to state your point not knowing if the PC actually listens to you. When you ask them a question during those 10 minutes , you might not get a response or comment if it inconveniences them.

    Who knows what other curve ball is heading our way during this coming up session of retroactive Design Review.

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  5. Hi Nicki,

    We filed an incident report with the Sausalito Police Department when Jake Beyer confronted us in Driver’s Market by aggressively approaching my partner and I without cause by demanding we “Man up” and got in our face and intentionally block our ability to leave the market. We felt concerned about his eradicate and threatening behavior that seemed to be escalating. His over-personalization of the design critiques led to him misconstruing facts about his proposal that did not meet code, which expressed itself in victimization and his claim of neighbors wanting his family to leave Sausalito. It was like talking to a person who you say. Sir your designs don’t confirm to code and he tells you hate me and my family over and over again until he gets his way. He disrespected the Commission and those who dissented regardless of the merit of their observations. There was a review prior that he withdrew from the agenda of a prior planning commission meeting with overwhelming opposition, that you do not cover in your storytelling. Your reporting makes it appear that you took it for hearsay in your interviews, and is poor journalism in my opinion, not to fact check statements made by people interested in their own purposes. He isn’t a victim and your storytelling suggests the neighbors are the real perpetrators in this story.

    If you would like to more about this story, I’m happy to direct you to sources that may cause your journalist ethical consciousness to make a follow up. Next time you’re grocery shopping, Imagine a neighbor yelling to you and running up to your face blocking your ability to leave and say to yourself that’s okay, I.e. my story about Jake’s nightmare was on point.

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  6. I talked to two land use attorneys. In their opinion, small town Planning Commission Decisions are based on 85% rule of politics, 15% rule of municipal code, whereby Sausalito is 95% politics.

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