After over 10 years of being a thorn in the side of City Hall, gadfly Don Letcher may soon get a break. On Tuesday the City Council is set to decide whether to pursue a zoning change that will allow Letcher to rent out six homes on his property again.
Letcher is requesting a zoning change that will allow medium-density housing on his property at 788 North Rengstorff Ave., said planning director Randy Tsuda. On Tuesday the council will vote on a "gatekeeper request" that could allow the process to start.
Even though the events that spurred his personal tiff with the city happened in 1997, Letcher has maintained a surprisingly high level of rage against the city to this day, regularly finding bones to pick with the city in council meetings. The retired Sunnyvale police officer was as angry as ever in an April 19 council meeting, storming out after slamming a presentation by the city's code enforcement officers that illustrated their work.
In 1997 the newly formed code inspection division found several violations on Don Letcher's property, where he was renting out several homes, now vacant. Letcher responded by kicking his tenants out to make repairs. But because his homes were vacant for more than six months, Letcher has lost the property's grandfather status that allowed residential use on the property, said City Attorney Jannie Quinn. The property has been zoned for commercial use since the city annexed it in 1963, a year after Letcher said he bought it.
Letcher's proposal would allow 13 to 25 units of housing per acre on the 0.8-acre property, which is how nearby properties are zoned, Tsuda said.
The council also has the option of zoning Letcher's property to allow a mix of residential and commercial use as part of a "village center" at the corner of Old Middlefield Way and Rengstorff Avenue. But letcher says he is opposed to that.
"There's no chance I'm gonna agree to go into a village center," Letcher said in a message left on this reporter's voicemail.
The zoning change will cost Letcher nothing if it is folded into the city's ongoing general plan update, Tsuda said. But if Letcher wants it done sooner, he would have to pay the full cost of staff time required to process the zoning change.
Tuesday's meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the second floor City Council chambers at 500 Castro St.