News

Council to discuss Don Letcher's property

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.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Spaghetti Freddie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Thank Goodness. I am so tired of looking at the place, and it has been extraordinarily unseemly for the city council to continue this personal feud with Letcher for so long. And don't think for one second this is not personal with the council members. No one wants their name mockingly written in four foot tall letters on the side of a building.

City governments love to zone commercial, thinking it's easy sales tax money, but the time and resources spent on this nonsense would be far better devoted to finding an anchor tenant for Monta Loma Plaza, 2 blocks up the street. Besides which, the rest of that corner isn't exactly Rodeo Dr., and if you can't fill the newly renovated spaces you have in a better location up the street, why would anyone want to build (or patronize) a "village center" here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chewbacca
a resident of another community
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Another story with little or no research to verify facts, great job Voice!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Daniel DeBolt
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Apr 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Daniel DeBolt is a registered user.

If you are going to accuse me of not verifying something, you could at least be more specific.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TJ
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I had no idea! No wonder the guy is so angry. He should be allowed to rent out his units. This type of vindictiveness needs to stop.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by More Light
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Several commenters seemingly did not read the article. Note that Mr. Letcher was originally cited for code violations in his rental properties. Rather than make the needed repairs, he kicked his tenants out and did not rent his properties again within the stipulated six months. (I don't know if he actually made the repairs.)

It is Don Letcher who has made his response to this situation a "personal" one. I for one am glad that Mountain View's City Council and city offices carry out city laws. regulations, and codes in an even-handed manner, that applies to all residents and property owners.

I am also glad that Mountain View has continuously carried out projects that have modernized and maintained our city at a high level. I recall that a few decades ago businesses on El Camino Real in Mountain View protested vigorously against having to install sidewalks!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm

So, I'm not sure what in this article indicates that the city was being vindictive. Seems like they were just following the zoning regs that were in place since the city annexed the area in 1963. I see no "vindictiveness" in telling a landlord he has to keep his units up to code. When I remodeled my kitchen, there were things in the other parts of the house I had to fix to bring them up to current seismic code. I see no "vindictiveness" if Letcher kicked out his tenants and left the units unoccupied for more than 6 months, which is apparently the legal limit for keeping his zoning status in place. Was it impossible to get the repairs done with the tenants living there? If it was impossible, and the repairs would take longer than 6 months, was there an appeals process he could have utilized to extend the time limit?

Why is the city being "vindictive" by following its own laws?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James Hall
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I have a great deal of respect for this guy and his long battle. The function of a private citizen is not to make live simpler for the City Council. Our local leaders seem to often behave as recalcitrant school children who find them selves "empowered". Government has an obligation to enhance the community values (whatever those are, but it also has the duty to act fairly.
If this were Google wanting to change zoning restrictions would it have to go through seemingly endless stonewalling and delay. Or would our Council roll over with subservient gratitude?
This is at least the second article which manages to drag in the "factoid" about the need to have a police presence at the council meetings. I walk my dog past the home of Mr Letcher and he always has a cheerful greeting. Move on to reality Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

This will likely go down as one of the most interesting meetings in council history. Letcher has embarrassed himself with his stupid comments and has made a lot of enemies with his personal attacks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm

After interacting with the city occasionally over 35 years, I completely understand Mr. Letcher's rage. It's not a surprising level at all. I'm not very hopeful, but maybe our new city manager will put the interests of the citizens above those of the city and city staff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jamie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I have lived in Mtn. View since 1978. Every day on my way to work I go by this house. I think to myself this person must feel very wronged by the city of Mountain View. It is sad that he has had to spend 10 years of his life defending his belief. And, Mountain View let him. What I would really like to see is Mountain View spend way more time on the Gang problem we have in Mountain View than stuff like this. For the first time last week I was driving down California Steet and thought to myself, I love Mountain View, but I don't feel safe here any more. I want to move.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

I'm going to invoke a little Godwin's Law here. It's appropriate because of many of the chairwarmers and Blue Meanies I've had to deal with in MV when I lived there...

" I'm not sure what in this article indicates that the city was being vindictive. Seems like they were just following the zoning regs that were in place since the city annexed the area in 1963."

That excuse by government officials didn't work during the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 and it had better not work here....

Remember, everything done in Germany at that time WAS LEGAL!!!

You have a PRIVATE CITIZEN vs a vindictive government. I've been by the property many times and haven't had any problems with the owner when I lived in MV and have visited....

In fact, I've had more problems with the MVPD when I have visited ( The mouthpiece staff knows why I visit your " sanctuary city " ).



Happy 4/20, people....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2011 at 4:17 pm

If the city wants to enforce code violations, etc, they should take a hard look at how many are allowed to live along the ghetto that is California Ave. I've visited many apartment with people, to include children sleeping on the floor in filth, at times 10-15 to a one bedroom apartment. And where is the city and all its code enforcers? Leave this guy alone and go after the real abusive landlords that turn a blind eye to what goes on in their complexes. The City Council has no shame.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by macintyre
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm

We have lived in MV for almost 20 years and I don't find the city council's decisions to be off the mark in this case. This guy Letch is an a** and his putrid anger spews out all over the street and the city. I hate driving by that property. Don't we have an ordinance about crude graffitti/ or "offensive signage" being scribbled on properties ? If we don't, we should.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by T Tucher
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

Letcher is one of the angriest men I have ever had the unfortunate opportunity to meet. If he is given the right to rent out these houses and possible add more, heaven help the people that move in here. You couldn't pay me to have this man as a land lord. I fully understand why the city council feels the need to have an officer at every meeting it has, to simply give into a tyrant is not the way our government should work. Keep fighting on City Council!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 24, 2011 at 3:42 pm

To me the guy deserves a break, think how he must feel retiring and planning to supplement his income by renting out the houses on his property and then having the houses sitting idle for 10 years. I don't think anyone should concern themselves with his behavior as it seems well within the distribution of human response to being frustrated with something of this magnitude. Let him rent his houses and let the city get on with other more important things.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr. DePortum
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Please have a clause, " Do not rent to any illegal aliens "


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chewbacca
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Here you go Daniel:

"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."

The "newly formed code inspection division" had nothing to do with Letcher's property, the Multiple-family inspection division performed the inspection and found the violations.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DCS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2011 at 7:50 am

I have never heard Don's position or the City council's position, but it seems like 10 years is a bit long to have an on-going feud. Hopefully this ends soon. I was always curious about his building, and didn't understand what was going on, I don't think I want to know the details.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marshall
a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 26, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Its his property - not ours.

p.s. Daniel - I like your articles...keep them coming (along with follow-up stories)!


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