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a neighborhood in time

When my husband and I were children, our families drove through Baywood to admire the beautiful homes and gardens. As a real estate brochure enthused, “The streetscape of Baywood is nothing short of spectacular with virtually every home a home of great architectural distinction. To drive or walk along the streets of Baywood is to be awed by the authenticity of the architecture, a virtual treasure trove of European storybook homes in garden settings of lush flowers and trees.”

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Amazingly, Baywood hasn’t changed much, almost a hundred years later. It still retains its beauty, charm and integrity that enthralled me so much as a child and now as we walk through our neighborhood. 

 

My husband and I purchased our home in Baywood in 1994. We have deep respect for our neighborhood and home. That’s why we carefully renovated it without affecting its historic character.

We bought our home expecting the neighborhood would retain the same level of integrity and beauty it has had for almost a century. However, in recent years, nine houses were demolished in the Baywood neighborhood (four in the last year). Four of these demolished properties qualified for protection as contributors to the historic neighborhood. The continual unnecessary loss of beautiful homes is why I support the creation of a Baywood Historic District. A historic district will enable homeowners to update and remodel their homes while protecting the neighborhood integrity the majority of Baywood homeowners value so dearly.  

In 1990, the State Office of Historic Preservation determined that areas west of El Camino — including Baywood, Aragon and San Mateo Park — should be documented as historic districts because these neighborhoods contained “a large number of older buildings that relate historically and have a high degree of architectural consistency.” Two studies completed recently confirm Baywood is a historic district as defined by national and state standards. Baywood qualifies as a historic district under two criteria: 1). Architecture — the consistency and integrity of the revival architecture of the 1920s and 1930s and 2). Patterns of history — the association with the streetcar and railroad commuter suburb development nationally recognized as historically important.

I am grateful the San Mateo Heritage Alliance initiated the process to nominate Baywood to the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. Hopefully, it will raise awareness about what makes the neighborhood special, slow demolitions and encourage better, more compatible design. The designation will protect what makes Baywood unique without causing undue burden on homeowners. 

Preserving properties individually-eligible for the NRHP is important but only one part. Individual designation of properties does not account for, or protect, the significance of an entire neighborhood. We have the opportunity to preserve an area of exceptional historic integrity. Few neighborhoods in San Mateo retain such integrity.

It is also worth noting San Mateo has two districts established after the 1989 Historic Building Survey — the downtown commercial historic district and the Glazenwood residential historic district. The city now has existing processes to support such a district. The city has processes for addressing permit applications for historic homes, whether individually eligible, contributors or non-contributors. These procedures set the stage for preservation in the 1990s but the lack of funds stopped the historic surveys of areas west of El Camino until now.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about what it means to live in an historic district. Yes, you can still remodel your home! You can add a second story, solar panels and an ADU. NRHP listing is honorary and does not come with any restrictions on the property or owners. 

After 30 years as a designated local historic district, Glazenwood shines like never before.  According to Realtor Chris Eckert, well-maintained and cared for homes, updated with modern conveniences; freshly painted with well-tended landscaping; a tight-knit group of neighbors who have built a sense of community around their shared commitment to their homes and neighborhood; property values greater than the surrounding homes in Hayward Park; and a greater sense of pride in the city they call home. 

The most sustainable, climate-friendly development is rehabilitating existing properties, not replacing them. Renovation also preserves fine architectural details, and the mature trees and landscapes that create the fabric of the neighborhood.

If you care about the historic nature of your city and seek to preserve the unique nature of one of San Mateo’s hallmark neighborhoods, consider giving your support to the Heritage Alliance

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