city of beautiful homes
San Mateo's residential neighborhoods define its character and identity. Charming tree-lined neighborhoods and enchanting architectural diversity chronicle the city's growth from a small town to a bustling suburb, making San Mateo one of the Peninsula's most desirable and livable communities.
San Mateo is known for its charming neighborhoods with homes of enduring beauty and classic-architecture built a century ago. Some of San Mateo’s oldest neighborhoods are among the most beautiful and desirable neighborhoods on the Peninsula.
To walk along the streets of Baywood, Aragon and San Mateo Park, for example, is to be both delighted and inspired by the authenticity of the architecture. A treasure trove of classic homes of exquisite quality and architectural detail built in the first few decades of the Twentieth Century.
Collectively, these largely still intact neighborhoods tell the story of how residential development in California, its architecture and history, unfolded in San Mateo before and after the First World War. For this reason, these San Mateo neighborhoods were determined by the State Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) to be National Register or California “Register-eligible" historic districts.
Sadly, these neighborhoods and beautiful homes are now threatened by piecemeal demolition.
As part of its 1990 General Plan update, San Mateo adopted the Historic Building Survey. That survey serves as a basis for review, regulation and management of San Mateo’s historic resources, including the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, the Zoning Code, and CEQA.
The 1989 Historic Building Survey was a significant achievement, but also limited in budget and scope. The survey concentrated its attention on the downtown commercial district and the oldest residential neighborhoods, mostly east of El Camino Real. Neighborhoods west of El Camino Real were not documented, but noted as deserving additional study.
The California State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) and the Survey author determined that the best approach to documenting the west of El Camino neighborhoods of “Baywood, Aragon and San Mateo Park would be as potential historic districts because these neighborhoods contain a large number of older buildings that relate historically and have a high degree of architectural consistency.”
The long range preservation goals of San Mateo, the report concludes, should feature “future study of these neighborhoods as either local or National Register Historic Districts.” The 2030 General Plan provides the policy directive to consider the creation of "future historic districts." The General Plan says this, "Consider the protection of concentrations of buildings which convey the flavor of local historical periods or provide an atmosphere of exceptional architectural interest or integrity, after additional study."
One neighborhood singled out in the 1989 Historic Survey deserving of additional study is Baywood. Baywood developed in the late 1920s and 1930s, as “a neighborhood of large, period revival residences of wide curving streets lined with well-maintained Tudor Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival homes.” The neighborhood remains intact almost a century later.
The criteria to assess historic significance under the National Register of Historic Places include properties:
A. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
B. That are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past; or
C. That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.
D. Has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory.
A Baywood Historic Asset Analysis report prepared in March of 2022 by Richard Brandi, a professional architectural historian, determined that "the Baywood study area does meet the requirements of a historic district under the criteria A and C of the National Register of Historic Places and does appear to be eligible for listing."
"Preservation is simply having the good sense to hold on to things that are well designed, that link us to our past in a meaningful way, and that have plenty of good use left in them."
- Richard Moe, former President, National Trust for Historic Preservation