Baywood is one of the Peninsula's most desirable neighborhoods. That desirability - and its historical significance - is due to its architecture, beautiful single family homes, charming character, lovely gardens and winding street pattern. These qualities are why many have made Baywood their home and why Baywood is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
What is the National Register of Historic Places?
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.
Why is Baywood Historically Significant?
Baywood has been identified as a National Register eligible historic district multiple times in the last 35 years: initially by the author of San Mateo's 1989 Historic Resource Survey; then by the State Office of Historic Preservation; and recently by two professionally qualified historic consultants - Richard Brandi (2022 Brandi report) and Page & Turnbull who have documented the neighborhood's significance. Their findings were based on widely used and long established uniform national criteria developed by the National Park Service. Despite repeated identification of Baywood's significance, its historic district status has never been formally recognized.
It turns out that Baywood is historically significant because it meets two specific criteria:
1) Contribution to the broad patterns of history (in this case, association with the national trend of streetcar and automobile suburbs, and locally, the pattern of suburban growth in San Mateo), and
2) Embodies the distinct characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction (Baywood's largely intact period architectural styles and craftsmanship that still retain their integrity).
What does it mean to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places?
National Register listing officially acknowledges the historic importance of Baywood, conveys a level of national regard and respect, while imposing no restrictions, regulations or demands on any property owner in the district.*
A National Register District:
Identifies significant properties and districts for general planning purposes
Analyzes and assesses the historic character and quality of the district
Designates historic areas based on uniform national criteria and procedures
Places NO restrictions or regulations on upgrading, remodeling, renovation, additions or ADUs.
Does not restrict the use or disposition of property or obligate private property owners in any way
Ensures property values equal to or greater than similar non-designated neighborhoods
Does not prevent demolition, although CA environmental law may require consideration of feasible alternatives
How can I be assured that my historic home and neighborhood are protected?
While it is true that National Register designation imposes no regulations or requirements, it is also true that protective standards are necessary to ensure the integrity of our historic resources for the benefit of all.
Protective standards are enacted at the local level through the General Plan and Zoning Code. San Mateo's current and former General Plans have long had policies to recognize and protect historic resources. The City already has a Historic Preservation Ordinance and two locally designated historic districts (Downtown and Glazenwood). San Mateo's proposed General Plan proposes updating this ordinance, creating objective design standards and establishing review and permitting procedures. The objective design standards will be based on the Secretary of the Interior's Standards - the widely accepted gold-standard used nationwide to help historic property owners fully rehabilitate their homes, upgrade to modern conveniences, and make design choices that preserve their buildings and protect their investment.
Protective ordinances and design standards are good for the community - they safeguard the historic character of our most cherished neighborhoods, ensure compatible new development, qualify homeowners for property tax relief benefits, and increase property values. When we acknowledge that historic resources are community assets that enrich our lives, it helps us understand the added value protective standards bring to the community.
Who supports historic district designation?
Most Baywood residents, Baywood neighborhood leaders, community leaders throughout San Mateo, and the San Mateo Heritage Alliance support historic district designation for Baywood. We believe the historical significance of Baywood is a positive and beneficial attribute for the city as well as the neighborhood. As a point of community pride, it is a neighborhood deserving of respect and recognition for its historic contribution to the City of San Mateo. Therefore, we have initiated a comprehensive survey of the neighborhood which has confirmed its status as historic. The intent is to submit a formal application for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a process that may take many months.
Unfortunately, a campaign of misinformation and hyperbole has been undertaken intent on casting doubt on the truth and stopping the positive efforts of many in the neighborhood. False claims instill fear and doubt in the public about the benefits of historic districts. The claim that SMHeritage is "forcing""onerous" regulations on homeowners and depriving them of their property rights is patently false and baseless.
Can I still remodel my home if the neighborhood is on the National Register?
Yes, you can still remodel your home, upgrade to contemporary standards, and construct additions or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). New windows, roofs, and solar panels are also allowed. Everyone is always required to comply with zoning, health, safety and building codes.
How does state law affect the Baywood neighborhood?
Recently enacted state law strikes at the very core of Baywood's character, desirability and integrity. The law enables any single family lot in California to be subdivided into two parcels, allowing 2 new units on each. Approvals are ministerial with no public input permitted. That means that your next door neighbor can at their discretion, without your knowledge, demolish their historic home and erect an 4-unit apartment building next to you.
It is true that historic district designation would exempt Baywood from this law. But only you can decide whether it's worth sacrificing the charming character of the historic neighborhood in which you chose to live - and the sense of place in which you have invested - for an unknown future in which destruction of historic resources and new apartment construction may be common place.
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What is the definition of historic?
Any building older than 50 years is considered potentially historic until evaluated.
What is an Historic District?
An historic district is a formally designated group of buildings, structures, sites, or spaces that relate to one another historically, architecturally, and/or culturally. As an ensemble, resources in an historic district tell the story of who we are as a community. They are worthy of protection because of what they collectively tell us about our shared past.
Historic districts can be National Register districts or local districts. SMHeritage intends to apply for National Register listing. As previously stated, there are no restrictions or regulations with a National Register historic district. Local districts, however, are usually subject to design guidelines intended to ensure appropriate design compatibility with existing homes or commercial buildings in the neighborhood. San Mateo has had two local historic districts for over 30 years - the Downtown commercial historic district and the Glazenwood residential district. Both have retained their value and desirability in good measure due to their historic district designation.
Why is historic district designation good for me?
Homes in historic districts appreciate at equal or greater rates than other areas and generally have higher sales prices than non-historic homes. The homes in the Glazenwood Historic District have been found to have significantly higher sales prices and higher per square foot price compared to homes in the rest of Hayward Park (10 year sales analysis, Chris Eckert Real Estate, 2023).
If you wish to remodel your home, you will no longer be required to conduct and pay for a Historic Resources Evaluation because the City will already know the historic status of your home.
Design compatibility, neighborhood character, and architectural integrity will be ensured through conformance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These Standards, used nationwide, help homeowners make design decisions that will enable upgrades to modern comforts and conveniences, while maintaining their home's character defining features, protecting their financial investment, and safeguarding neighborhood integrity. Compliance with the Standards helps maintain neighborhood integrity and property values for everyone.
Historic District designation increases neighborhood and community pride.
How does listing protect the historic district?
By itself, historical designation or listing in the National Register of Historic Places does not prevent the alteration or demolition of an historic resource. However, like flashing signals at a railroad crossing, listing alerts local government officials, property owners, and interested citizens to “stop, look, and listen” before making decisions that may cause irreparable damage to a non-renewable and irreplaceable aspect of California’s cultural and historical heritage.
The best protection for historical resources results from the active efforts of concerned citizens who promote awareness, recognition, and appreciation of locally significant historic resources in a community which provides incentives for preservation and adopts a comprehensive approach to historic preservation in local land use policies and planning.
What if my house is determined to be non-contributing to the Historic District?
The property itself would not be considered a historic resource if it is determined to be a non-contributing property; however, exterior street-facing alterations may be considered by the City in project review for their compatibility with the character of the historic district.
What's CEQA got to do with it?
Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), projects that may have an adverse impact upon historical resources are subject to environmental review. Resources that are listed, as well as those formally determined eligible for listing, are considered significant historical resources for purposes of CEQA.
Does the City know about this effort?
We are happy to note that the City Council voted unanimously at their Blue Sky session this year to make historic preservation a priority. We have met with the Community Development Department and they are supportive of improving and strengthening historic preservation policies in the General Plan and Zoning Code. New action items in the proposed 2040 General Plan include preparing a citywide historic context statement, neighborhood specific context statements, and updating the historic resources survey.
Who is paying for the Baywood survey?
Baywood residents are funding the study and nomination, with support from the San Mateo Heritage Alliance and the Baywood Neighborhood Association.
*National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/faqs.htm)