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Calif. Supreme Court may define 'unusual' home construction




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The California Supreme Court is reviewing a case that could redefine the scope of California’s environmental laws. At issue is whether a computer magnate/developer can build a nearly 10,000 square-foot residence on a steep slope in the city of Berkeley. 

Mitchell Kapor plans to build the large residence with a 10-car garage on a hill with a 50% slope.

Engineers are split on the potential risk of landslides. Nonetheless, the Berkeley City Council approved the project in 2010, without requiring an environmental impact report, since the structure will be a single-family home.

Berkeley Hillside Preservation opposes that decision, calling the development plan 'unusual,' and arguing that there's credible evidence the structure could pose hazards. The group insists an EIR should be conducted.

Current California law does not define specifically what makes a development 'unusual.' Reporter Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle says the decision in Berkeley Hillside Preservation vs. Berkeley, S201116 could change that.