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Nicholas Targ's credentials are a deep shade of green

Attorney is a new member of the Portola Valley Planning Commission

Statistics on commuting by Portola Valley residents are showing changes that are heartening, says Nicholas Targ, a new member of the Planning Commission. In comparing census data from 2010 and 2006, Mr. Targ noted during a recent interview that commuting by bicycle is up. So is walking to work and working at home, while driving alone to work is down.

These numbers bode well for Portola Valley because they reinforce the tone of sustainable living embodied in the town's general plan, Mr. Targ said. A land-use attorney with deep experience in environmental law, Mr. Targ will be participating in decisions on development in town for the next four years.

The 2006 data at bayareacensus.gov are taken from the American Community Survey, a project of the U.S. Census Bureau to periodically update numbers from the formal census taken every 10 years. The 2010 numbers show 11 Portola Valley residents commuting by bike versus none at all in 2006; 84 residents walking to work, up 22 percent; 229 working at home, up 4 percent; and 1,403 driving alone to and from work, down 17 percent from 2006.

Mr. Targ said he found the commuting numbers especially interesting. "I believe they have implications for the way in which the population uses the local natural and built environment," he said.

Sustainable land use

Environment and land use are among his priorities as a partner in the international law firm of Holland & Knight in San Francisco. He is an adjunct professor in land-use law at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. In addition, he is vice-chair of the American Bar Association's Committee on Environmental Justice, and he co-founded an environmental law and sustainability program at the historically black Howard University in Washington, D.C.

His career in Washington began in the Department of the Interior, where he helped establish an alternative dispute-resolution program and a department-wide office for dealing with hazardous material issues. At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he was counsel and associate director in the Office of Environmental Justice.

He has a law degree from Boston College and a bachelor's degree in economics, politics and legal studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. During studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his focus was "principle-based negotiation in land use planning, sustainability and property rights."

Mr. Targ grew up in Palo Alto, but as a kid he roamed the hills of Portola Valley, he said. The open spaces set the town's character and are "an opportunity for the community to come together, to be out having an experience in nature that supports health and that's connected with the landscape that we have."

In his capacity as a planning commissioner, Mr. Targ said a search for common ground will be key. "It takes a lot of homework to understand the different interests that are significant to different stakeholders," he said. "Once you understand what their interests are, you can begin to satisfy them and work for mutual benefits in a proper alignment."

Among such issues that Portola Valley government has been addressing lately is the possibility of a small vegetable farm and vineyard in part of a private field at 555 Portola Road, a space treasured by some residents for its scenic qualities.

In his interview with the Town Council, Mr. Targ distinguished between working rural and aesthetic rural, and hinted at the value of working rural. So is he a working-rural advocate? "That's definitely true," he told the Almanac, but his support depends on the project. "I'm an advocate of projects that fit in with the community (and) preserve the community's character and history," he said. "I like community-serving landscapes and I also like community-serving retail."

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