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Supervisors grant appeal, overturn Planning Commission decision

Plans for rehab center in the woods dealt significant setback

In a stunning reversal, momentum has slowed and possibly stopped on plans to convert a meditation center in the unincorporated woods above Woodside to a non-medical drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation center for people with addiction problems.

By a unanimous vote on Tuesday, March 25, the five-member San Mateo County Board of Supervisors overturned a Jan. 22 decision by the county Planning Commission that would have allowed the conversion to occur.

Neighbors opposed the conversion, focusing on the center's remote location, its need for large quantities of non-abundant fresh water, and the increased danger of wildfire in the dry, dense, surrounding forest if a recovering addict were to drop a lighted cigarette.

The Stillpath Recovery Center would have been located at 16350 Skyline Blvd., the current site of the Stillheart Institute.

The cost-benefit analysis was a key factor for board President Dave Pine. "I felt that the project would increase the intensity of the use of the parcel, and that the benefit to the county did not outweigh the effects of the increased use," Mr. Pine told the Almanac. "I believe that for the most part, it would be serving clients from outside the county."

Supervisor Don Horsley, whose district includes this site, agreed. "I certainly support drug treatment," he said. It's really the wrong place. ... It would serve a very small exclusive class of people. It's not going to benefit people of San Mateo County."

The fire danger loomed large for Mr. Horsley in what is a combination forest of old growth and second-growth redwood trees. "It's just a majestic area," he said, adding that he'd received a letter that referred to the area as "our Yosemite."

As for water, the facility does have a 100,000-gallon storage tank, but "if you have a forest fire, 100,000 gallons isn't going to do much," Mr. Horsley said.

Mr. Pine also picked out water supply infrastructure as a deciding factor. "That is a very delicate system with minimal capacity," he said. "That system is not robust."

The board received 174 letters, two of which were in support of the conversion, and both of those were from outside the county, said Kathy Kennedy-Miller, a Kings Mountain area resident who attended the board meeting.

"The many residents who chose to testify made important contributions," Karen Morrison of the Kings Mountain neighborhood wrote in an email. "The facts and concerns, powerfully presented, fully convinced the Board of Supervisors. Our community owes these dedicated individuals many, many thanks."

Comments

Posted by Janet, a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm

This underlines the problem with the County Planning Dept. They rubber stamp the most idiotic proposals, often making significant errors with respect to the State Law and ignore their own ordinances. Examples are the BACE catering facility in N. Fair Oaks and the proposed Child Care Center for 24 kids on Alameda in Menlo Park.


Posted by Kaz, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm

So grateful to the Supes for looking at the issues and recognizing that the risks would be borne by us but the benefits would go to people not from our community. Especially as we reorient towards a drier future, putting a huge facility in an area without an independent water supply seems stupid.


Posted by Elmo, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Mar 26, 2014 at 2:49 pm

The Blatts are not likely to just give up on such a lucrative enterprise. They have a history of not shying away from litigation and are likely to challenge this. They have a reputation of saying and doing anything necessary (legal or not) to get their way, so it is going to be interesting to see what their next move will be.


Posted by menloparkmom, a resident of Las Lomitas School
on Mar 26, 2014 at 4:16 pm

The child care center on Alameda is a very different situation and would exist to serve families in San Mateo County. Please don't equate it to a drug/alcohol rehab facility that would primarily serve individuals from outside the area.


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