A three-person Town Council on Wednesday, Jan. 13, decided unanimously to accept a plan for a new home whose driveway will truncate a town-owned strip of roadside parking along the frontage of a residential property at 4860 Alpine Road.
The 3-0 decision — with council members Maryann Moise Derwin and Ann Wengert absent — reduces the number of parking spaces to 16 from the current 20. The loss will strain a parking area that is often full and spilling over on to Willowbrook.
In granting an appeal to property owners Annette Achermann and Rick Friedman, the council overturned an October 2009 decision by Public Works Director Howard Young and is allowing the couple's driveway to bisect the parking area and use up four spaces rather than the two Mr. Young had in mind.
The couple objected to Mr. Young's plan to locate it at the eastern end of the lot. Such a driveway would be too steep and would have inadequate views of passing traffic, they said, adding that the town should have said something much earlier in the planning process.
"Having this thrust upon us in the 11th hour was a big shock," Ms. Achermann said. The couple has already spent $45,000 on permits and consultants for the current design, Mr. Friedman added.
The council had rejected an earlier plan on Dec. 9. The recent decision reflected a compromise crafted, in part, by council members John Richards and Ted Driscoll.
The Architecture & Site Control Commission (ASCC) approved the couple's house design in May 2009. Mr. Young was on the distribution list for design review in March but did not comment, Planning Manager Leslie Lambert said in an interview.
In a Dec. 9 memo, Mr. Young said his comments were "inadvertently not submitted," allowing the application to proceed. "Public Works never intended the parking area to be adversely affected or diminished," he added.
"Staff acknowledges that it is unfortunate that this anomaly has occurred," he said, and added that the planning staff is reconsidering the review process.
Also on the distribution list in March was the Trails & Paths Committee, which had no comment, Ms. Lambert said.
The committee's comment now is unanimous opposition to the couple's plan, committee member Elizabeth Rubin told the council. "Our trail system is the underlying ethic for the culture of Portola Valley," she said.
Giving up four parking spaces, a 20 percent change, was a hard pill for Mayor Steve Toben. "It is painful for me to contemplate the loss of more parking," he said before calling for a vote. "This will not go down well with the trails community."