Almanac

News - May 12, 2010

Woodside: Fence across stream draws scrutiny

by Dave Boyce

If it is nothing else, the massive redwood-post-and-wire-mesh fence that lines the Portola Road property of Tom and Stacey Siebel in Woodside is imposing. It could also be considered beautiful, expensive and elegant, except for an out-of-character stretch that crosses Alambique Creek.

Lengths of white plastic tubing hang down side-by-side over the stream like a curtain. This section of fence has an industrial look, perhaps because it did not get normal scrutiny: this section was built without a fence permit, apparently over the Christmas/New Year holiday, Public Works Director Paul Nagengast said in an interview.

The town is "in active code-enforcement mode" on this section, Town Manager Susan George said. The municipal code notes that "no structure, including a fence, shall be permitted within the stream corridor."

Because this fence intrudes on a waterway, the Department of Fish and Game and regional water boards may also have concerns, Mr. Nagengast said.

Asked to comment, Mark Mongiello, a property spokesman, said in an e-mail: "We repaired an existing, non-conforming, 30-year-old wire fence that was determined by biologists to be an environmental hazard, impeding water flow and fish and wildlife migration. In consultation with biologists, the structure was modified, consistent with environmental best practices, to ensure that water and biology flow freely."

The plastic curtain hangs down to just above the current stream surface and swings up if an animal pushes against it, thus allowing passage into the property.

The tubing does not swing in the other direction, which prevents the Siebels' dogs from escaping, Mr. Nagengast said.

Fence problems

The Siebels' fence is developing a record in town offices. In an August 2009 letter, town Community Preservation Officer Gratien Etchebehere notified the Siebels' property manager, Mr. Mongiello, that, in places, the fence is topped with horizontal wires that violate the town's 6-foot height limit. A notice of violation has been filed by the town with the San Mateo County Recorder's Office.

Now Mr. Etchebehere has written again. "The proximity of the PVC fence to the roadway culvert creates a significant health and safety concern regarding the potential for debris becoming lodged in the fencing and damaging the culvert or causing upstream property flooding," he said in an April 30 letter to the Siebels' address.

The close proximity of the fence to the culvert may make debris difficult to remove, he added.

The Siebels had 20 days to meet with town staff to avoid another violation notice. Until the violations are corrected, the town will not issue permits for any home improvements the Siebels may want to pursue, Mr. Etchebehere said.

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