Almanac

News - June 12, 2013

Portola Valley to discuss affordable housing report

by Dave Boyce

The Portola Valley Town Council will meet this week to discuss a report from a committee of nine volunteers on how the town should address the controversial topic of affordable housing mandates.

Missing from the Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee's 11-page report is the divisive tone that characterized much of the public discussion/debate leading up to this group effort. The report's key concerns: distributing rather than grouping together any condominiums that might be built, and retaining local control of land use. The report favors second units and affordable housing for seniors and employees of an employer that serves Portola Valley residents.

The council meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, in the Historic Schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road. Also on the agenda: the budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The report was requested by the council in January when it commissioned the committee. The report includes feedback from community discussions on the issue and options on how the town could meet its obligations.

Go to tinyurl.com/PVR-223 and click on the link "Committee Report to Town Council."

State law requires every community to accommodate a diverse population through good-faith efforts to plan for homes affordable to various income levels. Why? The Department of Housing and Community Development, according to Portola Valley planning consultant Karen Kristiansson, considers the shortage of affordable housing in the state a crisis and places the blame on local land-use regulations.

Regional agencies set specific quotas. Between 2014 and 2022, the Association of Bay Area Governments requires Portola Valley to plan for 21 homes for very-low-income residents, 15 for low-income residents and 15 for moderate incomes — about $123,000 for a family of four in San Mateo County. Second units address some of the need, but communities must have land zoned for multi-family housing, an HCD spokesman told the Almanac.

There is multi-family housing in Portola Valley — for faculty at the Woodside Priory School and for retirees at The Sequoias.

In the past, proposals for multi-family housing have faced opposition from neighbors who said the condominiums would lower their property values. If the proposal looked as if it might succeed — as did the Nathhorst Triangle project in 2003 — residents who lived farther away joined the opposition.

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