Almanac

Viewpoint - October 16, 2013

Editorial: Portola Valley candidates of like mind

Few California communities can look back on nearly 50 years of keeping developers at bay and maintaining something like a rural lifestyle in the midst of a metropolis. Portola Valley residents, and their elected officials, pride themselves on their "rural" ethic and maintaining a town that would still be recognizable to someone visiting from half a century ago.

There are four candidates, two incumbents and two challengers, for three seats on the Town Council. This is an opportunity for the voters to reaffirm those 50 years of effort. It's not as if a change of direction is needed. The well-to-do residents now and in the future will still come for the excellent schools and will be able to afford the large homes and meet the stipulations of the town's assertive green building code.

After interviews with all four contenders, we found that the two incumbents, Maryann Derwin and current mayor John Richards, and newcomer Craig Hughes, would best reflect the town's philosophy and continue its environmental tradition. The fourth candidate, Bud Eisberg, said he favored a "less activist" government with a focus on safety, public works, fiscal responsibility and to "help our schools where we can."

Ms. Derwin has a regional sensibility and says that active regional participation, occasionally stepping outside Portola Valley borders, is important when you need a favor — like substantive action to reduce airplane noise and improving the bicycle lanes at Alpine Road and Interstate 280. Mr. Richards and Mr. Hughes did not disagree.

On the issue of affordable housing, all candidates said they would support a small complex if a site was found, although most doubted that would happen in the town, given that proposals to build it are regularly beaten back. Earlier this year, the council was in talks to purchase the Al's Nursery property for just such a complex. The neighbors objected, complaining about the council's alleged lack of transparency on the project. The council acted within the law, but could have been somewhat more forthcoming. After a six-month community investigation into the issue of what to do about state mandates on this type of housing, the next time this comes up will surely be more engaging for all.

Portola Valley, whose residents recently funded one of the most environmentally sustainable town centers in the nation, is a rural community that discourages fences, keeps out tall buildings, and requires commercial ventures to attract in-town traffic. It's a going and healthy concern by any measurement. And all the candidates support the town's active use of volunteers for many community jobs as well as a general plan designed to keep alive the commitment to rural living.

In our view, Maryann Derwin, John Richards and Craig Hughes are the best choices to keep all this going and we urge residents to vote for them on Nov. 5.

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