Issue date: July 29, 1998
By BARBARA WOOD
Heavy equipment needed to begin construction of the long-debated Blue Oaks subdivision has started to move up Los Trancos Road in Portola Valley, the first step in a process that will lead to 40 new homes on the Portola Valley hillside once known as the Mariani Ranch.
Approval of the final subdivision map for the project was given by the Portola Valley Town Council on July 22, allowing developers PV Blue Oaks Limited Partnership to begin preparing a temporary access road, moving in heavy equipment and office trailers and setting up the construction site.
Despite eight years of often heated discussions leading up to this point, the final approval was somewhat anticlimactic -- only three council members were at the meeting and no one from the audience spoke. As one onlooker said: "There's nothing left to say."
Councilman Richard Merk, a stalwart opponent of the project, voted against approving the final map, while Councilmen Craig Brown and Ted Driscoll voted in favor. Mayor Gary Nielsen and Councilwoman Nancy Vian were absent.
"I've been against this project pretty much from the beginning," Mr. Merk said, citing his disapproval of the private roads in the development, the manner in which the homes are clustered and the changes made to the town's general plan to allow the development.
The council's action, however, was basically what Deputy Town Planner Tom Vlasic called "a procedural step," certifying that the developers had complied with the tentative subdivision map the council approved more than two years ago.
Actual construction of the roads and other improvements for the subdivision will not start for at least another week, until Town Engineer Betty Irvine approves the final plans for the work.
Mr. Vlasic said improvements the developers must make on Los Trancos Road will not be allowed until repairs of nearby Alpine Road can be completed and Alpine is reopened, which is expected to be mid-August or later.
Blue Oaks is sited on 264 acres at the south end of Portola Valley, between Portola Valley Ranch and unincorporated Los Trancos Woods and Vista Verde. Most of the property will remain in open space, either deeded to the town or retained by the future homeowners or the developers with permanent easements to prevent its development.
The 36 lots in the project include 30 lots in the Blue Oaks subdivision, plus six lots that were originally in the separately approved Portola Glen Estates subdivision. Four lots are to be developed with so-called "below market rate" housing. Each of the four lots will have a duplex that must be sold at prices affordable to qualifying low and moderate income families or individuals.
In addition to the open space and below market rate housing, the concessions made by the developers to opponents of the project include trail easements and new trails, emergency roads, improvements to Los Trancos Road and local water supply improvements.
The start of work on the project is expected to cause some traffic delays on Los Trancos Road for a week or two, including road closures of about 15 minutes at a time when large trucks that cannot turn around on the narrow road must back down to turn around on Oak Forest Court.
The developers have two years to complete the subdivision improvements.