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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Blue Oaks' low-cost housing proves tough issue to tackle in Portola Valley Blue Oaks' low-cost housing proves tough issue to tackle in Portola Valley (April 21, 2004)

** Way forward a minefield of complications, council says.

By David Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer

Affordable housing in the exclusive Blue Oaks neighborhood of Portola Valley took a step sideways last week as the homeowners association, attempting to relocate planned low-cost homes away from the central area of the neighborhood, found its path strewn with complications.

Culminating a nine-month effort, association president Kurt Jaggers and association secretary Tim Mills presented a plan to the Town Council on April 14 to build eight or nine below-market-rate (BMR) homes -- required as part of an agreement with the town -- on the edge of the development along an emergency access road. The agreement called for building the homes in the center of the development.

The council could offer few words of encouragement to the association, given the eight-year effort invested in settling on the central location. Among the sticking points mentioned by the council:

** Potential lawsuits against the town by nearby Los Trancos Woods residents, by one Blue Oaks homeowner near the proposed site who has refused to go along with the revised plan, or by conservation groups opposed to the use of open space for housing;

** a further delay in building the BMR homes;

** a gradual loss of vegetative screening as old trees die without replacement by young trees, which are typically removed as fire hazards; and

** the cost to the town as the planning staff reshuffles its priorities.

"We will face a grueling journey if we take this on," said Councilman Steve Toben. "The concept is sound. The money, the process, the exhaustion is the thing."

"Blue Oaks is a complex and highly controversial project," said Councilman Richard Merk. "Each and every owner purchased the lots in full knowledge" of the location of lots earmarked for affordable housing, he said.

"I think there (are) some interesting merits here. I think there (are) some things still to be worked out," Councilman Ed Davis said, adding that he considered the proposal an opening position.

"We have come here to put something on the table," Mr. Jaggers replied, adding that he would appreciate a detailed response to the proposal.

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