Shaping the character of Portola Valley

George Mader recognized for 'distinguished leadership' by planners

It will never be obvious to the causal observer, but for as long as Portola Valley remains the town it is today, a green, semi-rural, tasteful, hillside enclave of upscale homes, it will be stamped with the mark of George Mader, and he doesn't even live there.

The Northern California section of the American Planners Association has awarded Mr. Mader its 2010 Distinguished Leadership - Professional Planner Award.

As noted in the letters of support (included with the nomination papers written by Planning Manager Leslie Lambert), Mr. Mader, the town planner since 1965, was critical to home-building in Portola Valley, with all its complications amid wooded hills and meandering creeks along the dangerous San Andreas fault.

How many towns have geologists on staff? Portola Valley, Woodside and Los Altos Hills do, in part due to Mr. Mader's service on the Geologic Hazards Committee, which served all three towns. Mr. Mader lives in Ladera with his wife, Almanac reporter Marjorie Mader.

Former Planning Commissioner Linda Elkind said Mr. Mader is responsible for:

■ Clustering houses on easily developed parcels and leaving the more difficult parcels as open space.

■ Plant-species-distribution lists useful in finding habitats to be valued and to be concerned about in wildfires.

■ Insisting that residents listen to each other and be schooled on the need for creek-bank protection.

Former town councilman and planning commissioner Richard Merk notes Mr. Mader's influence in protecting property values, establishing a tradition of structures being subordinate to the land, and protecting the night sky from light pollution.

Added Geology Committee chair Sheldon Breiner: "(George) knows his craft very well and how to apply it in a town such as ours, which takes pride in striving to be in the leading edge of sustainability, appropriate design for a rural town in a high tech world and how to do so with many independently minded residents."

"Perhaps no one understands Portola Valley as well as George Mader," said town historian Nancy Lund in her letter. "And perhaps no one is more responsible for the way the town has emerged as a leader in environmental preservation and in reducing geologic risk for residents."

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