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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
When it comes to the relationship between Portola Valley's landscape and its residences, the notion that buildings are to be subservient to the land is not merely a nice idea to Jeff Aalfs. The town has ordinances that bring this ethic to bear and they are the guideposts, he says.
Mr. Aalfs, appointed by the Town Council to the Architectural & Site Control Commission (ASCC) in December 2008, is poised to join the council himself in December. He and incumbent Ann Wengert are the only candidates for two open seats.
"I think there's a consistent balance -- some would say tension -- between the desires of some to develop and the town's mission as stated in the general plan: to keep the built environment subservient to its surroundings," he said in a brief biography provided to the Almanac.
"With the ASCC, I have seen that balance maintained ... through extensive and sometimes difficult discussions, with the general plan and ordinances as the guideline: rule of law, not rule of man."
On the ASCC, Mr. Aalfs has had qualifications suitable for overseeing that balance. He is self-employed as a residential energy consultant, helping homeowners and home designers comply with government energy codes and improve efficiency in new and existing homes.
Is Portola Valley's greenhouse gas reduction plan worth pursuing, given the rapid expansion of Asia-based coal-fired power plants and resulting emissions that essentially nullify reductions made in a small residential California community?
A lot of energy is wasted in inefficient buildings, Mr. Aalfs replied. As for the skepticism over Asia's impact, "I disagree with that," he said in a telephone interview. "Innovations are going to come from places like Portola Valley. This is part of what I consider the town's leadership role. Over the long haul, these things make a difference."
Mr. Aalfs is a scientist, with a bachelor's degree in molecular biology from the University of California at Los Angeles and a doctorate in genetics from Harvard University.
He did post-doctoral work at the medical school at Tufts University and worked at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, now part of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Corp. He worked as an entrepreneur in Palo Alto before getting involved in green building, he said.
A husband and a father, with two children, he swims regularly and plays softball in an adult league.
"As a council member, I don't have much of an agenda, other than to continue what I feel are the traditions of Portola Valley," he said in the bio. "I am looking forward to the opportunity to work even more closely with the other members of Town Council to address the ongoing challenges that come to the town."
Asked about the illicit topping of 25 oaks in the 500 block of Portola Road in a section of field owned by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Mr. Aalfs noted that it is wrong for private citizens to be taking matters into their own hands like that without permission. "It seems obvious and yet it's happened more than once," he added.