News

Portola Valley to buy 'affordable' housing site

Town Council agrees to pay $2.6 million for former plant nursery property.

Click on picture to enlarge.

By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

Two recent events have ratcheted up the tension in Portola Valley. On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 29, came word of ("Keep PV Rural"), a new website backing residents who oppose the town's negotiations to buy a flat 1.68-acre former plant nursery on a major traffic arterial at 900 Portola Road. The Town Council wants to build between eight and 12 small homes on the site for people of moderate incomes, and restrict home sales to people who live or work in town.

A state mandate requires such housing in all cities and towns; regional agencies set the quotas for each town and monitor a town's progress toward meeting that quota -- even if, as is the case in Portola Valley, a typical house has a seven-figure price tag. In San Mateo County, a moderate income is around $86,500 for an individual and $123,600 for a family of four, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

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On Wednesday evening at around 8 p.m., the Town Council (in closed session as is common for real estate matters) voted unanimously to authorize purchase of the nursery property. When the council reconvened in open session, Leigh Prince, an attorney in the town attorney's law firm, said the vote as 4-0-1, with Councilman Ted Driscoll absent.

A copy of the agreement obtained by the Almanac specifies a purchase price of $2.6 million, with an additional payment of not more than $400,000 to cleanse the soil of hazardous substances from nursery operations. Escrow is set to close on Dec. 21, 2012. The town owns four parcels in the Blue Oaks neighborhood; the agreement is contingent on their sale at a price "at least equal to" that of the nursery property.

Particularly upset over this project are residents of Wyndham Drive, a circular cluster of single-family homes that sits just behind the nursery property. "There's general disappointment" over the council's action, resident Bud Eisberg said in an interview.

In an Aug. 29 message on the community's online forum, Mr. Eisberg announced "Keep PV Rural," a website representing a coalition of residents opposed to the project and "formed to oppose high density development in Portola Valley." Some 93 percent of Wyndham Drive residents oppose the project versus 7 percent who support it, Mr. Eisberg said. A key factor going forward, he added, will be the number of homes built on the site.

The Blue Oaks parcels had been designated for eight units. The town has a published objective of eight to 12. Affordable-housing subdivisions tend to be built by developers familiar with how to make them profitable. A Blue Oaks project never got started in part because developers said that grading the land would be prohibitively expensive, the town planner has said.

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In the housing chapter in Portola Valley's general plan is a passage that seems tailored to the nursery site: "The highest population densities should occur in relatively level areas close to major centers of commerce and industry where coordinated development is possible and where transportation and other necessary public facilities can readily be provided."

"The Town's purpose is to relocate the below market rate (BMR) housing that had been planned in Blue Oaks plus additional units," Mr. Eisberg said in his message opposing this project. "We as a community should debate and decide how to best provide for our affordable housing needs. We favor the continuation of using second units (cottages) to accomplish this. ... We are not opposed to BMR housing. We are opposed to high density housing squeezed onto the nursery parcel which could set a precedent for other neighborhoods and adversely affect our scenic corridors."

Could the town use second units to meet its obligations? Interim Planning Manager Steve Padovan told the Almanac that based on the town's conversations with the state, "we think it would be difficult to get our housing element (part of the general plan) certified if we relied solely on second units."

On a schedule of about once every five years, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), a regional land-use planning agency acting on behalf of the state, offers to certify housing elements for individual Bay Area communities. A certified element includes an updated quota for low- and moderate-income homes. It's a complex equation that includes considerations such as infrastructure, topography, land availability, land conservation, income distribution and economic trends.

A housing element that is certified can be important. Without one, the state can:

■ Force a town to create a zoning category for as many as 20 homes per acre.

■ Halt property development by suspending the town's right to issue building and planning permits.

■ Reduce the window of processing time that a town has for developing properties.

Noncompliant towns are also open to lawsuits by affordable-housing advocates, Ms. Prince said. A loss in court can mean reimbursing the advocacy group for attorney fees. Pleasanton paid $2 million in attorney fees, she said.

Click here for more information on affordable housing in Portola Valley.

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Portola Valley to buy 'affordable' housing site

Town Council agrees to pay $2.6 million for former plant nursery property.

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 4, 2012, 8:22 am

Click on picture to enlarge.

By Dave Boyce

Almanac Staff Writer

Two recent events have ratcheted up the tension in Portola Valley. On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 29, came word of ("Keep PV Rural"), a new website backing residents who oppose the town's negotiations to buy a flat 1.68-acre former plant nursery on a major traffic arterial at 900 Portola Road. The Town Council wants to build between eight and 12 small homes on the site for people of moderate incomes, and restrict home sales to people who live or work in town.

A state mandate requires such housing in all cities and towns; regional agencies set the quotas for each town and monitor a town's progress toward meeting that quota -- even if, as is the case in Portola Valley, a typical house has a seven-figure price tag. In San Mateo County, a moderate income is around $86,500 for an individual and $123,600 for a family of four, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

On Wednesday evening at around 8 p.m., the Town Council (in closed session as is common for real estate matters) voted unanimously to authorize purchase of the nursery property. When the council reconvened in open session, Leigh Prince, an attorney in the town attorney's law firm, said the vote as 4-0-1, with Councilman Ted Driscoll absent.

A copy of the agreement obtained by the Almanac specifies a purchase price of $2.6 million, with an additional payment of not more than $400,000 to cleanse the soil of hazardous substances from nursery operations. Escrow is set to close on Dec. 21, 2012. The town owns four parcels in the Blue Oaks neighborhood; the agreement is contingent on their sale at a price "at least equal to" that of the nursery property.

Particularly upset over this project are residents of Wyndham Drive, a circular cluster of single-family homes that sits just behind the nursery property. "There's general disappointment" over the council's action, resident Bud Eisberg said in an interview.

In an Aug. 29 message on the community's online forum, Mr. Eisberg announced "Keep PV Rural," a website representing a coalition of residents opposed to the project and "formed to oppose high density development in Portola Valley." Some 93 percent of Wyndham Drive residents oppose the project versus 7 percent who support it, Mr. Eisberg said. A key factor going forward, he added, will be the number of homes built on the site.

The Blue Oaks parcels had been designated for eight units. The town has a published objective of eight to 12. Affordable-housing subdivisions tend to be built by developers familiar with how to make them profitable. A Blue Oaks project never got started in part because developers said that grading the land would be prohibitively expensive, the town planner has said.

In the housing chapter in Portola Valley's general plan is a passage that seems tailored to the nursery site: "The highest population densities should occur in relatively level areas close to major centers of commerce and industry where coordinated development is possible and where transportation and other necessary public facilities can readily be provided."

"The Town's purpose is to relocate the below market rate (BMR) housing that had been planned in Blue Oaks plus additional units," Mr. Eisberg said in his message opposing this project. "We as a community should debate and decide how to best provide for our affordable housing needs. We favor the continuation of using second units (cottages) to accomplish this. ... We are not opposed to BMR housing. We are opposed to high density housing squeezed onto the nursery parcel which could set a precedent for other neighborhoods and adversely affect our scenic corridors."

Could the town use second units to meet its obligations? Interim Planning Manager Steve Padovan told the Almanac that based on the town's conversations with the state, "we think it would be difficult to get our housing element (part of the general plan) certified if we relied solely on second units."

On a schedule of about once every five years, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), a regional land-use planning agency acting on behalf of the state, offers to certify housing elements for individual Bay Area communities. A certified element includes an updated quota for low- and moderate-income homes. It's a complex equation that includes considerations such as infrastructure, topography, land availability, land conservation, income distribution and economic trends.

A housing element that is certified can be important. Without one, the state can:

■ Force a town to create a zoning category for as many as 20 homes per acre.

■ Halt property development by suspending the town's right to issue building and planning permits.

■ Reduce the window of processing time that a town has for developing properties.

Noncompliant towns are also open to lawsuits by affordable-housing advocates, Ms. Prince said. A loss in court can mean reimbursing the advocacy group for attorney fees. Pleasanton paid $2 million in attorney fees, she said.

Click here for more information on affordable housing in Portola Valley.

Comments

Former Wyndham Drive Resident
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm
Former Wyndham Drive Resident, Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm

8 affordable housing units were planned for the Blue Oaks parcel which is 2.47 acres. 8-12 affordable housing units are planned for the 900 Portola Rd. parcel which is 1.68 acres. Why will there be more units built at 900 Portola than was planned (and approved) for the Blue Oaks parcel which is about 2/3 larger?


Dave Boyce
Registered user
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Dave Boyce, Almanac staff writer
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm

It may be that the 2.47 acres of that Blue Oaks site involved topography that, in general, was not suitable for development. The town planner, in the story, notes that the site grading necessary at Blue Oaks probably would have raised the price of development too high to make a profit.


Redfield Flash
another community
on Sep 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm
Redfield Flash, another community
on Sep 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I find the oppositions idea to keep Portola Valley "rural" quite laughable. Rather than "Keep PV Rural" it would seem the website should be entitled, "Let Them Eat Cake".


MeMeMe
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:18 am
MeMeMe, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:18 am

Please, can someone explain why any town has to provide less expensive, and lesser quality, homes for the benefit of people who want to live beyond their means? Is this what we teach our kids? Ask & ye shall receive, courtesy of everyone else who has to pay their fair market costs? Isn't this socialistic?

When, how, & by whom was this mandate enacted? How about an appeal to the Supreme Court?

First we had to pay for food stamps, welfare, adc, now houses. What's next? Discounts on cars & at restaurants?

I want a Ferrari & to eat at Flemming's twice a week. Poor me! Who do I have to beg/lobby/blackmail/threaten/coerce to give me what I want?

If the residents are supposed to work in PV to qualify, do they have to move when they no longer work in PV or retire? What if they get inherit money & become rich? Do they stay?

I hope someone smarter/older than me can explain this. Otherwise I'll get on a waiting list for a job with PV so I can move there on someone else's dime.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm

This outrageous policy is brought to you courtesy of the enlightened central planners and certified loons of our single party state.


Garrett
another community
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm
Garrett, another community
on Sep 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm

It takes years to build any kind of housing, you have no income, low low income, low income, middle income, market rate housing and high income and very high income housing. So what is affordable housing.


Some Guy
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm
Some Guy, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I just love the elitism oozing from the pores of the residents of PV.
Why don't you pass a law in your town that doesn't allow people below a certain income level to live there?
Seems like that would solve your problem of having to live next to someone who only makes $120k a year.


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Sep 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Some guy:

no one is suggesting that people of lesser means can't live in Portola Valley. What people object to is the socialist nonsense that suggests that others should pay for people of lesser means to live in Portola Valley. If people of lesser means can't live in Portola Valley it's BECAUSE THEY DON'T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY TO DO SO! What is so hard for you to understand about that concept? It is not my responsiblilty nor anyone elses to make it so that someone that can't normally afford to live somewhere so that they can.

Tell you what, let me have half your income so I can live in Atherton. I really would like to live there. I can't afford to because I don't make enough money, but I'm sure in your self rightousness you can see your way clear to give me enough money so I can, right? No? didn't think so. [Portion removed.]


Hmmm
Registered user
another community
on Sep 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm
Hmmm, another community
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

MV - clearly, it is our responsibility, because it's the law. What I don't understand about this is that people complain & whine about it - but are they doing anything else about it? Or are they only creating elitist, misleading websites? You only complain about your concerns for socialism, but what about their elitist, snotty attitudes & actions? Do you find that more acceptable?

I'm not even saying the above because I think it's the best way to go, either. Nor do I think PV is even the best locale - & my reasons are practical, not having anything to do w/PV's wealth. But as this area becomes more expensive, the "what about ME???!!!!" types come out of the woodwork to complain - but what are they doing about it, if they feel so strongly?

Personally, I'm glad someone's stickin' it to PV - it's about time! Rattle the cages of wealth - it's necessary from time to time.


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2012 at 8:06 am
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

Hmmm:

it may be the law, but it's still socialist nonsense. It doesn't surprise me that we would have this type of law in this state. It's laws like this that are helping drive this once great state over teh financial precipice.


Jennifer
another community
on Sep 6, 2012 at 11:07 am
Jennifer, another community
on Sep 6, 2012 at 11:07 am

Wow, shame on anyone who doesn't support this project. You don't want people of "lessor means" living there? Elitist snobs are what you are.

According to the article, the housing would be restricted to people who work in PV. Is it so bad that your local firefighter or perhaps someone who works for the veterinarian now has an opportunity to live closer to where they work?

You want someone there when your home is on fire or your pet needs medical attention, but you don't want them as your neighbor?


Wyndham Dr. resident
Portola Valley: other
on Sep 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm
Wyndham Dr. resident, Portola Valley: other
on Sep 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

The residents near the nursery site that are opposed to the proposed development are not opposed to affordable housing. We are opposed to a development that is three or more times the density of our neighborhood. We are upset the Town never brought us into a discussion on a project they have been working on for several years. Try to put yourself in our shoes.

As far as name calling is concerned, the Wyndham Dr circle can be called many things such as beautiful, friendly, and rather normal. Elitist is a description that just does not fit. Drive around and see for yourself.


Garrett
another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 8:22 am
Garrett, another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

Even the Vet needs a place that is affordable, most of them aren't rolling in money.


neighbor
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2012 at 10:10 am
neighbor, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2012 at 10:10 am

Portola Valley is lucky. As our Woodside and Atherton. The amount of high density housing being foisted on your community is tiny compared to the amount of low-income units that Menlo Park is expected to build.

Too bad our state has so little faith in the free market that got us to this place. And it's become politically incorrect to say anything that might be interpreted as oppressing those who are economically disadvantaged.

Please keep Portola Valley high-income and elite. Many of us who live in Menlo Park are planning to move to your town once ours becomes overrun with junk. (The new units need to sell for under $200,000 to be "affordable," so you can imagine how deluxe they will be.)


Jennifer
another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 11:11 am
Jennifer, another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 11:11 am

To "neighbor", if you don't want high density housing or the people who come with it, I suggest you move out to the mountains or desert where you can purchase acres and acres of land, never to be surrounded by "junk".

The people of Wyndham Drive may not be elitist, but you sure are. As someone who was fortunate enough to be raised in a high income zipcode, I know you are the last type of person I would want as a neighbor.


Garrett
another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm
Garrett, another community
on Sep 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Free Market, you can live where they are afforable homes, etc and more etc. At the same time you fought for open space, to preserve your views in the foothills and housing in high density near the freeways. If is so funny when did 10 or 20 homes on a few acres become high density.


Joseph E. Davis
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Why should a bunch of irresponsible charismatic clowns in Sacramento decide how many houses a city should build? Wouldn't that be better for each city to decide based on local knowledge and preferences? Then citizens can choose what city best matches them...

Ah forget it, it makes too much sense for California! Bring on the central planners!


member
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 9, 2012 at 7:37 am
member, Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 9, 2012 at 7:37 am

gasp...Oh my goodness...What next, bicycles on Portola town trails?


neighbor
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm
neighbor, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Let's not clutter the real issue with absurdities, shall we?

Who should plan our communities? The people who live in them, or lobbyists in Sacramento? Strip aside the rhetoric, and that's the question. Sticking your head in the sand will not help.


Maria
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2012 at 10:32 pm
Maria, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2012 at 10:32 pm

It's fine when I'm working in your house taking care of your children or elderly parent for wages you could not live off of. Yet, it's a problem for me to live in your neck of the woods. HYPOCRITES OF PV! Then some of you have the nerves to believe in a higher power. How will twelve homes effect your living? I came to this county looking for a better life .


Menlo Voter
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 20, 2012 at 6:53 am
Menlo Voter, Menlo Park: other
on Sep 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

Maria:

it's wonderful you came to this country to make a better life. This country affords everyone great opportunities to do just that, but you have to EARN it. We all do. No one owes you a better place to live than you can afford.


Name hidden
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Sep 16, 2017 at 9:00 am
Name hidden, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Sep 16, 2017 at 9:00 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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