Portola Valley: Redesigning entrance to Historic Schoolhouse


To a group of Portola Valley residents, the unremarkable character of the patch of land in front of the town's meeting hall, known as the Historic Schoolhouse, represents an opportunity to add charm, improve safety and plant new landscaping appropriate for a semi-arid environment.

The Town Council on June 10 agreed on the concepts of a proposal by these residents to upgrade lights on the paths into the schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road, add stone borders to the planted areas on either side, and add benches to each side. The council will reconsider the proposal when project cost estimates are available.

The proposal, presented by Portola Valley-based residential designer Bob Waterman and Conservation Committee Chair Judith Murphy, would also redesign the shallow steps leading up to the schoolhouse porch so as to minimize the risk of missteps.

New drought-tolerant landscaping would be designed by the Conservation Committee and Danna Breen, a resident and landscape consultant.

The plan calls for benches of recycled redwood, with no backs and arranged so as to be conducive to conversation, Mr. Waterman said. The standard bench is 18 inches high, but these would be 16 inches high, "for kids and shorter people," he said.

The unpaved surfaces will be identical to the tan decomposed granite used throughout the complex of new buildings that opened in 2008 behind the schoolhouse. Like the rest of Town Center, new concrete surfaces will be colored tan and decorated with imprints of the leaves of local plants.

Other residents involved with the proposal were Joyce Shefren of the Trails & Paths Committee, Nona Chiariello of the Open Space Acquisition Committee, Sue Chaput and Elizabeth Popodopolus of the Cultural Arts Committee, Danna Breen of the Architecture and Site Control Commission, town historian Nancy Lund, and other residents who participated in discussions held during the weekly farmers markets.

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