Master plan update in cards for Portola Valley Town Center


The future of Portola Valley Town Center is up for community discussion, and probably a fairly long discussion.

An ad hoc committee will be leading the way. A select committee is now preparing a charter and a roster for a future Town Council meeting. At the council's Sept. 9 meeting, former mayor Ted Driscoll, who led the development of the new town center complex that opened in September 2008, noted four major issues that the master plan update might consider:

Parking: The Town Center's parking areas appear to be consistently full, Mr. Driscoll said. When planning for the new complex was in its early stages, past parking patterns were used to estimate the center's needs. The new complex is more popular than in the past.

Green issues: Environmental aspects of the new complex grew as the project advanced, and gained community support, Mr. Driscoll said. But the job of creating a new stream bed (known as day-lighting) for Sausal Creek as it runs through Town Center was left half-done, and there was no progress at all in storing water in the now-disused but still buried pipe that had been carrying creek water.

Climate: Planning for the complex anticipated neither droughts nor wet El Nino winters, and the need to prepare for both in an era of climate change.

Spring Down: When the Town Center project was getting going, the availability of six undeveloped acres directly to the south, and now designated open space, had not been part of the original vision. In 2010, another ad hoc committee had decided that Spring Down should be open space, but there were proposals for a skate park or space for a pick-up baseball game.

No one on the council took issue with any of the issues Mr. Driscoll raised, though Councilwoman Ann Wengert warned that the process not begin with a set of priorities.

Ms. Wengert is one of four people preparing the ad hoc committee's charter and roster for council review. The others are Councilman Craig Hughes, Planning Commissioner Alex Von Feldt and Mr. Driscoll.

Mr. Driscoll expressed repeatedly his hope that the ad hoc committee meetings would be public and would be inclusive rather than exclusive.

One idea tossed around was a rotating venue for the committee meetings in which they would visit one standing committee a month -- such as Parks and Recreation and Finance and Conservation -- to discuss matters and priorities specific to that committee.

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