Portola Valley: New member named to architectural review panel


Portola Valley resident Alvin Sill, currently the chair of the town's Water Conservation Committee, is the newest member of the town's Architectural & Site Control Commission, a panel of volunteers charged with maintaining the rural character of the town through its oversight of building projects.

After the Town Council conducted a 15-minute phone interview with him on Wednesday, Sept. 23 Mr. Sill was traveling the council voted unanimously to appoint him to the seat vacated on Sept. 14 by architect Iris Harrell.

The council appointed Ms. Harrell to the commission in January 2014. Her term on the ASCC, which is now Mr. Sill's term, ends in January 2017.

The ASCC advises the Planning Commission and the Town Council -- also all-volunteer panels on significant remodeling and building projects in town. The ASCC's mission, through legally binding decisions, is to preserve the town's visual character, its land values and investments, public safety, and the general welfare by preventing the construction of "unsightly or obnoxious" structures, indiscriminate clearing of land and destruction of vegetation, according to town code.

In his letter to the council requesting an ASCC appointment, Mr. Sill says he has an engineering background that would help him in reading building plans and blueprints.

Actions by the ASCC sometimes get a lot of attention in town and require members to work closely with Town Hall staff. Mr. Sill has had such experience, he says in his letter, citing his work on the Water Conservation Committee as the community copes with mandatory cuts in water use.

During the phone interview, Councilman John Richards asked Mr. Sill if he felt up to the job of disappointing an applicant "whose got their life's dream in front of you."

Mr. Sill replied that he considers himself calm and relatively level-headed, and acknowledged the possibility of emotional reactions by applicants.

"(I would) try to take a step back and just look at things, give (the applicants) a chance to be heard, and explain the things behind what you're doing," Mr. Sill said. "It's just not possible for everybody to be really happy with every decision that's made, but you'd hope that they'd be happy with the process."

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