With four candidates running for four seats, the Nov. 3 election for the Woodside Town Council had been looking to be uneventful. But it became competitive when a fourth candidate, Chris Shaw, filed his papers late in the afternoon of Oct. 14, declaring his intention to run as a write-in candidate against Nancy Reyering for the District 3 seat on the council.
Mr. Shaw said his decision to run was prompted by dissatisfaction with Ms. Reyering's track record on the town's Architectural and Site Review Board (ASRB), and that "virtually every seat" in the council race had no opposition. "I don't like it," he said.
To have gotten his name printed on the ballot, Mr. Shaw would have had to complete his paperwork in August. As a write-in candidate, he had until Oct. 20 to complete his filing, according to the San Mateo County Elections Office.
He also needed to gather at least 20 signatures from registered voters and turn them over to the Elections Office for verification. That's been done and the signatures were verified as of Oct. 15, Woodside Town Clerk Janet Koelsch said.
The seven seats on the council represent the town's seven districts, but candidates are elected at large -- by all the voters. District 3, currently represented by Mayor Tom Shanahan, covers the neighborhood between Mountain Home Road and Woodside Road and extends south to the border with Portola Valley. Mr. Shanahan is retiring in December after one term on the council.
Asked why he is running, Mr. Shaw said that one of the lessons he learned growing up was not to complain about an issue unless he was willing to do something about resolving it. In this case, his complaint centered on Ms. Reyering's performance as an ASRB member, he said.
But Mr. Shaw said his run for council is also motivated by what he sees as the need for more common-sense decision-making by local government, safe routes to school, an infrastructure in good repair, and preserving Woodside's character in the midst of a bustling metropolis.
The ASRB has the complicated task of reviewing residents' site development plans with respect to preserving the town's rural character as outlined in the town's general plan and residential design guidelines, then making recommendations to the planning director.
The panel has been under fire for years by a contingent of residents who would like the ASRB and the planning and building departments to be less picky, particularly on small projects, and more open to creating a welcoming experience for building permit applicants.
The ASRB also has advocates. When the subject of the board's performance has come up in public meetings, board members have acknowledged the difficulties present in some proposals. But they and Planning Director Jackie Young have also noted that there are applicants with "success stories" who come back to the board to thank them for their guidance.
Town Council members have also acknowledged that Woodside's planning and building department employees are particularly, if not uniquely, attentive to the spirit and letter of the town's regulations.
Mr. Shaw said he took a project before the ASRB at one point and "had a fairly easy time." But, he added, "I invested a huge amount of time and effort to figure out how the game gets played."
Ms. Reyering's contributions as an ASRB member were not lost on him. "I think Nancy Reyering is absolutely 100 percent passionate and committed to the town, the community and the environment in Woodside," he said. "That is beyond reproach and question. I think her vision and her agenda has been demonstrated to be aggressive and has been unfair to people who want to build or remodel their homes."
Asked to comment, Ms. Reyering had this to say: "I know where the weaknesses are in the system and am committed to helping applicants by working on streamlining our planning and building processes. I welcome discussion of all issues and am confident that I am the most experienced and effective candidate for hitting the ground running, working with the council to effect change where needed, while protecting what we value."
Asked about his experience in town government, Mr. Shaw said he's attended committee and commission meetings for the last six years, including the ASRB, the Circulation Committee, the Town Council, and the committees on sustainability and open space. "I have a curiosity to know" what's going on in town, he said. "You start to get a sense for how the town works and the agendas in play."