With just two weeks remaining in the fall election, Woodside voters suddenly have a choice of candidates in the race for one of four open seats on the Town Council. The choice is also shaping up as a contest over the character of the town.
Chris Shaw, a newcomer to Woodside civic activism, qualified Oct. 15 as a write-in candidate to challenge Nancy Reyering, a member of the Architectural & Site Review Board (ASRB). Ms. Reyering has been unopposed since August.
They are running for the seat now held by Tom Shanahan in District 3, which includes the neighborhoods between Mountain Home Road and Woodside Road, then south to the Portola Valley border.
Woodside has seven electoral districts. Council candidates must live in the districts they represent, but are elected by all the voters. Councilmen Ron Romines of District 1 and Dave Burow of District 5 are not running for re-election; running unopposed for their seats are former planning commissioner Daniel Yost and ASRB member Tom Livermore. Incumbent Councilman Peter Mason is running unopposed for re-election to District 7.
Ms. Reyering, 60, is a member of the Open Space Committee and a five-year member of the ASRB.
The ASRB makes recommendations to the planning director on projects it reviews for consistency with the town's rural character as outlined in the general plan and residential design guidelines. The board and the planning and building departments have been subject to harsh criticism by residents who complain about too much attention to detail and not enough of a welcoming attitude to residents with visions for their homes.
A survey is being planned to gauge the depth and breadth of community animosity.
Mr. Shaw is 52 and the chief executive of H2ORS, a maker of products related to cancer treatment. He has not served on town committees, but said that over the last six years he attended various meetings, including Town Council, ASRB and Circulation Committee meetings.
Mr. Shaw said he decided to run on Oct. 12 after discussions with residents "over the course of a couple of weeks." He said he is dissatisfied with Ms. Reyering's ASRB record, and with elections in which candidates run unopposed. "It's time for my generation to step up and take action," he said.
"I think (Nancy) is an incredibly polarizing individual," he said. Government is about trying to do what's best for everyone, he said, adding: "If you stake out too extreme a position, it's not in the long term interests of the greater Woodside community."
Asked to respond, Ms. Reyering said: "I have always sought consensus in my extensive efforts for the community of Woodside over the last five years. Woodside is a small community. We need individuals who can work together, and have the experience to maintain a degree of professionalism. Unsubstantiated and vague accusations speak to my opponent's inexperience in matters of town governance, and serve to emphasize why this election is about selecting a qualified and experienced candidate."
In response, Mr. Shaw drew attention to Ms. Reyering's participation in a council meeting in July 2014 over an Open Space Committee proposal to require that brand new fences along property lines be rail fences so as to respect wildlife's needs to move about.
More than 20 people spoke, most in opposition. They cited dangers for residents and pets from factors such as ticks, wild animals and criminals all arguable points, committee members said.
"I think there is no better example of a polarizing event than what she created with the fencing debate," Mr. Shaw said. "I think that I am much more a voice of moderation, much less polarizing and I think I represent a relatively young generation who needs to start taking on the role of government."
Ms. Reyering noted her advantages from her years of service: She knows key players, has good relations with staff and knows the weaknesses in town government, particularly in planning and building, she said.
"All that experience has brought me to a place where the next step is to serve on the Town Council," she said. "I'm confident that I'm the most experienced and qualified candidate. My opponent even endorses me. I thank him for that," she said, referring to a comment by Mr. Shaw that she is "absolutely 100 percent passionate and committed to the town, the community and the environment in Woodside."
Her priorities: Maintain Woodside's "unique rustic charm"; streamline planning and building processes, particularly for smaller and medium-sized projects; create a more open culture between the council, residents and volunteers.
Mr. Shaw said he values "calm, rational civic discourse ... (to) make sure that everyone can be part of the community. It is not easy."
As a cyclist and parent, his priorities would include safety on the streets -- "It's hair-raising," he said. -- infrastructure upkeep and generally bringing "common sense to things."
Mr. Shaw is backed by councilmen Dave Tanner, Dave Burow and Tom Shanahan. All said they value his stance on individual property rights. Mr. Tanner said he considers Mr. Shaw a "good man," while Mr. Burow sees him as "a much more balanced person."
In a statement provided by Ms. Reyering, Councilman Ron Romines cited the importance of Ms. Reyering's participation on the general-plan task force, the ASRB and the Open Space Committee.
Council members Anne Kasten and Peter Mason said they're not making endorsements; Deborah Gordon did not respond to a request for comment.