Attorney, engineer appointed to Woodside Planning Commission


Two vacancies on the Woodside Planning Commission were filled Feb. 9 with the Town Council's appointment of attorney Kurt G. Calia and engineer William Fender to four-year terms.

The council re-apppointed Aydan Kutay for a second term on the seven-member commission, which advises the council on zoning issues, approves use permits and variances, and reviews designs for properties in the Western hills and along the town's scenic corridors.

The council's vote was unanimous for all three commissioners, with council members Anne Kasten and Peter Mason absent. Commissioner Karen Rongey-Conner had been seeking re-appointment, but recently withdrew her application, Town Manager Kevin Bryant said.

'A tough job'

Mr. Calia, an attorney specializing in intellectual property law, lives with his wife and two children in the Woodside Glens neighborhood. He's been a resident for five and a half years, having come from Washington, D.C.

Woodside "is a remarkable community," he said in remarks to the council. "We never thought we could recreate the small town community (from back East) in California."

Mr. Calia's relevant experience includes a couple of construction projects, he said, adding that he is confident he can read design plans and schematics.

"It's a tough job," Councilman Dave Tanner said. "Lots of reading, lots of time. ... You think you could tell your next door neighbor 'No' (to a design proposal)?"

It's a commissioner's duty to help community members understand the process, Mr. Calia said. "There may be situations where that's difficult, where it's not easy," he said. "It's an emotional set of decisions for most people. ... It's a hard job. ... I'm prepared to face it and do a good job."

An inside view

Mr. Fender, a Woodside resident since 2013, lives near Skyline Boulevard. His engineering career has focused on the development of medical devices, according to his application.

He told the council he was applying to "do my part for this wonderful community." He's been on "the outside" in seeking approval for a remodeling project, he added. "What I'd like to do is have more of an opportunity to work (from) the inside," he said.

"I realize this is a very substantial commitment," he said. "I feel I'd like to take it on and give it a go."

In interviewing Mr. Fender, council members referred more than once to his repeated 2015 critiques of the town's project review processes, including those of the Architectural & Site Review Board and the town's planning and building departments. He had spent 18 months, he said, getting a building permit to remodel a garage.

A chronology of Mr. Fender's garage project, obtained from Town Hall, showed it elapsing over 22 months during which he waited for action from Town Hall for a total of 167 days, while Town Hall waited for action from him for a total of 502 days.

In his critiques, Mr. Fender questioned Mr. Bryant's inclusion in the 2015-16 proposed budget of plans to hire an assistant planner to help with projects and assist people coming to Town Hall with planning-related questions.

The council should require a needs analysis ahead of such decisions, Mr. Fender said. He also suggested a Town Hall customer-satisfaction survey. The council commissioned four residents, including Mr. Fender, to come up with survey questions.

When the council referred to his critiques, Mr. Fender replied that the activities he had criticized were not relevant to being a planning commissioner.

Asked by Councilman Tom Livermore whether his complaints led him to seek a seat on the Planning Commission, Mr. Fender said that the commission works on broader matters such as variances, and that he looks forward to working with staff. "The garage was just a very small building project," he said. "I don't see the parallel there."

Mr. Tanner asked him about his readiness to handle matters that are not black and white and require informed judgment. "It's knowing our rules and regulations really well that helps you get (to an informed decision)," Mr. Tanner said.

Engineers regularly work in gray areas, Mr. Fender said. As a Planning Commission member, "the good news is there are people who can help," he said. "I hope to take advantage of those people who will help me get up to the speed I need to." It will be a "joy" to interact with the staff in Town Hall, he added.

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Like this comment
Posted by Laughable
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 17, 2016 at 8:32 pm

William Fender repeatedly maligned the staff, planning department ASRB and building department, never understanding the difference between the entities, never understanding the process. His diatribes created the mistaken impression that the planning process was going to hell in a handbasket. It is laughable that he has been appointed to such an important position.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 17, 2016 at 9:34 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


your planning process HAS gone to "hell in a handbasket." Those of us in the building and design industry know this well. If Mr.Fender can achieve some sanity in the Woodside process it will be a great thing.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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