New clubhouse planned at Alpine Swim & Tennis Club


At the Alpine Hills Swim & Tennis Club, the once-familiar stand of gigantic eucalyptus trees that for decades occupied the space between the club and Alpine Road is gone, cut down in late 2014 to remove the limb-dropping, highly flammable and non-native vegetation in the interest of public safety.

The clubhouse, which dates to the 1950s, before Portola Valley was incorporated, may be the next to go. Portola Valley's Architectural & Site Control Commission and the Planning Commission are considering a conceptual design to rebuild the clubhouse at 4139 Alpine Road, according to a staff report that includes a project description by Monterey-based HGHB Architects.

The new clubhouse, like the current one, would be two stories high, but larger by 3,700 square feet. The additional square-footage would augment the kitchen and administrative areas, and there would be an activities room with a hard floor for aerobics and floor exercises.

There are no plans to increase membership, the report says, noting that "the impetus for this work is to provide better and more comfortable space for the membership while providing improved seismic and fire/life safety," as well as access under the American's with Disabilities Act.

The small former roadhouse and historic building near the club entrance, long the home of Windmill School, will be vacant after the school moves to 900 Portola Road. The conceptual design would have this building restored to its role as a venue for food and drink, including an outdoor dining area with a bar, fire pit, water fountain and seating, the report says.

(After the end of Prohibition, the area around the Mangini roadhouse served as spot for picnics until the club moved there in 1957. For a time in 1964, the roadhouse served as town hall, according to town documents.)

The new design would address vehicle traffic with a circular drop-off area at the club entrance, and add a total of 15 parking spaces.

Some concerns

The proposal gets a bit more scrutiny by town government because the club sits in the Alpine Road scenic corridor, one of two such corridors in town, the other being along Portola Road.

Before approving an amendment to the club's use permit, the Planning Commission must make six findings, including that the proposed use "will be in harmony" with the general plan.

The corridor is important enough to warrant its own chapter in the general plan, the Alpine Scenic Corridor Plan, which says that, "in commercial areas, particular attention should be given to signs, lighting, parking and planting so as to provide the least possible intrusion on the natural feeling of the corridor. ... Buildings and structures should be subservient to the natural landscape in design, material and color."

Staff notes that the new clubhouse would be a few inches higher than the rules allow and, with a 19-foot-high glass facade facing Alpine Road, there is potential for light spilling out into the night. The general plan places value on maintaining darkness in town so that the stars "may be readily seen at night."

The report notes that complaints about the club's operation have been "very few," adding that the town had received one public comment on the new proposal -- concerning the proposed changes for the area outside the former roadhouse.


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