Woodside year in review: Openings, closings, and costly tree-felling


Woodside is a town that loves its heritage trees and protects them with a statute that incurs large penalties on people who cut them down without a permit. While five-figure fines are not uncommon, the Town Council went well beyond that threshold in 2016.

The council fined Rudolph Koppl $212,500 for the premature felling of 22 large trees on a vacant 3.2-acre lot he once owned at 205 Mountain Wood Lane. An application for a permit to cut down 228 of the 287 trees on the property was in process when the town learned of the already downed trees. When the fine was paid, the town's budget surplus more than doubled.

The year also saw the reopening of the public library and the forced closing of the Woodside Bakery & Cafe, a much loved gathering place that closed its doors on March 15.

The library, after a $2.8 million remodel, reopened on April 16 with a daylong ceremony. The 5,000-square-foot interior was reconfigured to include a learning center/meeting room and improved spaces for children and teens. The restrooms are larger, access for people with disabilities is better, the lighting is better and the building has been seismically retrofitted.

When the Woodside Bakery closed at the insistence of property owners George and Christine Roberts, business owners Mark and Jan Sweyer, who are siblings, held an everything-must-go buffet dinner. Six months later, they opened a bakery in the Sharon Heights Shopping Center. A cafe is coming in 2017, the Sweyers say, with a menu of breakfast, weekend brunch and lunch, including some items from their old menu.

Meanwhile at the site of the old bakery and cafe, a remodel began for the Village Bakery & Cafe, owned by Tim Stannard, who also owns The Village Pub restaurant a block away. Mr. Stannard said he is hoping to open in April or May.

Home improvements?

If 2015 in Woodside was the year of studying potential basements and their contours, 2016 was the year of resolving the matter after two years and six public hearings. In April, the council passed an ordinance establishing a formula that includes the square-footage of the main residence and the total volume of soil removed.

No more than 50 percent of the basement can be located outside the footprint of the main house above it, and if the basement is 25 percent or less than the maximum allowed, a site development permit is not required.

In May, the council directed the Planning Commission to consider house size and what might be done to increase the maximum allowable size of the main house. The community's parcels vary widely in size and topography, and many are nonconforming, in that they do not fit well with town regulations. The goal residents say they are looking for is a simple methodology.

Elsewhere on the home front, critics of Airbnb outnumbered allies at an October Town Council study session on the problems and opportunities created by short-term rentals of rooms and houses in a community of single-family dwellings.

"I'm living next door to a corporation," a resident of Woodside Heights said.

"It's very miserable to live right next to people who turned their house into a hotel," said a Woodside Hills resident. A neighbor noted that "if people are running hotels in Woodside, I think it would destroy the rural character of Woodside."

But, countered a Woodside Glens resident, "I don't want to leave my house empty. It's a magnet for thieves."

We need to "quickly put something in that allows us to defend the community," Councilman Peter Mason said. A focus on worst case may be the best approach, he said.

"The new sharing economy has made it such that these behaviors are coming to every community," then-Mayor Deborah Gordon said. It's difficult to define bad behavior in an ordinance, she added.

The council asked staff to come back with six or seven approaches and a report on some common regulating threads, such as using nuisance laws.

Junior rodeo

When the Fourth of July rolled around, protesters picketed the annual junior rodeo at the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County. The protest was over the annual pig scramble, in which three groups of children chased and tried to grab a group of hapless pigs in hopes of winning a ribbon.

Pigs are intelligent, New York Times science writer Natalie Angier wrote in 2009, noting that they understand mirrors, can herd sheep, can do circus tricks, and can play video games. Pigs are also slow to forget, she wrote.

Perhaps a case in point: the pigs would not come out from under their trailer for the third chase. Asked to explain, arena boss Michael Raynor said that pigs like to lay together in piles. "I just think they found a place that is nice and shady and a tight spot, as in, 'We've got a quiet spot in here. We're going to lay in a pile.' … Pigs don't have the complicated emotional overlay that humans have," he said.


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3 people like this
Posted by Dogooder
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jan 18, 2017 at 4:30 am

Glad to see the mention of the Woodside Rodeo's cruel pig scramble here. It's time for the town of woodside to stop condoning this needless sport terrifying of baby animals, for the purpose of entertaining their kids. It also teaches children disrespect of other species, beings less powerful than they. Michael Raynor's comment to explain why the piglets are hiding under the trailers is ridiculous and shows his lack of empathy for these creatures.

3 people like this
Posted by kimmy
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 18, 2017 at 9:57 am

Anyone who has seen the Youtube video of the 2016 Pig Scramble at the Woodside Rodeo can see that the piglets are terrified by the third time out of the trailer, as they have figured out what is coming. In order to get them out of the trailer, the "princesses " actually hold them upside down by their feet and DROP them onto the ground, treating the piglets with a COMPLETE lack of empathy. The video also shows a rodeo worker dragging a piglet by its hind legs across the arena. In an era where even Ringling Brothers has decided to stop abusing elephants, lions and tigers, surely Woodside can join the growing worldwide movement to STOP ABUSING animals, in this case, baby pigs!!!

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