Active town volunteer and retired high-technology executive Craig Taylor of Portola Valley will be starting a four-year term on the town's Planning Commission this month. Among his stated concerns: affordable housing, sustainability in an era of climate change, and crime prevention.
Mr. Taylor, who also sits on the Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Open Space Acquisition Advisory Committee, received three votes from the five-member Town Council on the first ballot after a series of open-session interviews of the five people who applied for the position.
The Planning Commission concerns itself with policies about land use and development, including applications for variances and the hearing of appeals by property owners over decisions made by Town Hall staff as they administer zoning and subdivision ordinances. Planning Commission decisions may be appealed to the Town Council.
Mr. Taylor, a 30-year resident, has bachelor's and master's degrees in information and computer science from the University of California at Irvine. He takes over from Alex Von Feldt, a commissioner since 2008.
Portola Valley has been engaging in redevelopment and needs a strong focus on how to advance the cause for affordable housing, Mr. Taylor told the council when asked about his priorities should he be appointed.
Mr. Taylor lives in Woodside Highlands, a relatively dense neighborhood that has seen some changes. "The geologist, the school teacher, the plumber who lived as my neighbor moved out, and the doctor and the high-tech executive move in," he said.
He said he would like the town to encourage property owners to build second units rather than just removing bureaucratic obstacles to building them. Well-planned density is OK with him, he said, adding: "I've seen a number of (places) that are dense, but that are quite nice-looking."
The commission should spend some time on the increasing threat of wildfire amid climate change, he said. "What rules do we have in place to ... deal with those kinds of changes?" he asked.
Gates and fences and their effect on rural character had come up earlier at the council meeting, and Mr. Taylor added his comments. "I'll go out on a limb. I don't think we should have gates or fences," he said. "I think that's Atherton."
Crime prevention has been a continuing discussion in Portola Valley since two home-invasion robberies in 2016. On the value of fighting crime with fences and gates, Mr. Taylor cited the value of technology and lighting.
"Realistically, if somebody wants to rob your house, if they want to do, like, armed assault on your house, they can ram through your gates or they just go around your fence," he said. "I think people feel like somehow these artificial barriers are going to keep people out, but that's not really going to keep somebody out who really wants to get through them."