Portola Valley: Affordable housing a priority for new planning commissioner


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.

Craig Taylor
Voting for Mr. Taylor were Mayor John Richards, Councilman Jeff Aalfs and Councilwoman Ann Wengert. Councilwoman Maryann Derwin cast her vote for Andrew Pierce, and Councilman Craig Hughes voted for Anne Kopf-Sill. Also applying were residents F. William Mainzer and Leslie Kriese.

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.

Priority: housing

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."


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13 people like this
Posted by Not a liberal
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jan 9, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Affordable housing is not a priority in Portola Valley. We live here because we don't want more traffic, homes, and people causing congestion. I feel for people financially but not the town's problem. I'm more concerned about the thousand of cyclist! Since living here, I've seen more cycling and car accidents than anywhere I have lived before. How about cutting the trees down that are too close to the road!!!

14 people like this
Posted by Confused
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 9, 2018 at 1:25 pm

I am totally confused wrt the discussion surrounding affordable housing in Portola Valley. The town has always offered a rural or semi rural environment away from the more densely populated neighboring cities. I have lived here for 30 years as a renting student/renting young worker and as an owning older adult. When I rented here and when I finally could afford to buy here, I paid the market price. I don't understand why building to make the town denser you make the rentals "affordable." The only way it becomes more affordable is to make the town a less desirable place to live. If I add a second unit or if you allow me or my neighbor to subdivide our properties, we would expect market rent or price for our properties. The town becomes denser and changes its character. Perhaps the goal is to make the town a less desirable place to live. As a long time resident/property owner, this is a position that few would support.

7 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 9, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Honestly, I do not want to see Portola Valley become more dense. That being said, people who don't make high six figures need to be able to continue living here without paying "market" rent---which is absolutely insane, even for tech execs. Otherwise, we risk becoming a town of nothing but Facebook and Google execs and venture capitalists, and that is already happening right now.

I think we, as a town, need to decide what kind of town we want to be. Do we want to continue to be a rural-ish town, with people from many walks of life, and of many ages? If so, we need to find a way to continue allowing those people, who generally do not come from the kind of means it now takes to buy here, to live here. I think people like that add a tremendous amount to the town, and that is how the town has always been. They can no longer afford to live here. How do we fix that? Second units slated to people of more middle-class means seems like a good start.

If we decide against that, then by default we are saying that we are ok with our town character changing, such that only a very, very limited sector of people can live here. Their values, their desires, and their personal wants will be first and foremost in what happens with the town. That means bigger and more impressive homes, development to the edge of properties, gates and fences and floodlights, no-trespassing signs along the trails. Anyone other than smug, self-entitled white people need not apply.

Is that really who we want to be? Because that's who's moving in. Think about it.

6 people like this
Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 9, 2018 at 7:17 pm

jeezus h crap! Why does everyone want more people living in their towns? Move to the City if you want densely populated areas. Leave PV the way it is. The few friends I have that still live there live there for the quiet peaceful setting that they have. Not all are doctors and lawyers. Some bought at good times and have been there for a long time. Learn from Menlo Park- we’re already screwing up trying to get big and it sucks for everyone. Traffic prices and safety. The kids leagues can’t field full practices cause there are too many kids and not enough fields.

10 people like this
Posted by Cayo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 9, 2018 at 8:05 pm

Where does this plan leave people who have worked in Portola Valley for decades, but commute in for jobs like stable hands, gardeners, nannies, caregivers, and store clerks? Isn't it time we thought about them, and where they live? If they once lived in (for example) E. Menlo Park, but now have to commute in from Antioch or Tracy, isn't Portola Valley becoming just another NIMBY neighborhood? Our service workers are vital, but being shut out.

13 people like this
Posted by Keep PV Rural
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 9, 2018 at 10:13 pm

Keep PV Rural is a registered user.

If you read the PV Town General Plan much of it focuses on maintaining PV's rural nature. Increased density of housing, and the ensuing traffic, ar ein direct conflict with that.

From the PV General Plan: The planning area should have the low intensity development which is appropriate to its location on the fringe of the urban area of the Peninsula and should provide a transition between urban densities of adjoining
communities and non-intensive land uses west of the skyline.

From Major Community Goals in the General Plan: To conserve the rural quality of Portola Valley and maintain the town as an attractive, tranquil, family-oriented residential community for all generations compatible with the many physical constraints and natural features of the area.

Further, as one of the remaining equestrians in town I find fences and gates a necessity. They are an integral part of a rural environment.

If Mr.Taylor wishes to live in a higher density area he should consider Menlo Park or Palo Alto. An appointment to the planning commission is not an appointment to change the basic character of this town.

10 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 10, 2018 at 2:27 pm

I think it's a question of taking responsibility for your own community and not expecting others to support you. You can be like Atherton, out-sourcing its commercial and services needs and importing the cheap help from elsewhere, pretending the be a 'town.' Or you could live up to the fact that PV isn't in the middle of Utah, that you have numerous illegal aliens living next to stables being exploited, and that your own grandchildren will be moving to Bakersfield as they can't afford to live in your community.

6 people like this
Posted by Where's the love?
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 10, 2018 at 7:34 pm

PV can stay rural, and still do it's part to increase affordable housing options. The 2 items are NOT mutually exclusive.

If you recall the state has a housing problem, especially the bay area, and we have laws on our books asking each town and city to do it's part. Portola doesn't get a pass.

Adding a few in-law units, cottages, etc. will not change the rural nature of the town. Where's the concern for the public servants and employees that work in and near Portola? Is it fair to ask them to drive hours to serve your royal highness in rural-land? No, of course not. Pay reasonable wages for the local housing costs, and provide some affordable housing for those that are working in/near PV. It's only fair.

And yes, I agree Woodside should do the same.

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

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