Residents of Marva Oaks Drive, a cul-de-sac off Raymundo Drive in Woodside, are pushing back against demands by some equestrians to add a trail and a horse-trailer parking area to the equestrian amenities in the area.
At issue is a proposed 500-foot trail that would connect two existing trails, a formal parking place for equestrians who board horses nearby to load and unload their trailers – as they have long been doing informally – and the placement of no parking signs along Marva Oaks, as has been done along Raymundo.
In September, Town Hall staff may bring a compromise proposition to the Town Council, one that could include the requested connector trail, the short-term horse-trailer parking area, and the no parking signs, Town Engineer Sean Rose told The Almanac.
In resisting the trail and parking area, Marva Oaks residents are confronting town policies that cater to equestrians. Woodside's general plan includes policies to enhance the town's equestrian trail network, to protect and expand that network, and to take steps to maintain and improve it.
A majority on the town's Trails Committee support the connector trail and parking area, committee member Don Pugh told The Almanac. The committee, made up of 12 residents appointed by the council, advises town staff and the Planning Commission on land-use decisions as they affect trails, and weighs in on trail-related rules and regulations and on trail maintenance.
John Huhs, whose property sits opposite the proposed parking area, noted that a geological map indicates the parking area is on top of an active landslide. Notable landslides did occur there in the 1980s, Huhs said, a point not disputed by the town.
In the interest of public safety, Huhs said, the town should commission a thorough geotechnical analysis to determine soil stability, and take remedial measures, including constructing a retaining wall anchored to bedrock – a recommendation from a geologist he hired.
Woodside's town geologist disputes the accuracy of the report prepared by Huhs' consulting geologist, Rose said. Huhs' geologist was misinformed as to what the town planned to do and did not check with the town before reaching his conclusions, Rose said.
Paul Poletti, whose property is adjacent to the proposed parking area and trail, is among those opposed to the trail and parking area. Poletti has periodically parked a backhoe and a truck in the proposed parking area, and has mounted a protest sign on his fence.
"It's on a corner of my property, and I'm not going to protest that?" Poletti said. "If the city does something that devalues my property, that's a taking," he added, referencing a clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits the taking of private property for public use without just compensation.
All of the land under consideration is within the public right of way, Rose said. As for soil stability, in making the trail, a town crew would not cut into the earth, but would lay down a few inches of compacted base rock along a ridge that runs on the west side of Marva Oaks, Rose said.
There would be some earth moved for the parking area, he said.
'A private road'
The proposed connector trail has been a priority for the Trails Committee for at least eight years, Rose said. It would connect a trail on Raymundo to a trail that leads to Huddart Park and the sculpture garden at Runnymede Farm. Without a trail, equestrians have been using Marva Oaks Drive itself.
Town Hall recently received a petition signed by 57 equestrians to get horses off Marva Oaks pavement and on a trail, Rose said.
It was the residents' request to the town for no parking signs on all of Marva Oaks that led to the petition and to the idea of a formal horse-trailer parking area off the road, Pugh said. Equestrians have parked trailers against a curb on Marva Oaks for years, he said.
Both Huhs and Poletti said that just two equestrians have been making use of the parking on Marva Oaks to load and unload horses, a number that Pugh does not dispute.
Speaking for himself, Pugh said the signs would, in essence, turn Marva Oaks into a private road. If the Marva Oaks residents would agree to the connector trail and the off-road parking area, Pugh said, he would not object to the no parking signs.
"I will fight vigorously not to have the town spend my tax dollars for the benefit of the private owners to make Marva Oaks a private road," he said. "It is wrong if they're still going to object to the horse trailer parking. It's all three or nothing."
Huhs seems prepared for a fight if his demand for a comprehensive soil analysis is not met. "All I know is (the parking area) is on an active landslide plane," he said. "At the very least, as a public safety matter, they have to do a public safety investigation."
"The day after the Town Council approves this, I'm going to court to stop this thing," he said, "to stop the town from building this without proper geotechnical investigation."
Poletti noted that he had once sued the city of South San Francisco over a trench dug next to his building and won. "I'm really happy with the cards I'm holding," he said. "I wouldn't file suit unless I had you beat. ... You're talking with someone who has sued a municipality and prevailed."
"I don't want to go down and punch the (town of Woodside) right between the eyes and have them retaliate. That would be stupid. I want to be left alone," he said. "I'm not looking for a fight."
Town Hall has tried to come up with a plan that is based on "an objective analysis" of the situation and is agreeable to both equestrians and Marva Oaks residents, Rose said. "Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful," he said. "We've heard a lot from both sides. The input we're getting is pretty far apart. We're trying to put together a way forward."