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One contested election highlights Woodside council race

 

It's not often that an election for an open seat on Woodside's seven-member Town Council attracts more than one candidate. In the Nov. 6 election, of the four open seats, just one is contested; the three others, representing districts 2, 4 and 6, have just one candidate running for each.

The three unopposed candidates are:


Ned Fluet

Frank Rosenblum
• Brian Dombkowski for District 2: neighborhoods on Woodside Road west of Albion Avenue, and along Kings Mountain and Tripp roads (currently represented by Deborah Gordon).

• Sean P. Scott for District 4: neighborhoods along Canada Road, and north of Arbor Court and Olive Hill Lane (currently represented by Dave Tanner).

• Richard "Dick" Brown for District 6: neighborhoods south of Woodside Road and east of Mountain Home Road on both sides of Interstate 280, and parts of town south of Bardet Road along Canada Road (currently represented by Anne Kasten).

The Almanac will be running profiles of each of the unopposed candidates before the new council is seated in December.

Ned Fluet and Frank Rosenblum are vying for the District 7 seat; the district includes neighborhoods along La Honda and Old La Honda roads and areas west of Portola Road.

The Almanac recently interviewed Fluet, an attorney, and Rosenblum, a civil engineer, about their priorities, should they be elected.

The candidates agreed on the importance of addressing the increasing presence of commuters routed through town by smartphone apps such as WAZE, and the suitability of uniform building standards for all residents both key issues in town but disagreed in their views of the Architectural and Site Review Board.

Traffic and zoning

On the daily invasion of commuters, Rosenblum raised the idea of adding a stop sign somewhere on Canada Road, and mentioned possible steps such as discussing the problem and installing speed bumps in places, provided they don't detract from the town's rural character.

Fluet mentioned speed bumps as well, and possibly road signs urging caution around horses and children on the theory that they might discourage drivers from taking those routes. First, he said, he would consult with the City/County Association of Governments, which might have more of an impact on outfits like WAZE. "This is an issue for everyone in San Mateo County," he said.

As for revised building standards for residents of Woodside Glens and other zones of small or oddly shaped lots – referred to as "nonconforming" by the town – Fluet floated the notion of separate standards for blocks or streets or neighborhoods. "I think we should be open to those kinds of creative ideas rather than just setting a universal standard on the entire town that may not fit what we are," he said. "I'd want to try to help the homeowners get through the planning process as efficiently and transparently as possible."

Rosenblum said the council should consider reducing setbacks and revising rules for determining structure heights. Calculations for determining a property's average slope should be simpler, he said, with maybe just three categories: slopes greater than 35 percent, between 10 percent and 35 percent, and below 10 percent. That's how they do it in other towns, he said.

Fluet also cited wildfire safety and safe routes for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians as vital matters. "If we can't provide safe routes not only to schools but to our stores, our shops and other services, then what good is town government?" he said. "If there's nothing else, a kid should be able to walk to school. A kid should be able to bike to school. Cyclists should be able to cycle through town without worrying about getting hit."

Rosenblum criticized the work of the state Department of Transportation in repairing major failures of Highway 84 during a recent winter. He said he complained to Caltrans that the work was not being done as scheduled, that Caltrans sees projects on the Peninsula, including Woodside, as having a lower priority. "It was obvious to me that the contractors doing the projects weren't being pressured to get them done," he said.

Road work done at the intersection of Woodside Road and Interstate 280 shortchanges bicyclists, he said. "Woodside is limited in what they can do (regarding state highways); however, they can be a voice telling Caltrans what they need to take care of," he said. "It's an important function of the town and maybe the Town Council to be that voice."

Differing on ASRB

The town's Architectural and Site Review Board is, perhaps arguably, a subjective body. The board's mission is to protect rural character and natural beauty by considering a project's site planning, building design and landscaping in keeping with sustainability-oriented directives added to the general plan and design guidelines in 2012.

It was not long ago that the board was a flash point for some residents outraged by what they saw as undue subjectivity by some board members in evaluating residential projects.

The board's membership has since changed, with two of the more controversial members no longer serving, but for Rosenblum, subjectivity remains an issue. When asked to elaborate on his criticism of excessive subjectivity among current board members, he responded in an email, "I've attended some recent ASRB meetings and have observed what I thought was too much subjectivity coming from some of the ASRB members."

The effect of this "subjectivity" on rural character is not necessarily negative, but it has cost property owners in time and money, he said. He acknowledged as a positive step the council's bid to expedite reviews by reducing board membership to five from seven, but added: "I still sense some subjectivity."

Fluet said he has no point of view on past controversies, and that the definition of rural character will never be settled. "It's subjective," he said. "It really is. I think the general plan lays it out pretty clearly that this is a town that appreciates its natural setting, that ... appreciates its open spaces, that appreciates its equestrian community, its trail system. These are really things that are very unique to Woodside."

"Everyone here is trying to get to the same goal," he said, recalling conversations with "dozens and dozens" of people. "Nobody wants a concrete, bricked-over, cookie-cutter planned subdivision."

Frank Rosenblum

Age: 56

Education: Bachelor's degree in civil engineering from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo; surveying certificate from City College of San Francisco.

Occupation: Civil engineer and land surveyor

Public Service: Five years on Circulation Committee, currently as chair.

Ned Fluet

Age: 40

Education: Bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles; law degree from Loyola University in Chicago.

Occupation: Attorney

Public Service: Two and a half years on the Environment: Open Space, Conservation & Sustainability Committee, currently as chair.

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