If an elected or appointed official in Woodside is formally accused of an ethical lapse in 2019, the consequences will not be what they were in 2016: the launching of an investigation that eventually would cost the town tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees.
Over several months in 2018, a committee of Woodside residents developed, and the Town Council adopted, a new ethics code that is informal, replacing a formal code. The new code relies on the town manager's judgment rather than on an inflexible procedure that included an investigation.
Flexibility was apparent among officials from the Woodside Fire Protection District in 2018 when they advanced and then, when neighbors objected, abandoned a proposal for a larger fire station at the corner of Haciendas Drive and Woodside Road to replace the main station at 3111 Woodside Road.
The town has four new officials as a result of the November election and in the wake of the retirement of Town Council members Deborah Gordon, Anne Kasten and Dave Tanner – and the resignation of Peter Mason in March. New to the council are Dick Brown, Brian Dombkowski, Ned Fluet and Sean Scott.
At its Dec. 11 meeting, the council elected Councilman Daniel Yost as mayor for 2019 and Fluet as mayor pro tem.
The council authorized three new crosswalks in town in 2018 to improve safety for children going to and from school: at Canada Road and Laning Drive; at Mountain Home Road and Cedar Lane; and at Albion Avenue, where it terminates at Woodside Road. The town also relocated the crosswalk at Romero and Canada roads to increase its visibility for drivers.
Marva Oaks Drive, a road with no crosswalks, also became a road with no parking in 2018, giving residents part of what they wanted: to discomfit drivers looking for free parking while hiking in Huddart Park. Residents also asked the council to approve relocating a horse trail that runs alongside the road, but were advised to find a compromise with equestrians.
The roads and other public spaces in Woodside lost a champion in 2018 in the person of Antonio Corgas, who supervised Town Hall's maintenance department. Corgas retired after 30 years of working in Woodside, initially for elementary school district.
"When government works best, you have no idea it's there," then-mayor Chris Shaw said in a July 2018 comment on Corgas' retirement. "I can't think of a better example than Antonio and his maintenance staff."
"He really cares about (the town)," Town Manager Kevin Bryant said. "I've never met anyone like him, (and) I doubt I ever really will again."
Not living large
On the affordable housing front, a change to Woodside's municipal code in 2018 means more headroom for apartments above garages and beneath a sloped roof. Facing a 17-foot maximum roof height, and in light of a submitted plan for an apartment that would have restricted walking and standing for an adult of average height to the aisle under the roof's peak, the council expanded the space allowed for dormers.
Elbow room and its scarcity is part of life for residents of the Glens neighborhood. They get that they're living in close quarters. What they don't get – and what they complained about to town staff at a community meeting in September – is being obliged to meet development standards designed for larger properties, and to be labeled "nonconforming" for not doing so. Their message appears to have resonated, if council members' sympathetic reactions are any guide.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Fleishhacker estate along Albion Avenue seven houses, three swimming pools and an 18,000-square-foot reflecting pool on 75 acres is on the market. San Francisco banker Mortimer Fleishhacker and his wife, artist Bella Gerstle Fleishhacker, bought the property in 1909 and hired architect Charles Greene to design a home.
The main house has been listed with the National Registry of Historic Places since 1986 and an easement disallows subdivision of the property. Some local real estate agents expect the selling price to surpass $150 million.
'Kinder and gentler'
In the spring of 2016, a former Woodside mayor accused a resident-volunteer serving on the town's Architectural and Site Review Board of unethical behavior. The ethics code required an investigation, which then involved the services of the town attorney, an outside attorney working for the town, and at least two attorneys defending the accused.
The council sought changes to the ethics code, and an ad hoc committee of about a dozen residents set about crafting them, with help from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. The result is based on a code used by the city of Santa Ana.
"I think that this (code) is written in a kinder and gentler way," Town Attorney Jean Savaree said. The focus is on personal responsibility and buy-in "from all the folks who are appointed and elected," she said.
Back to square one
For decades, firefighters driving engines back to the main fire station in Woodside have had to stop in front of 3111 Woodside Road and back into the station. The absence of drive-through bays has been key to plans to rebuild the station. The plan includes individual rooms to replace the firefighters' dorm. Because the site is just one acre, there would be no room for administrative staff.
The parcel on Haciendas Drive is three acres, but neighbors' feelings about a fire station in their midst was one of four open questions, district fire Chief Dan Ghiorso said. He also wanted to know whether the property had easements; whether its geology and topography would accommodate a fire station; and the results of traffic and noise studies.
Residents of Haciendas Drive emphatically rejected the proposal at a Town Council meeting in June – and provided welcome feedback, Ghiorso said. "The community definitely had an input, and we wanted them to," he said. "It is a done deal. We are not pursuing it anymore."