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New mayor's goals: Better communication, public safety and livability

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A quarterly newsletter with a column by Woodside's mayor is coming to the mailboxes of Woodside residents if the new mayor has anything to say about it. And he does.

"The town used to have this great newsletter that would go out a few times a year, and it stopped at some point," Mayor Daniel Yost said in an interview with The Almanac. "That's going to start up again in 2019. That'll be a resource to better communicate with residents."

Yost is an attorney and partner at Orrick in Menlo Park and a Joint Venture Silicon Valley board member. He is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and the UC Berkeley School of Law, and was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University.

His pro bono work includes assisting Kepler's Books in its efforts to be viable as a brick-and-mortar retailer. He lives in the Woodside Glens neighborhood with his husband Paul Brody, their two children, Brody's mother and a rescue dog named Homer.

Better communication with the public is one of Yost's stated priorities for the year. He said he plans to invite residents to meet-and-greet sessions once a quarter to enable them to ask questions of Town Hall officials and those from the Woodside Fire Protection District, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, and from regional organizations such as Peninsula Clean Energy.

Public safety is another priority for Yost, particularly with respect to wildfires and the flammability of shake roofs. The council, at a January 2014 joint meeting with the Portola Valley council, heard a presentation from Fire Marshal Denise Enea that included her recommendation to ban new shake roofs. Both councils, after hearing from manufacturers of chemically treated shakes, decided to wait for more data before acting.

It's a new council, Yost noted, adding for context that his parents live in Santa Rosa, where a wildfire in 2017 destroyed thousands of homes. His parents escaped that fire, but were not warned and had to use their own senses of smell and sight to figure out what was happening, he said.

"I think the top thing on everyone's mind (in Woodside) is fire safety," he said.

Acknowledging that he does not know how this council will view a ban on shakes, Yost had his own take."I'm certainly of the opinion that we should not be allowing wood-shake roofs in town, certainly not in new construction," he said. "That's one person's opinion, but that was the top recommendation from the fire chief of a rule to change. I think it's time to act on that."

Safety for pedestrians, including children traveling to and from school, should get a boost this year with the completion of work on the path between Woodside Elementary School and Roberts Market along the south side of Woodside Road, Yost said.

He said he would like to do more to address pedestrian safety, including looking into whether there are gaps in walking paths around town that inhibit people from walking to or from Town Center. "I'm going to propose that we add that" to the work plan for the year, he said.

Improving livability is his third priority. To that end, the Planning Department is kicking off the new year with six or so meetings in different locations in the Glens to talk with residents about a long-standing complaint: property-development standards that don't correspond with the neighborhood's small parcel sizes and that attach the label "nonconforming" to such properties.

Yost calls these in-neighborhood meetings hyper-communication, meant to "really try and get as many people engaged as possible."

"Once we come up with a plan (for the Glens)," he said, "the plan is to look at other candidates around town to apply either the same, or similar or different rules that make sense for that neighborhood."


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