Woodside Planning Commission denies permit for equestrian bridge


The Woodside Planning Commission gave a nudge to town traditions on Sept. 4 by denying a request for a conditional use permit for a plan to spend $200,000 in town and donated money to replace a washed-out equestrian bridge.

The commission's vote was 3-3, according to Planning Director Jackie Young. Commissioners Sani Elfishawy, Aydan Kutay and William Fender voted against approving the use permit, while Marilyn Voelke, Kurt Calia and Craig London voted in favor of it. Jim Bildner was absent.

The reason behind the three no votes on the plan: The bridge, over Bear Creek Gulch, only benefited horseback riders and not the community as a whole, Young said.

The vote passes the decision on the conditional use permit to the Woodside Town Council, which approved the town's portion of the bridge funding at its May 27 meeting. The council is tentatively scheduled to take up the matter at its Oct. 8 meeting, according to Town Manager Kevin Bryant.

Seven horse riders' associations and several residents pledged a total of $115,000 toward the project to bolster $50,000 from the town's trails fiduciary fund and $35,000 from the general fund.

Justification for replacing the bridge on the town's Center Trail is embodied in Woodside's general plan, which includes 10 guiding principles behind town governance, Young said.

The first principle states that the community "is dedicated to preserving, enhancing and restoring the Town's character as a rural, scenic and historic community."

The second states that Woodside "recognizes and supports the equestrian heritage, lifestyle and facilities as a unique and defining attribute."

On the other hand, Young said, "There are certain findings that you have to make to approve a use permit, including that the proposed use is necessary ... for the general well-being of the community."

"The dissenting opinion was that the use of the trail for equestrians only is discriminatory, (but) we have a park with a soccer field, even though (most of our residents) don't play soccer," she said.

Use of the Center Trail, a vital link in the complex of horse trails in Woodside, has declined significantly since the washout in 2017, according to the staff report on the project.

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16 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2019 at 11:29 am

And the neighs have it. Though they are totally lacking in horse sense.

13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 9, 2019 at 12:57 pm

What a pitiful excuse for a planning commission in Woodside. Give them a copy of the town's general plan and teach them what "guiding principles" means.

24 people like this
Posted by Woodside What the Hell is Wrong With You?
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 9, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Woodside, horses have been here LONG before you VC and Facebook people. We horsemen and women take care of these trails, are your eyes and ears for fires, prowlers, and dangerous situations on the trails and in the surrounding areas. WHOA and the rest of the horse community was happy to pay for (and maintain) this equestrian bridge. Commissioners who voted against this, do you think you are living in Palo Alto? What is wrong with you? Don't you realize that trails are used by everyone?


13 people like this
Posted by Whoa there
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 9, 2019 at 2:49 pm

@Woodside What the Hell is Wrong With You?

The article clearly states that part of the 'No' reasoning was that the bridge/trail is available only to equestrians. While Woodside has a rich equestrian heritage and 'horses have been here long before you VC and Facebook people', they are nonetheless a shrinking minority of the population in Woodside. There is a big difference between cherishing your protected/exclusive access to some of the trails in Woodside and petulantly mis-stating facts and then doubling down by calling people morons (using all caps was also a classy move).

17 people like this
Posted by What the hell is wrong with you
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 9, 2019 at 8:30 pm

All trails in Woodside and Portola Valley are available to hikers, the exceptions in Woodside being those on private property accessible only with a Woodside Trail Club key. That is at the discretion of the homeowners, as membership in the WTC is allowed when a person/horse combo has sponsorship by three local property owners PLUS has ridden with current members. In this way, homeowners with a trail on their property can be confident that anyone on the trail will be responsible, quiet, and safe. Each key has a unique number, and you are not allowed to loan them to anyone. If you violate the rules or a homeowner’s trust, you can be easily identified and you will lose your key.

The reason the number of horses in this area is shrinking is due specifically to horse properties being bought by non-horse friendly people, and the barns and paddocks being torn down for massive structures that don’t suit the acreage.

Horses and their owners and riders have been a tremendous asset to this community since its founding, and Woodside in particular has a founding heritage of the equestrian/cowboy life. We are people who care about this area and the rural nature of it. We take care of the trails, the land, and our neighbors—the Miounted Patrol plays a big part in this, and all trail riders know to keep an eye out and report hazards. We are happy to welcome you to our community—-Woodside Day If the Horse is coming up next month. This year, it is a three day long celebration, with a whole lot for the kids and for non-horsey people to see and do (which is always the case, but it usually occurs at the same time as the progressive trail ride.).

It is absolutely MORONIC (there you go, I know you were waiting for it) to disallow the rebuilding of a preexisting trail bridge when more than half of it has cash available raised by homeowners and the local community. By denying this bridge, you are NOT serving the community. Just your own petty selves.

2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 9, 2019 at 8:57 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Who owns the bridge?

9 people like this
Posted by Kurt
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Sep 10, 2019 at 8:17 am

So @What the hell is wrong with you, Woodside residents are morons for not paying for 42.5% of a bridge that can only be used by members of your private club which apparently you're a member of even though you're not a Woodside resident. Why stop there? Would you like us to pitch in 42.5% for a new clubhouse where you can laugh over your 42.5% subsidized drinks about how stupid Woodside residents are?

13 people like this
Posted by Lovely Sentiment
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 10, 2019 at 9:25 am

Kurt—you are making a lot of assumptions. The WTC is private only in the sense that the homeowners of Woodside who own the land that the private trails go through (and are gracious enough to keep open for equestrians) do not want unknown and unregulated use of it. These are their back yards, and some trails go very close to homes. Thus, potential club members have to become known and trusted. Each person is sponsored by another member—-you as the sponsor are responsible for the behavior of the person you sponsor. This is all to make sure that the homeowners’ property is respected. Even despite this, some homes have changed ownership and previously open trails have been closed. That is the right of the homeowner. Anyone can become a member of the WTC—provided they have a horse to ride. You can be leasing the horse, riding a friend’s horse, etc. Membership is not limited to Woodside or Portola Valley only. The club is not exclusionary—in fact, we horsemen are delighted to welcome more people into the love and care of horses. The trails on private property make up only a very small proportion of all of the trails in Woodside. Many trails are hiking only, some restrict dogs or bikes, some are biking and hikers only, no horses allowed. Do you really want to be so petty and insular that you only support things that apply directly to you at a certain time in your life? What a lovely community member you are. I bet you begrudge taxes being used to fill potholes not directly in front of your house, too. Maybe you could look outside your tiny heart and see all of he local kids involved with horses and ponies (Woodside Vaulters, Woodside Pony Club, Woodside Junior Riders) and be happy to support such a historic and unique community.

10 people like this
Posted by Ah, I see now.
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 10, 2019 at 10:23 am

Thank you to the above poster for the explanation It's a special bridge for only special people who are approved by the larger group of special people...members of the club. You can try to get into the club, but if not, the bridge is off limits to you.

OK, makes sense now that they explained things
I support the Town's decision.

14 people like this
Posted by Ah, I see now.
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 10, 2019 at 10:30 am

" I bet you begrudge taxes being used to fill potholes not directly in front of your house, too"

Not a fair comparison. Pothole are fixed on public roads which are by law open to all, so it's right to use public funds to fix them.

A proper comparison would be if the road was a private drive, only accessible to car club members, but they still want to use public funds to maintain it.

Given this comparison I can see why the denial of public funds for this private use was denied. Of course it was, I'd be shocked if it wasn't, but hey, worth a try.

Like this comment
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 10, 2019 at 10:33 am

Menlo voter, who owns the bridge
The trolls who live underneath it.

23 people like this
Posted by Ah, I see now.
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 10, 2019 at 10:59 am

I see no alternative statements challenging the position that the group was asking for public funds to repair a non-public trail.
I do see frustrated name calling though.

If the trail in question is open to the public, please correct me.

If a private entity wasn't asking for public funds for project where access to the non-club residents would be denied, please correct me.

If all you have is name calling, then be my guest and continue, but it's not a very convincing counter argument.

12 people like this
Posted by Whoa there
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 10, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Despite some of the lengthy explanations of equestrian history/heritage and perceived public benefits to Woodside, the fact remains that the bridge in question is available for the exclusive use of members of the Woodside Trail Club who must be on horseback.

The club itself is exclusive; prospective members must be vetted (pun intended) and once accepted are given a special numbered access key to specific parts of the trail system - including the bridge in question.

Please have the courtesy to simply acknowledge that the Woodside Trail Club is asking for public funds for private use.

9 people like this
Posted by Woodside resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 10, 2019 at 7:39 pm

The bridge would be positioned on a town trail on easements dedicated to the town specifically for equestrian use. The $50k fund is money that has been donated to the town specifically for equestrian trail maintenance. I hope town council will continue to support this project. I am shocked the planning commission could potentially put the kibosh on a project the council had previously voted to fund.

9 people like this
Posted by Woodside resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 10, 2019 at 7:48 pm

I should also add that Woodside horse owners are also assessed an annual trail fee that funds trail maintenance, including trails largely used by pedestrians and dog walkers.

10 people like this
Posted by What the hell
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Sep 10, 2019 at 8:48 pm

The trail in question is NOT a private trail, nor is it exclusively for the use of the Woodside Trail Club. It is a Town trail that was dedicated specifically for equestrian use. It is not on private land. I was simply trying to explain that the Woodside Trail Club is open to all who own, lease, or have access to a horse and are willing to become a member through trail riding responsibly in the community, and thus becoming friends with other trail riders in the area. That's not private or exclusive. That's called joining a community and becoming known as someone who is trustworthy, and the horse as well.

The Woodside Town Council voted unanimously in favor of rebuilding this bridge. The fund provided have been raised by Woodside horse owners, locals in the community who support and enjoy horses in this area, and members of the Woodside Trail Club, as well as a large donation from Woodside Horse Owners Association---in part raised by fees for the Day of the Horse progressive trail ride.

In short: Horse owners, trail riders and locals are more than willing to fund this bridge. All that is needed is permission from the Planning Commission to build it.

So get your damn facts straight.

16 people like this
Posted by Cowboy Up
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Sep 11, 2019 at 10:09 am

These equestrians need to refresh (or learn) what having a cowboy attitude is.

Having spent 4 years working with actual cowboys in the Swan Lake area of northern MT, cowboys would NEVER go glad handing for a government handout.
Cowboy up and be self reliant, and for dang sake, don't snivel if things don't go your way.

4 people like this
Posted by to "Ah I see now"
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 11, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Ah, I see now - you feel left out. Let's talk about your childhood experience of being "excluded"... Even better, get on a horse - it's good therapy.

12 people like this
Posted by Socialist Cowboys?
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2019 at 3:03 pm

I never knew they existed. No, sorry, no free handouts from the government.

If you want to rebuild a bridge, cowboy up and do it! Don't beg from me, the tax payer. Oh, and before you ask, No, you can't have money to repave your driveway either.

Come down to Westwind and we can ride one day but be prepared, we pay our own way. I'll show you how to do it all by yourself without gov't assistance. Bring your western tack, if you own any.

6 people like this
Posted by Whoa there
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 11, 2019 at 7:54 pm

@What the hell

"The trail in question is NOT a private trail, nor is it exclusively for the use of the Woodside Trail Club."

The trail/bridge in question is private by virtue of the fact that it is not open to the general public. The only means of accessing the trail/bridge in question is through a locked gate, with keys granted only by the Woodside Trail Club. Getting a key requires an individual and their horse being proven worthy by the existing members of the club makes the use of the trail/bridge exclusively for the use of the Woodside Trail Club.

"It is not on private land."

Maybe. The bridge itself crosses the creek which may or may not be under the jurisdiction of the County or State, which would make it on public property (a good question to ask)- but a bridge to nowhere. The trail however, is on an easement granted to the Town by private landowners for the exclusive use by equestrians. An easement does not in any way transfer ownership of the land - merely access rights. The trail (and possibly the bridge) is on private property.

I don't really mind if the bridge is built. I take exception to the shoddy (pun again) defense of using public money for private use; use which would require me to own, lease, borrow, a horse and have other members of a club decide if I should be given a key to get through locked gates with signs that says Woodside Trail Club only.

I'm sorry that this is a Trigger (pun one more time) for you, but regardless of whether or not my facts are 'damned', they are indeed 'straight'.

4 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Sep 12, 2019 at 10:26 pm

The article, and many commenters, are missing the point. The Planning Commission did not reject the proposal, nor did it approve. It essentially punted, and now the Town Council will decide. Given their strong support for funding, it appears likely they will approve.

I am a resident of Woodside who does not ride horses, but I am 100% in favor of this bridge. There are miles and miles of trails, mostly all of which are open to horses and pedestrians. It is wrong and misleading to characterize this bridge as "only" benefitting equestrians. there's plenty of room to go around.

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