Woodside took a step toward more inclusiveness in 2019 as the town tried to accommodate the needs of the more-affordable Glens neighborhood residents to upgrade their homes. The town also joined Portola Valley in signing a new solid waste contract and coping with PG&E's fire prevention power shutoffs.
The Glens neighborhood has a variety of lot sizes and many residents on smaller lots objected to zoning rules that prohibited them from adding on to their properties.
In November, the Town Council took action on recommendations from the Planning Commission that allowed Glens homeowners with the smallest lots to add up to 500 square feet to their homes.
It also approved a recommendation to allow residents to count parking on the road right-of-way but off the pavement toward meeting the requirement for off-street parking, furthering the right to maximize the use of their lots, and also approved incentives for building garages, among other changes.
The Planning Commission and the planning department had been working with the Glens community on the revised rules for more than a year.
Horses not for everyone
In October, the Town Council approved public funding to replace a washed-out equestrian bridge after the Planning Commission passed on recommending the funding by a 3-3 vote, with one member absent.
The bridge, to be placed across Bear Gulch Creek near the intersection of Woodside Road and Why Worry Lane, will reopen the Center Trail, a riding trail that has been in use for more than 100 years, according to the staff report on the project. The trail closed following a storm in 2017.
Planning Commissioner Sani El-Fishawy, who led the argument against approving the project at the commission's Sept. 4 meeting, came to the council meeting to repeat the reasons he's opposed to using public funds for horse trails.
"There's a yawning gap between horse people and non-horse people," El-Fishawy said. "The bridge project doesn't meet the condition of a public good, and it divides the community and exacerbates tribalism."
Woodside signs new 10-year waste disposal contract
In November, the council overcame doubts about signing a single-bidder contract by accepting a offer from GreenWaste Recovery calling for an average 32% increase in rates for curbside service.
So-called "concierge service" customers, whose property drivers must walk or drive on to empty disposal carts, received a rate hike ranging from 50% to more than 400%, according to Sloan Vasquez McAfee, the solid waste consulting firm that negotiated the contracts with Woodside and Portola Valley over the past 18 months.
The top-end concierge service increases apply only to customers who need drivers to drive from 100 feet to more than 400 feet onto their properties to reach the carts.
The move followed the Portola Valley council's approval of a virtually identical contract on Nov. 13.
Power shutoffs hit hills areas
PG&E implemented three planned power blackouts in October intended to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire ignitions from its energized power lines that could fall during inclement weather.
About 1,000 customers in San Mateo County, including portions of Woodside, lost power around 1 a.m. on Oct. 24 as part of PG&E's planned shutoff, according to the utility. Power was fully restored in the county just before 6 p.m. that day, according to a San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services alert (SMC Alert).
PG&E also shut off power to 738,000 customers in 34 counties starting on Oct. 9, including nearly 15,000 customers in San Mateo County. Many streets in Woodside lost power in that shutoff. Woodside customers who lost power generally had it restored within about 24 hours.
The largest shutoff of the month began around 8 p.m. on Oct. 26 and affected about 57,218 customers in the county, including portions of Woodside, as well as parts of cities stretching as far north as South San Francisco and south to Redwood City, according to PG&E.
Women out in the cold?
An Almanac article in March questioned whether women were being discriminated against when trying to participate in town government.
Currently, there are 17 men and two women in positions of authority, including the Town Council and the Planning Commission.
Female majorities were common on the Planning Commission from 2006 to 2015, and on the architectural review board from 2009 to 2014, The Almanac found. Over 12 years between 2006 and 2018 neither panel had fewer than three women members.
In 2018, the number of women on the architectural review board dropped to one: Thalia Lubin, a member since 2010 and the only licensed architect on the board. Then, on Feb. 12, the council voted 4-3 to appoint Christopher Matthew Green, who is a non-licensed architect, and not reappoint Lubin.
The council interviewed the candidates in public. The town code requires appointment of a licensed architect to the board "if one is available." Green, the director of retail design at Apple, is a practicing architect, according to his application, but does not have a license, he told the council.
The council is "systematically eliminating well-qualified women who want to serve and have a right to do so," a former volunteer said. "One would think, with record numbers of women elected to office in the recent midterm (national) elections (and) in a state with two female senators, (a state) that also requires boards of publicly traded companies to have female members, that (council members) might at least be a little concerned about how it appears when the all-male council votes for all male applicants."
Woodside deaths in 2019
Lifetime Woodside resident Dolores Degnan; structural engineer Bill Menta, who lived most of his life in Woodside; horiculturist and Woodside Library benefactor Timmy Gallagher; Tony Rose, founding superintendent of the Portola Valley School District; and former town council member, geologist and equestrian Carroll Ann Hodges passed away this year.