The Woodside Town Council took up a variety of housing, local safety and quality of life issues at its July 14 meeting. The council updated an ordinance to make granny units easier to build, discussed what a local leaf-blower regulation might look like and took the first step in making a stretch of Highway 84 safer for cyclists, equestrians and drivers.
The council unanimously voted to approve an amendment making it easier to get permission to build granny units, also known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The change will bring the town's ordinance into alignment with a state law that went into effect at the beginning of the year. The state regulations aim to streamline ADU requirements to help alleviate the statewide housing shortage and allow for broad exceptions to local development standards, including shorter timelines for approval and loosening of setback requirements.
The new state law mandates that "no local regulations preclude the development of at least one 800-square-foot ADU, a minimum of 4 feet from the side and rear property lines," according to Woodside's staff report.
Approving the update to the town's ADU ordinance will ensure that the town is complying with the new state law, but the council does plan further fine-tuning of the ordinance later this year, particularly as it relates to building height, said Jackie Young, Woodside's planning director.
A study session to explore the possibility of imposing restrictions on leaf blowers drew more comment than has been typical at recent council meetings, with about eight callers weighing in. Some residents shared concerns about the noise and air pollution caused by leaf blowers, particularly gasoline-powered blowers, and others said that leaf blowers are the most efficient way to help them clear their properties of leaves and other material, particularly debris dropped by the area's many redwood trees, that would otherwise pose a fire hazard.
Town Manager Kevin Bryant noted that with more residents at home due to shelter-in-place orders, there's increased awareness of the noise caused by leaf blowers, and creating a regulation could be "timely." He also pointed to neighboring communities with comparable land use, such as Atherton, that have implemented leaf blower restrictions, and that Portola Valley is banning gas-powered blowers by 2021.
Council members raised concerns about placing an additional burden on workers who may already be facing economic hardship during the pandemic, as switching from gas-powered leaf blowers to electric ones could be costly, and as several residents noted, electric blowers can be less efficient at clearing large areas.
The council ultimately directed town staff to research creating a leaf blower ordinance that would look at offering monetary incentives to switch from gas-powered to electric blowers and include restrictions on hours of use that might be patterned after the hours that the town allows construction to take place.
The council also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the town manager to apply to Caltrans for encroachment permits that will allow the town to post "No Parking" signs along a stretch of Highway 84 near the entrance to Wunderlich County Park and create an equestrian crossing near the park entrance.
The proposed equestrian crossing would be south of Montelena Court and connect the Boone Trail to a small spur trail that crosses the highway and goes into the park — a "heavily used informal crossing now," according to Sean Rose, the town's director of public works.
"No Parking" signs would be posted on both sides of Highway 84 from the entrance to the park, which is just south of Montelena Court, to Portola Road. "Town staff have received a number of complaints about illegal parking and speeding in this area," Rose said, adding that the shoulder of the road is too narrow in many places, parked cars block sight lines and some areas are poorly graded, making them unsafe.
In response to council members voicing concerns over the limited parking inside the park, which causes visitors to park along the highway just outside the entrance, Rose said he would look for safe places along the road where some parking spots could be retained.
He also noted that the San Mateo County Parks Department has made improvements to the existing parking lot and that the county's general plan for parks does call out creating additional parking spots inside Wunderlich, but county officials have not offered a timeline on when that parking might be added.