An initiative to allow for more outdoor community gathering spaces by amending zoning restrictions on some parcels in the Town Center area of Woodside is on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Measure A would amend current land use regulations that limit two residentially zoned pieces of land adjacent to the Town Center, a town-owned complex along Woodside Road from Whiskey Hill Road to Roberts Market that includes government buildings and commercial businesses, and Cañada Corners at the Cañada Road intersection (owned by Roberts Market). Because the rules were established by ballot measures J and 1 in 1988 and 1989, only voters can overturn the rules that limit future development on the sites.
Residents Alex Tauber and Peter Bailey, who met through the Safe Routes to School initiative several years ago, noticed the popularity of outdoor dining in Woodside that was made possible, in part, through an emergency ordinance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Town Council's state of emergency ordinance allows the town to waive the restaurants' parking requirements that are part of a conditional use permit. When the emergency declaration ends, the town must once again enforce the parking requirements.
"Talking to stakeholders in the community, they said Woodside needed to create an open space where all the groups could meet," Tauber said. "We don't want any lights or speakers, we just want something that fits the environment."
They didn't want to "let a crisis go to waste," he said.
Measure A opponent Don Pugh alleges that the measure is a "ploy" by the Bacchus Management Group, which owns and operates The Village Bakery and The Village Pub, to "bulldoze the open space lot to expand parking to allow more seats and to make more money."
Bacchus has given a total of $3,000 in cash and $2,000 in-kind donations like banners, yard signs, design and legal work to proponents of Measure A since the beginning of the year, according to campaign finance reports. Bacchus told The Almanac that the success of outdoor dining in town is "measured by the overwhelming support of bistro dining from the residents of Woodside, who have enjoyed it during these past difficult 18 months and want to continue to enjoy it in the future, despite the grumbling of a few who would prefer not to let 'outsiders' into our town."
Pugh, who also authored Measure J back in the 1980s, argues that Measure A threatens the town's rural atmosphere.
Pugh is concerned the changes will bring traffic and noise.
"We're a rural community," said Pugh, who has lived in Woodside since 1972. "We're not downtown Redwood City where they have movie theaters. There are small gathering spaces already available; why do we need more people? It's an absolute traffic mob scene in the morning; it's too busy and there are kids walking to school. These people who think this is a wonderful idea maybe came from Los Angeles or something."
Pugh also argues the special election is costing the town too much money an estimated $100,000, according to Interim Town Clerk Melissa Cardinale.
"Woodside changes every day," Bailey, who serves on the Woodside Elementary School District governing board, said in response to Pugh's concerns. "I don't think it's a realistic perspective to try to freeze a place in time. People are excited about creating community gathering spots." Bailey noted that the elementary school and churches are the only gathering spots for residents currently.
Bailey argues there is already traffic in town from people coming to Woodside to enjoy the outdoors and eat at restaurants, but no one can find parking as it is.
"Adding 40 spots on land that's not used, that's something that most would welcome," he said. "The amphitheater is for people who live in Woodside and I don't think this would add any traffic."
For opponents of the measure to compare the potential amphitheater to large event spaces like Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, which draws rock concerts, is off base given that the space is just 100 feet across by 50 feet deep, Bailey and Tauber said.
The measure, which needs a simple majority in favor to pass, would allow the property behind Cañada Corners to be outfitted with surface parking to accommodate permanent outdoor dining, trails and play structures, all of which are now prohibited. It would also allow for the possible construction of a public building — an amphitheater or gazebo — for community events in the residentially zoned Town Center area on a portion of a 1.65-acre plot called Village Hill. Measure J, approved by the voters in 1988, prohibited development of commercial or office space on a then vacant, town-owned parcel near where Town Hall is now located. It also required residential properties within and adjoining Town Center to remain in residential use unless commercial parking on those properties had been permitted prior to June 1, 1988.
Measure 1, approved by voters the following year, created an exception to Measure J's requirement that residential parcels in Town Center remain in residential use. Upon its approval by the voters, residentially zoned parcels in the Woodside Road Whiskey Hill Road Parking Assessment District were authorized to be improved to provide access, parking and open space — as shown in the 1989 Town Center site plan — so long as at least 50% of the residential parcels were maintained in open space. Approval of Measure 1 allowed the town to construct Town Hall parking and access improvements which now serve Town Hall, commercial businesses in the Town Center and the public.