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Editorial: Yes on Woodside's Measure A

Woodside resident Alex Tauber stands on the undeveloped parcel of land beside the Woodside Community Museum in Woodside on April 21, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Much has been said in small towns around the Peninsula — Woodside among them — about the importance of preserving rural character.

Planning projects in Woodside are analyzed to ensure compatibility with the town's rural landscape. The town's general plan emphasizes retaining that rural character. Propose a change in town and, however small or large it may seem, the concept of how and whether it would fit in with Woodside's rural charm will be invoked.

Which brings us to Measure A, an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot that would potentially allow for more outdoor community dining and gathering spaces by amending existing zoning restrictions on some parcels in the center of town.

The measure, which needs a simple majority in favor to pass, would allow the property behind Cañada Corners to potentially 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 Woodside 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 provide access, parking and open space, 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.

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The passage of ballot measures J and 1 made it so only voters can overturn rules limiting future development on these sites.

Woodside residents Alex Tauber and Peter Bailey, authors of Measure A, introduced the initiative in light of the popularity of outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Woodside Town Council's state of emergency ordinance allows the town to waive restaurants' parking requirements, but when the emergency declaration ends, the town will have to enforce the parking requirements as currently outlined.

Measure A, however, would enable the potential addition of permanent outdoor dining behind Cañada Corners, along with other community benefits like trails, play structures and a public amphitheater or gazebo. Potential is the key word here: The passage of Measure A would only allow for a continued discussion about these proposals, which would happen in public meetings of town committees or the council. It will enable reports and designs and schematics — further analysis of the properties and proposed changes. Approval of the measure doesn't guarantee any physical changes will be implemented; therefore, one can vote in favor of the initiative while also feeling that more aspects of the proposal need to be fleshed out — because they do.

More than 30 years have passed since residents approved measures J and 1. Inevitably, people have come and gone from Woodside, and some longtime residents who voted on the initiatives that limited development of these parcels in the late '80s may have since changed their minds. The Almanac recommends a yes vote on Measure A to allow for continued conversation and more formal plans to be analyzed by the community.

The benefits of permanent outdoor dining, play structures, a public gazebo and trails for the community speak for themselves. These are staples of many communities, and outdoor gathering areas have only become more essential since the onset of the pandemic. Outdoor dining in particular has been vital for the survival of many eateries and will continue to serve as an asset for these restaurants and their patrons as the pandemic continues and beyond.

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Opponents have painted a picture of Woodside as a rustic hamlet that would become overrun with nonresidents flocking to the center of town for rock concerts and outdoor dining, resulting in a significant uptick in traffic and noise. But the passage of Measure A would enable the continued analysis and conversation around community gathering spaces and the uses of these properties, which would generate environmental impact reports investigating potential traffic, noise and other factors that could play into land use changes. The measure's authors, Bailey and Tauber, have also stated that they determined after speaking with community stakeholders that Woodside could use an open space for groups to meet, and that they "don't want any lights or speakers," but rather "something that fits into the environment." Bailey and Tauber have also maintained that any development would be paid for by the property owner, not the town or Woodside residents.

Adding surface parking and amenities like a play structure and permanent tables and chairs for dining would be additions that could be enjoyed by anyone, but would mainly appeal to residents. The amphitheater — which measure proponents envision would be for the use of Woodsiders — isn't going to be a state-of-the-art concert hall that seats 30,000 people. This project wouldn't be the type to attract attention from a large number of people who aren't already in town on a frequent basis.

The argument from opponents that residents shouldn't support this measure because expanded use of the town's center could benefit "outsiders" and upset Woodside's rural character perpetuates the reputation of exclusivity that wealthy, primarily white enclaves like Woodside have maintained for decades, in part through now prohibited practices like restrictive covenants that prevented non-Caucasians from buying houses in areas of the Peninsula. This anti-resident sentiment is not only foolhardy — visitors help any town's economy, and many residents were visitors before they settled in Woodside — it's blatantly discriminatory. It would be worthwhile for community members to consider what exactly upholding the town's rural character means to them, and how Woodside's historic dedication to that concept may have perpetuated its lack of economic or ethnic diversity — but that's an editorial for another day.

Resistance to change is understandable, but thinking change can be controlled by a simple ballot measure is unrealistic. Change is inevitable, and occurs in Woodside every day in innumerable ways. Many controversial changes that have been adopted by local municipalities over the years — the addition of sidewalks, for example — have been considered moves to the mainstream for the most public benefit. Continuing the conversation about possible improved public amenities in the center of Woodside will ultimately benefit the community. Vote yes on Measure A.

The Almanac publishes guest opinions, editorials and letters to the editor online and in print. Submit signed op-eds of no more than 750 words or letters to the editor of up to 350 words to [email protected] The weekly print deadline is Tuesday at noon.

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Editorial: Yes on Woodside's Measure A

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Sat, Oct 23, 2021, 9:02 am

Much has been said in small towns around the Peninsula — Woodside among them — about the importance of preserving rural character.

Planning projects in Woodside are analyzed to ensure compatibility with the town's rural landscape. The town's general plan emphasizes retaining that rural character. Propose a change in town and, however small or large it may seem, the concept of how and whether it would fit in with Woodside's rural charm will be invoked.

Which brings us to Measure A, an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot that would potentially allow for more outdoor community dining and gathering spaces by amending existing zoning restrictions on some parcels in the center of town.

The measure, which needs a simple majority in favor to pass, would allow the property behind Cañada Corners to potentially 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 Woodside 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 provide access, parking and open space, 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.

The passage of ballot measures J and 1 made it so only voters can overturn rules limiting future development on these sites.

Woodside residents Alex Tauber and Peter Bailey, authors of Measure A, introduced the initiative in light of the popularity of outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Woodside Town Council's state of emergency ordinance allows the town to waive restaurants' parking requirements, but when the emergency declaration ends, the town will have to enforce the parking requirements as currently outlined.

Measure A, however, would enable the potential addition of permanent outdoor dining behind Cañada Corners, along with other community benefits like trails, play structures and a public amphitheater or gazebo. Potential is the key word here: The passage of Measure A would only allow for a continued discussion about these proposals, which would happen in public meetings of town committees or the council. It will enable reports and designs and schematics — further analysis of the properties and proposed changes. Approval of the measure doesn't guarantee any physical changes will be implemented; therefore, one can vote in favor of the initiative while also feeling that more aspects of the proposal need to be fleshed out — because they do.

More than 30 years have passed since residents approved measures J and 1. Inevitably, people have come and gone from Woodside, and some longtime residents who voted on the initiatives that limited development of these parcels in the late '80s may have since changed their minds. The Almanac recommends a yes vote on Measure A to allow for continued conversation and more formal plans to be analyzed by the community.

The benefits of permanent outdoor dining, play structures, a public gazebo and trails for the community speak for themselves. These are staples of many communities, and outdoor gathering areas have only become more essential since the onset of the pandemic. Outdoor dining in particular has been vital for the survival of many eateries and will continue to serve as an asset for these restaurants and their patrons as the pandemic continues and beyond.

Opponents have painted a picture of Woodside as a rustic hamlet that would become overrun with nonresidents flocking to the center of town for rock concerts and outdoor dining, resulting in a significant uptick in traffic and noise. But the passage of Measure A would enable the continued analysis and conversation around community gathering spaces and the uses of these properties, which would generate environmental impact reports investigating potential traffic, noise and other factors that could play into land use changes. The measure's authors, Bailey and Tauber, have also stated that they determined after speaking with community stakeholders that Woodside could use an open space for groups to meet, and that they "don't want any lights or speakers," but rather "something that fits into the environment." Bailey and Tauber have also maintained that any development would be paid for by the property owner, not the town or Woodside residents.

Adding surface parking and amenities like a play structure and permanent tables and chairs for dining would be additions that could be enjoyed by anyone, but would mainly appeal to residents. The amphitheater — which measure proponents envision would be for the use of Woodsiders — isn't going to be a state-of-the-art concert hall that seats 30,000 people. This project wouldn't be the type to attract attention from a large number of people who aren't already in town on a frequent basis.

The argument from opponents that residents shouldn't support this measure because expanded use of the town's center could benefit "outsiders" and upset Woodside's rural character perpetuates the reputation of exclusivity that wealthy, primarily white enclaves like Woodside have maintained for decades, in part through now prohibited practices like restrictive covenants that prevented non-Caucasians from buying houses in areas of the Peninsula. This anti-resident sentiment is not only foolhardy — visitors help any town's economy, and many residents were visitors before they settled in Woodside — it's blatantly discriminatory. It would be worthwhile for community members to consider what exactly upholding the town's rural character means to them, and how Woodside's historic dedication to that concept may have perpetuated its lack of economic or ethnic diversity — but that's an editorial for another day.

Resistance to change is understandable, but thinking change can be controlled by a simple ballot measure is unrealistic. Change is inevitable, and occurs in Woodside every day in innumerable ways. Many controversial changes that have been adopted by local municipalities over the years — the addition of sidewalks, for example — have been considered moves to the mainstream for the most public benefit. Continuing the conversation about possible improved public amenities in the center of Woodside will ultimately benefit the community. Vote yes on Measure A.

The Almanac publishes guest opinions, editorials and letters to the editor online and in print. Submit signed op-eds of no more than 750 words or letters to the editor of up to 350 words to [email protected] The weekly print deadline is Tuesday at noon.

Comments

Grant H
Registered user
Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 24, 2021 at 1:28 am
Grant H, Woodside: Woodside Hills
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 1:28 am

I'll keep this real simple. Vote NO on Measure A! It's an affront to the General Plan of Woodside encompassing vague references to possible future expansion of the commercial district, if and when, blah, blah blah. This is how laws governing our town are made? Even this editorial race-bating hit-piece cites a possible amphitheater site next to Town Hall, which happens to be owned by the town with no funding to build anything. "Bailey and Tauber . . . maintain" an amphitheater isn't going to cost the residents or town anything?

I guess I can appreciate those who want to embrace the novelty of eating $25 avocado toast next to a busy state highway but bulldozing and paving over irreplaceable land situated at the very core of this rural equestrian community is blasphemy.

Perhaps some day the flora and fauna of Woodside will rise up and take back the land they have been driven from. In the meantime, please vote NO on this horrible proposal.


awatkins
Registered user
Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Oct 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm
awatkins, Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm

Oh Whoops! The Almanac has erased previous comments from multiple Woodside residents that documented the gross bias, hysterical accusations of racism and significant errors in this editorial. I guess we've been cancelled.

This editorial demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of the main issue: the outdoor dining that we all want to preserve is in FRONT of Canada Corners. Apparently the author haven't bothered to visit Woodside in the last year or so, or they'd know this simply by driving by. But even so they want to instruct us in how our town center should operate.

They apparently interviewed only the two promotors of Measure A, but not anyone in the opposition. So the editorial is loaded with all the misrepresentations made by the promoters, including the utterly silly one that rezoning some land, which is all Measure A does, will somehow "allow for" discussions. I always thought it is the first amendment that "allows for" discussions.

Since the authors apparently know nothing of Woodside municipal processes, the don't realize that changing dining configuration is done via a Conditional Use Permit application, which the restaurants can submit any time. That triggers formal processes, hearings, etc. No "allowance" is needed.

The authors go on to insult Woodside residents claiming they are "resistant to change" but provide no supporting quotes. They further insult us by claiming we are opposed to anything that benefits "outsiders" (their term).

But the real howler is their taking that falsehood and spending a paragraph developing it into the slander that we are racist. Yes, we agree with our General Plan which states town center development should focus on benefiting residents. Palo Alto's general plan expresses a similar need. So I guess that makes Palo Alto is racist as well. Where does this inflammatory accusation end?


pvrez
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Oct 24, 2021 at 4:41 pm
pvrez, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2021 at 4:41 pm

crying racial discrimination over opposition is redonculous. stick to the merits of the proposal - spare us the woke nonsense - REEEE!


matt from the block
Registered user
Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 25, 2021 at 2:43 pm
matt from the block, Woodside: Woodside Hills
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2021 at 2:43 pm

I love the conspiracy theories here... "the Almanac erased all the No Posts"... Well, it erased my post and I am very much in favor of Measure A.

Why? Because all it does is unlock an overly restrictive, arguably unconstitutional Measure from 30 years ago, so that the Town's residents can have a meaningful and reasonable dialogue about land use. Personally, I trust our ASRB, Planning Commission, and Town Council to be inclusive and thoughtful in any proposed development.

If you disagree, that's cool. I respect your opinion. But many residents are tired of users wagging their fingers and making untrue hyperbolic statements about the measure.

The "No" crowd doth protest too much.


awatkins
Registered user
Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Oct 27, 2021 at 4:41 pm
awatkins, Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2021 at 4:41 pm

Matt from the block -- You have been fallen prey to the lie on which Measure A promotion is based. Measure A, being only a change to the status of two parcels, does not somehow enable a "dialog."

As a fellow Woodside resident I urge you to educate yourself on Town procedures, in particular, Conditional Use Permits, which are what start the process of changing a Restaurant's operating restrictions, and must be initiated by the Restaurants.

Regardless of which way Measure A goes, from next week you are going to witness the truth as the Restaurants apply to make outdoor dining permanent by filing for CUPs.


awatkins
Registered user
Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Oct 27, 2021 at 4:48 pm
awatkins, Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2021 at 4:48 pm

I complained to the CEO of the Almanac, Bill Johnson, about their having accused hundreds of us of using the word "outsider" and therefore our being "blatantly discriminatory."

His entire response was that he absolutely can prove that ONE person used the word "outsider" and that therefore it is a "a theme in the opponents' arguments."

Not a peep about portraying all of us as racist. Ouch.


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