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'Massive' public records request escalates battle over Portola Valley's housing element

Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed represents Nathorst homeowners who don't want their neighborhood upzoned to satisfy state housing requirements

Embarcadero Media file photo.

The battle brewing over Portola Valley's state-mandated housing document escalated dramatically, with attorney and former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed filing a huge Public Records Act request for all documents and communications related to a town committee's work, and the town's mayor alleging that the Nathhorst Triangle neighborhood homeowner he represents threatened to "bankrupt" the town with lawsuits.

A number of Portola Valley residents have been vocally opposed to any new development in town, over concerns about sullying the town's rural character and increasing risk by building more homes in a region that is already at a heightened risk for wildfires.

Reed, now an attorney with the Silicon Valley law firm Hopkins and Carley where he serves in the real estate practice, requested information on the housing element process on Friday, March 18, on behalf of Portola Valley residents Robert and Karen Allen.

The Allens, along with several other neighbors, wrote to the Town Council on March 11 to say that they oppose the potential upzoning, allowing for more dense housing to be built in parts of the Nathhorst neighborhood. According to a March 14 letter to the town's Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee, Reed said that the town’s current approach of relying on the rezoning of owner-occupied homes is "contrary to the state statutory requirements," and will not be approved by state officials.

The Nathorst neighborhood of Portola Valley. Via Google Maps.

"I understand how hard it is to comply with state law when your community is opposed to what the state makes you do. However, the state law must be followed," Reed wrote. "​​The sites in your inventory of land suitable for residential development must have a 'realistic and demonstrated potential for redevelopment during the planning period.' The Allens have submitted clear and convincing evidence that their family home is not and will not be available for any development during the planning period. Their home has zero demonstrated potential for development. The town cannot include their property in the town's inventory."

Dispute between Hughes and Allen over perceived threats

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Mayor Craig Hughes alleged that Robert Allen told him during a Sunday, March 20, meeting that if the town were to rezone his property, and the housing element isn't to his liking, he and his neighbors intend to "bankrupt" the town with lawsuits. Allen also threatened to hire lobbyists to urge the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to reject the town's housing element, Hughes said.

"It's important for the community as a whole to understand the explicit threat I got yesterday," Hughes said on Monday.

When asked directly by The Almanac to confirm Allen's alleged statements to Hughes on Monday, Reed did not deny them but provided the following statement: "Mr. Allen will vigorously assert his legal rights to protect his family and to make sure the town follows state law. That may include informing the HCD of violations of state law by the town. If the mayor and council choose not to follow the law, they will be responsible for the financial impacts on the town."

On Tuesday, March 22, Allen wrote a letter to Hughes, signed by several witnesses from the March 20 meeting, disputing the mayor's claims and explaining his motivation for the public records request.

"I never received ANY written notice regarding rezoning of my home," he said. "Since no one will explain how my home was put on a map, I requested copies of public records surrounding that decision."

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Hughes responded to the letter saying that Allen's threats, which he characterized as delivered politely and with a smile, were just one part of that conversation in what he felt was overall "a positive meeting where we all shared a range of thoughts and view(s) and concerns."

"I can understand why many present might not have taken them as threats, but again, you said that you intended, if you did not like the outcome of the process, and if you felt your (property) value was at risk, that: the entire town would feel pain if you felt pain; you would sue the town, hire a lobbyist to oppose the town, and submit the town to onerous procedural requests; you were willing and ready to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this; (and) you believed this would lead to the bankruptcy of the town."

What the zoning change could mean

A town staff report notes that, typically, when a jurisdiction rezones occupied land from its existing use to another use, the existing use is deemed "legal-non-conforming." This means the existing use is allowed to continue, subject to some limitations.

It does not mean that people will be forced to move out of their businesses or homes.

For example, if a parcel of land is rezoned from single-family to multi-family use, an existing single-family home may typically be repaired and maintained, but cannot add square new footage, according to the report. A related caveat is that the structure cannot be demolished and rebuilt; any new structure must conform to the new multi-family use zoning.

Vice Mayor Sarah Wernikoff noted that creating the map is an "iterative process" that hasn't progressed up to the council level, where there would be a vote on rezoning, she said.

The documents requested

The scope of the document request had Town Attorney Cara Silver offering an apology to the Town Council and the 14-member committee in an email that town staff was sorry "that volunteer committee members are being subject to these types of tactics."

"It is especially disappointing that this request comes from a former mayor of San Jose who should know that small cities are under-resourced and have few staff members available to comply with this type of broad request," she said. "It is also unusual that this request is directed at volunteer committee members who are simply trying to comply with state law housing mandates."

She acknowledged that the town is required to comply with the request, "regardless of its motives, and we encourage each of you to do the same."

Reed, who was mayor of San Jose from 2007 to 2014 and a member of the San Jose City Council from 2000 to 2006, is asking for:

• All documents that have been provided to the town Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee

• All town communications regarding the housing element since July 1, 2021, including communications among elected officials, staff, consultants or members of the committee, like emails and text messages, including on personal devices.

• All documents, including studies, analyses, consultant contracts and communications, regarding the land inventory of the housing element for all properties being considered for inclusion in the inventory of land suitable for residential development.

The committee, which formed last August, only began in late February to discuss what areas of town that could be rezoned to meet the town's state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocations, or RHNA for short, which is 253 units for the 2023-31 cycle. The planning department recommended areas of town based on seismic and fire safety considerations, slope and evacuation maps. The town also conducted a survey last month to gauge how residents would like to see housing developed in Portola Valley. Multiple areas of town are being considered for rezoning.

A map of proposed parts of potential housing sites in town created by the town's planning department. Courtesy Town of Portola Valley.

Nathhorst neighbors' objections

The Allens told the Town Council in a letter that their family home "is not and will not be available for any development during the planning period. Our home has zero demonstrated potential for development."

James and Susan Koblick, also of Nathhorst, wrote to the council that they felt "blindsided" by potential upzoning of their property.

Part of the neighbors' ire might stem from a flier being distributed around town that states the "actual density" of new units in the Nathhorst neighborhood would be three- to four-stories high. This is not true, as the committee has not specified how tall the buildings would be if the area were to be rezoned. It's unclear who is distributing the fliers.

"In a recent email to the Town Council dated March 20, Robert Allen writes, ‘The town can use positive energy to solve this,' referring to the task of finding ways to accommodate our RHNA number of 253 housing units," said Councilwoman Maryann Derwin in a statement. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but hiring an attorney to slap us with a massive PRA doesn't really create a lot of positive energy."

I truly fear that the motive is darker; an attempt to inconvenience, punish, embarrass public officials, volunteers, and staff, eat up staff time and delay the adoption of the Housing Element.

-Maryann Derwin, Councilwoman

"In my experience, whenever a controversial item is discussed on a City Council, lots of ideas both reasonable and far-fetched are explored in the public dialectic," she went on. "In this robust process, the people's voices are heard, all manner of remedies are explored, and eventually resolutions that most people can live with present themselves."

She questioned what can be discovered in the "burdensome wild goose chase of a PRA request" that hasn't already been discussed at Portola Valley Town Council, Planning Commission, Housing Element Committee, or other public meetings, or contained in housing law.

"I truly fear that the motive is darker; an attempt to inconvenience, punish, embarrass public officials, volunteers and staff, eat up staff time and delay the adoption of the housing element," she said.

Attention to housing element process

The housing element process has drawn great attention -- at the housing element committee's most recent meeting, 150 people attended. The meeting lasted nearly six and half hours because of the volume of public comments.

Derwin said the content in the committee meetings is so rich it could be a graduate-level course in housing law. The committee has met eight times since it formed in August 2021.

"Nobody is doing anything close to this in the county," she said. "Nobody has educated the community this thoroughly. … No matter how much we do it is not enough. We're not doing what they want us to do, which is to fight the housing mandates."

She said that nobody is going back to ask why is this happening. "There's a historic housing and homelessness crisis. Where is the humanity?" Derwin said.

Neighbors also organized an ad-hoc housing element meeting on March 16 after a town community meeting on the same date was postponed.

Portola Valley residents met on March 16, 2022, to discuss the current housing element planning process in town center. Courtesy Rita Comes.

Vice Mayor Wernikoff, a member of the committee, said the meeting was canceled to give the committee time to work on the outcome of the six and half hour meeting. The committee met for about 10 hours in February, she noted.

Wernikoff said the town is working to find a way to designate more spaces in town for housing, while maintaining open space and "scenic corridors."

The town could face fines, between $10,000 and $600,000 per month, and lose state funding if it fails to adopt a housing element, which is due in January 2023, according to a town staff report. It could also lose state grants.

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Angela Swartz
 
Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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'Massive' public records request escalates battle over Portola Valley's housing element

Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed represents Nathorst homeowners who don't want their neighborhood upzoned to satisfy state housing requirements

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Mar 21, 2022, 6:57 pm

The battle brewing over Portola Valley's state-mandated housing document escalated dramatically, with attorney and former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed filing a huge Public Records Act request for all documents and communications related to a town committee's work, and the town's mayor alleging that the Nathhorst Triangle neighborhood homeowner he represents threatened to "bankrupt" the town with lawsuits.

A number of Portola Valley residents have been vocally opposed to any new development in town, over concerns about sullying the town's rural character and increasing risk by building more homes in a region that is already at a heightened risk for wildfires.

Reed, now an attorney with the Silicon Valley law firm Hopkins and Carley where he serves in the real estate practice, requested information on the housing element process on Friday, March 18, on behalf of Portola Valley residents Robert and Karen Allen.

The Allens, along with several other neighbors, wrote to the Town Council on March 11 to say that they oppose the potential upzoning, allowing for more dense housing to be built in parts of the Nathhorst neighborhood. According to a March 14 letter to the town's Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee, Reed said that the town’s current approach of relying on the rezoning of owner-occupied homes is "contrary to the state statutory requirements," and will not be approved by state officials.

"I understand how hard it is to comply with state law when your community is opposed to what the state makes you do. However, the state law must be followed," Reed wrote. "​​The sites in your inventory of land suitable for residential development must have a 'realistic and demonstrated potential for redevelopment during the planning period.' The Allens have submitted clear and convincing evidence that their family home is not and will not be available for any development during the planning period. Their home has zero demonstrated potential for development. The town cannot include their property in the town's inventory."

Dispute between Hughes and Allen over perceived threats

Mayor Craig Hughes alleged that Robert Allen told him during a Sunday, March 20, meeting that if the town were to rezone his property, and the housing element isn't to his liking, he and his neighbors intend to "bankrupt" the town with lawsuits. Allen also threatened to hire lobbyists to urge the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to reject the town's housing element, Hughes said.

"It's important for the community as a whole to understand the explicit threat I got yesterday," Hughes said on Monday.

When asked directly by The Almanac to confirm Allen's alleged statements to Hughes on Monday, Reed did not deny them but provided the following statement: "Mr. Allen will vigorously assert his legal rights to protect his family and to make sure the town follows state law. That may include informing the HCD of violations of state law by the town. If the mayor and council choose not to follow the law, they will be responsible for the financial impacts on the town."

On Tuesday, March 22, Allen wrote a letter to Hughes, signed by several witnesses from the March 20 meeting, disputing the mayor's claims and explaining his motivation for the public records request.

"I never received ANY written notice regarding rezoning of my home," he said. "Since no one will explain how my home was put on a map, I requested copies of public records surrounding that decision."

Hughes responded to the letter saying that Allen's threats, which he characterized as delivered politely and with a smile, were just one part of that conversation in what he felt was overall "a positive meeting where we all shared a range of thoughts and view(s) and concerns."

"I can understand why many present might not have taken them as threats, but again, you said that you intended, if you did not like the outcome of the process, and if you felt your (property) value was at risk, that: the entire town would feel pain if you felt pain; you would sue the town, hire a lobbyist to oppose the town, and submit the town to onerous procedural requests; you were willing and ready to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this; (and) you believed this would lead to the bankruptcy of the town."

What the zoning change could mean

A town staff report notes that, typically, when a jurisdiction rezones occupied land from its existing use to another use, the existing use is deemed "legal-non-conforming." This means the existing use is allowed to continue, subject to some limitations.

It does not mean that people will be forced to move out of their businesses or homes.

For example, if a parcel of land is rezoned from single-family to multi-family use, an existing single-family home may typically be repaired and maintained, but cannot add square new footage, according to the report. A related caveat is that the structure cannot be demolished and rebuilt; any new structure must conform to the new multi-family use zoning.

Vice Mayor Sarah Wernikoff noted that creating the map is an "iterative process" that hasn't progressed up to the council level, where there would be a vote on rezoning, she said.

The documents requested

The scope of the document request had Town Attorney Cara Silver offering an apology to the Town Council and the 14-member committee in an email that town staff was sorry "that volunteer committee members are being subject to these types of tactics."

"It is especially disappointing that this request comes from a former mayor of San Jose who should know that small cities are under-resourced and have few staff members available to comply with this type of broad request," she said. "It is also unusual that this request is directed at volunteer committee members who are simply trying to comply with state law housing mandates."

She acknowledged that the town is required to comply with the request, "regardless of its motives, and we encourage each of you to do the same."

Reed, who was mayor of San Jose from 2007 to 2014 and a member of the San Jose City Council from 2000 to 2006, is asking for:

• All documents that have been provided to the town Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee

• All town communications regarding the housing element since July 1, 2021, including communications among elected officials, staff, consultants or members of the committee, like emails and text messages, including on personal devices.

• All documents, including studies, analyses, consultant contracts and communications, regarding the land inventory of the housing element for all properties being considered for inclusion in the inventory of land suitable for residential development.

The committee, which formed last August, only began in late February to discuss what areas of town that could be rezoned to meet the town's state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocations, or RHNA for short, which is 253 units for the 2023-31 cycle. The planning department recommended areas of town based on seismic and fire safety considerations, slope and evacuation maps. The town also conducted a survey last month to gauge how residents would like to see housing developed in Portola Valley. Multiple areas of town are being considered for rezoning.

Nathhorst neighbors' objections

The Allens told the Town Council in a letter that their family home "is not and will not be available for any development during the planning period. Our home has zero demonstrated potential for development."

James and Susan Koblick, also of Nathhorst, wrote to the council that they felt "blindsided" by potential upzoning of their property.

Part of the neighbors' ire might stem from a flier being distributed around town that states the "actual density" of new units in the Nathhorst neighborhood would be three- to four-stories high. This is not true, as the committee has not specified how tall the buildings would be if the area were to be rezoned. It's unclear who is distributing the fliers.

"In a recent email to the Town Council dated March 20, Robert Allen writes, ‘The town can use positive energy to solve this,' referring to the task of finding ways to accommodate our RHNA number of 253 housing units," said Councilwoman Maryann Derwin in a statement. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but hiring an attorney to slap us with a massive PRA doesn't really create a lot of positive energy."

"In my experience, whenever a controversial item is discussed on a City Council, lots of ideas both reasonable and far-fetched are explored in the public dialectic," she went on. "In this robust process, the people's voices are heard, all manner of remedies are explored, and eventually resolutions that most people can live with present themselves."

She questioned what can be discovered in the "burdensome wild goose chase of a PRA request" that hasn't already been discussed at Portola Valley Town Council, Planning Commission, Housing Element Committee, or other public meetings, or contained in housing law.

"I truly fear that the motive is darker; an attempt to inconvenience, punish, embarrass public officials, volunteers and staff, eat up staff time and delay the adoption of the housing element," she said.

Attention to housing element process

The housing element process has drawn great attention -- at the housing element committee's most recent meeting, 150 people attended. The meeting lasted nearly six and half hours because of the volume of public comments.

Derwin said the content in the committee meetings is so rich it could be a graduate-level course in housing law. The committee has met eight times since it formed in August 2021.

"Nobody is doing anything close to this in the county," she said. "Nobody has educated the community this thoroughly. … No matter how much we do it is not enough. We're not doing what they want us to do, which is to fight the housing mandates."

She said that nobody is going back to ask why is this happening. "There's a historic housing and homelessness crisis. Where is the humanity?" Derwin said.

Neighbors also organized an ad-hoc housing element meeting on March 16 after a town community meeting on the same date was postponed.

Vice Mayor Wernikoff, a member of the committee, said the meeting was canceled to give the committee time to work on the outcome of the six and half hour meeting. The committee met for about 10 hours in February, she noted.

Wernikoff said the town is working to find a way to designate more spaces in town for housing, while maintaining open space and "scenic corridors."

The town could face fines, between $10,000 and $600,000 per month, and lose state funding if it fails to adopt a housing element, which is due in January 2023, according to a town staff report. It could also lose state grants.

Comments

Bob Adams
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 21, 2022 at 10:32 pm
Bob Adams, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2022 at 10:32 pm

Shame on the editors of the Almanac. [Portion removed due to personal attack] Rather than interview any of the Nathorst affected neighbors, Ms. Swartz spoke to two town representatives - the mayor and a past mayor. Ms. Swartz did contact the plaintiff's lawyer, but did not speak to any one of the 19 homeowners who were on the proposed map Ms. Swartz included. Not one affected owner. What kind of editorial control do you have at the Almanac? Had she spoken with an owner, she would have found that NONE of the owners on the proposed map had been directly notified of this proposed up zoning from residential to multi-family. I happened to be in the meeting referred to by Mayor Hughes and heard nothing about "bankrupting" of the town - that must be Mayor Hughes interpretation of how he felt about the public records request, not the actual words said to him. To my knowledge, no Nathorst neighbor is against complying with the new State housing allocation or having new housing in Portola Valley. What many of us are against is loading all, or nearly all of the multi-family housing units into a 19 occupied home one block neighborhood. State housing law specifically states that lower cost housing is not to be concentrated in one area, and that it is to distributed across the town. It was clear in the February 28th meeting, the town staff was pointing toward the Nathorst block as the favored place to put multi-family housing. While that may be true for one or two parcels, it is against State rules to concentrate low cost housing in one location - the Nathorst block. [Portion removed due to personal attack] Had she spoken with even one of those affected she could have written a more balanced article, but it is easier to just take information from those most available, the town officials, even though it creates a very imbalanced story. Shame on the Almanac editors. By the way, past Mayor Derwin was in none of these housing meetings


Neighbor
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Mar 22, 2022 at 12:13 pm
Neighbor, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 12:13 pm

When the Town Council refuses to represent the interests of the town residents, it comes as no surprise that homeowners need to respond in increasingly assertive ways. It seems to be the only way to get the attention of the Town Council back on the actual tenets and history of this town.

I think it’s time for term limits


Rural Neighbor in Emerald Hills
Registered user
another community
on Mar 22, 2022 at 12:41 pm
Rural Neighbor in Emerald Hills, another community
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 12:41 pm

I wish the Allens luck and hope they prevail. The housing crisis will not be solved by rebuilding Portola Valley. There are many (thousands of towns) in California that need redeveloping, or have open space. Why is the state not actively looking at those areas for redevelopment? The city council needs to be concerned with its actual residents and not who has not gotten to live there yet.


TriciaHC
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:10 pm
TriciaHC, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:10 pm

I hope people from outside of Portola Valley realize that many citizens actually want more affordable housing in our town. The vocal few are skewing the narrative right now. Many of us look forward to a day when our beloved school staff, grocery store workers, mechanics and others can find a place to work in our community!


Meg
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:39 pm
Meg, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:39 pm

I was at that meeting. It was Mayer Hughes who suggested that any dissent regarding the town plan would adversely affect the town. He basically said, in so many words, we had to do as we were told or else. There was no threat on anyone elses part beyond advising that the state would be notified that the properties in question would not be sold for multi unit housing under any circumstances. They are family homes for God sakes.

It was said by several people that a lack of openness and dialogue on the part town government was forcing people to get legal representation and that was an expensive way for the town to do business. It was also expressed that continued mismanagement of the process might result in bankruptcy if everyone in Portola Valley felt they had to get lawyers to protect their property rights. That is a far cry from one person threatening to bankrupt the town.
This is just another instance of the terrible relationship the town has with the citizens due to continued half truths and ugly attacks on the public. I fully expect to receive another nasty response for having told the truth. The Almanac should retract this article and issue an apology to those who's words were misrepresented and then poorly reported. You clearly didn't fact check the sources. Shame on you Mayor Hughes and shame on you Almanac


Meg
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:51 pm
Meg, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:51 pm

[Post removed due to same poster making two comments in a row/using disrespectful or offensive language]


Danna Breen
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:53 pm
Danna Breen, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 1:53 pm

I thought that Portola Valley no longer had a reporter. This is one of the reasons why I like to see and understand who attends Zoom meetings. Is Angela Swartz now covering Portola Valley? It would be wonderful for her to report on some of the resident meetings as the community unfolds its ideas through the dialectic process.


Town of Portola Valley
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:18 pm
Town of Portola Valley, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:18 pm

The Housing Element Update in the Town of Portola Valley is a 17-month process (Aug 2021-Dec 2022) being driven by the Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee (AHHEC), a committee of 14 community volunteers. The AHHEC meets monthly. To date, there have been 8 meetings; the Committee has discussed possible housing sites at 3 of these meetings. The Housing Element has not come before the Town Council yet. An update about the current status of the AHHEC's work is on the agenda for the next Council meeting on Wednesday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm. See agenda item 13 for more information: Web Link


pvsusa
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:24 pm
pvsusa, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:24 pm

I take exception with the reporter's statement that it is "not true" housing units would be three to four stories high. While the Town has not specified the heights of proposed housing, the Town Planning Department showed examples of how squeezing 20 units on a one-acre parcel could be accomplished. I direct you to the schematic on page 3 of the presentation: Web Link . Although it is a rough schematic, the example for 18 units per acre seems to show three-story buildings. I regret to say the reporter's story seems biased, and more appropriate for an opinion piece than a news story.


Town of Portola Valley
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:33 pm
Town of Portola Valley, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:33 pm

The Housing Element Update in the Town of Portola Valley is a 17-month process (Aug 2021-Dec 2022) being driven by the Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee (AHHEC), a committee of 14 community volunteers. The AHHEC meets monthly. To date, there have been 8 meetings; the Committee has discussed possible housing sites at 3 of these meetings. The Housing Element has not come before the Town Council yet. An update about the current status of the AHHEC's work is on the agenda for the next Council meeting on Wednesday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm. See agenda item 13 for more information. You can find the agenda on the Town of Portola Valley website.


Kristin Brew
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:37 pm
Kristin Brew, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:37 pm

I would have been nice if the reporter had explained how these town residents were told that their lots were under consideration for changes in their zoning by the town. They were blindsided.


Meg
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:38 pm
Meg, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 2:38 pm

This was not a zoom meeting. It was a small group of people in a neighborhood back yard. It was supposed to be a chat with the Mayor. There was no threat made beyond telling the Mayor that the families in question had no intention to sell or add multi family housing to their homes in the next ten years and the state would be made aware of this through their lawyer. Not much of a threat unless you are trying to play games with numbers. In fact everyone at the meeting suggested other locations for housing. After the meeting, it appears Mayor Hughes contacted the Almanac to get a story out that is not very flattering to the town. Or maybe someone else called the Almanac? I'm very sad that happened because we have all been pretty supportive of adding housing. In fact the small 9 mile by 9 mile town massively exceeded their house building quota last RENA cycle. I find this sort of power play is not good for community relations and may not be about the housing element or in service to the towns needs? Anyway the Almanac owes the Allen's an apology in my opinion.


another neighbor
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2022 at 3:48 pm
another neighbor, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2022 at 3:48 pm

It would be prudent for the reporter to get her facts correct.
1) First, having read the flyer, it said that "This is the actual density of zoning "proposed" by the town". It did not say "actual density". If you are going to quote, please quote the actual quote! The town HAS proposed 20 units an acre and has shown the mockups of what that density would look like. At one meeting they even asked the Fire Marshall if their trucks could handle 3-4 story units.
2) I was also at the neighborhood meeting Sunday that you reported on and heard no "threat" to the Mayor. It was a small meeting where one person spoke at a time. A threat would have been noticed!
3) If you are going to add links to your story regarding Portola Valley, please at least make the link go to a Portola Valley photo, not a photo of a home in Woodside.


PVisBeautiful
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 23, 2022 at 11:56 pm
PVisBeautiful, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2022 at 11:56 pm

What disappointingly one-sided reporting from the Almanac. Why were no affected homeowners (or other Town residents for that matter) interviewed?

To TriciaHC, it's absolutely true that many Town residents would like to see affordable housing developed to allow teachers, firefighters, and other folks who work in PV able to live here. Unfortunately the Town's proposal will not accomplish that. The proposal takes advantage of a RHNA loophole that allows any lot zoned at 20-units-or-more per-acre to be counted as 'affordable.' In all likelihood, these densely zoned lots will be purchased by developers, built into luxury condos, and rented at >$5000/mo rates. Ex-Mayor Derwin's assertion that developing high-density apartment complexes in PV will alleviate the homeless crisis is hogwash.


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:04 am
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 11:04 am

According to Zillow, the average price of a Portola Valley home is $4.3 million. Zillow tends to be skewed and I suspect it's actually higher, probably over $5.0 million.

If you cut housing prices IN HALF - not that will ever happen - that would lower Portola Valley's average price to just $2.2 million. Assuming a 20% down payment, a buyer would need a mortgage of $1.75 million. If they had a perfect credit score, they will only need $425,000 in income to qualify... and that doesn't include the monthly cost of utilities, maintenance, insurance or the $20,000+ in annual property taxes.

And that example is cutting home prices IN HALF!

So the math simply doesn't work. We should face the cold, hard fact that a lot of people cannot afford to live in Portola Valley (or Woodside, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton) and that's not going to change anytime soon.

Sometimes reality sucks but it's even worse if you ignore it.


MenloVoter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Mar 25, 2022 at 3:17 pm
MenloVoter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Mar 25, 2022 at 3:17 pm

"So the math simply doesn't work. We should face the cold, hard fact that a lot of people cannot afford to live in Portola Valley (or Woodside, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton) and that's not going to change anytime soon.

Sometimes reality sucks but it's even worse if you ignore it."

Bingo pogo! Unfortunately, the pretend progressives in Sacramento want to pretend they're "doing something" to bring housing costs down. It's extremely cynical. There is virtually nowhere outside of maybe EPA or Belle Haven that anything close to "affordable" can be built. Of course, the developers will take full advantage of being able to subdivide lots and put more homes on them and sell them to the same high earners they're selling to now.


Neighbor
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Mar 26, 2022 at 9:13 pm
Neighbor, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Mar 26, 2022 at 9:13 pm

The whole situation is absolutely appalling, and I, for one, am grateful that the Allens hired an attorney who has requested ALL communications about this issue to be brought to light---including text messages and other private communications. The Town Attorney may want to not just suggest, but actually instruct the Council to FULLY comply, embarrassing as it might be to them. Let's see what they have to say when not in public, and when it's not their own property that's going to be massively devalued.

Former Mayor Derwin (aren't they all destined to be "former Mayors," since the office rotates through the council?), once again does nothing but insert drama, emotion, and inflammatory language into the room. I count this as the third actual time she's used the "Where's the humanity?!" line in a town meeting.

Hidden away in the article is the statement that other neighborhoods are being considered for rezoning. Which ones?


PV Resident
Registered user
Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 27, 2022 at 11:32 am
PV Resident, Portola Valley: Westridge
Registered user
on Mar 27, 2022 at 11:32 am

OMG - this is super embarrassing but seems inescapable. In the absence of info, people assume the worst (with great certainty), then spin up their neighbors and start behaving in operatic ways they see as a rational. The language trends toward polar, dramatic, ridiculous…doubly-so when folks used to getting their way aren’t getting their way. The town volunteers wonder why those folks are so hostile to a bunch of people just trying to do their jobs - er - volunteer work. They verbalize their frustration with barely unrolled eyes and restrained inelegance and are attacked yet again. This is a difficult iterative process. People are gonna misunderstand and make mistakes. Do we really have to go full-drama gotcha every. single. time?

PV will not solve the housing issue. Anything created will be snapped up by Stanford folks or people Just Like Us or some divorced parent looking to stay near their kids (Sharon Heights West?)

But I also think we should all do our part. If all similarly-sized towns put their heads together and made some calculated adjustments and sacrifice for their fellow man, perhaps we can collectively, gradually work our way out of this. All those drop-in-the-bucket solutions will spill over and create meaningful change for our fellow, less-fortunate Californians. Seems like a worthy goal to me.

So please: let’s all - volunteers and residents - lower the temperature, fire the attorneys, ask how the kids are doing and see what we can do here.


Sue chaput
Registered user
Portola Valley: Westridge
on Mar 27, 2022 at 9:55 pm
Sue chaput, Portola Valley: Westridge
Registered user
on Mar 27, 2022 at 9:55 pm

I send my thanks to our Portola. VAlley Town. Council for. MAny years of service.
I’m grateful for the inordinate time spent , the hard work , the energy. efforts
And yes—devotion In keeping our small Town quite wonderful!
I have nothing but respect for the 14 volunteers who came forth to serve on the
Ad Hoc Housing Element committee You face a new world of changes, charges
And challenges. Such bravery. I wish all of us well as we maneuver the State mandated requirements and complex processes. I do not like what I see!
There is a Gaelic saying about sadness being “put upon us”. This is a demanding task. It’s no surprise that the concerns, demeanor, and behavior of our California citizens is extreme These are exceptional times
Our frustrations, questions, anxiety ,anger and concerns must be directed
Towards our State representatives …..not at each other !
We are fortunate to be neghbors and friends .


Liesel
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 30, 2022 at 12:19 pm
Liesel, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Mar 30, 2022 at 12:19 pm

I have seen all sides of this discussion and am greatly disappointed in the Almanac. They couldn't have gotten the story more messed up if they had tried. A newspaper that doesn't factually and accurately present both sides of an issue is not a news vehicle, it's more than an advocacy mouthpiece. I won't be renewing my subscription to the Almanac.

As to Mayor Craig Hughes, I would advise any resident to be careful of what they share with him. Clearly, he will weaponize it against the speaker if he doesn't like the content.


Janet Chen
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2022 at 6:00 pm
Janet Chen, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2022 at 6:00 pm

Housing crisis will be solved by making sure every town builds 100,000 dense climate responsible housing.

Walkable, bikeable communities everywhere where public transit pencils out.

Want a rural character for your town, an hour away from 5 million + jobs? Nope.

Move to Kansas is that is what you want. Cities will be built like cities.

Stick to your land and not interfering with what I do with my land is the best recourse.

We will build housing for all - black, white, asians. Anyone who wants to live in our community should be able to within a short-commuting distance.

BY BIKE.


MenloVoter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Apr 7, 2022 at 7:41 am
MenloVoter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2022 at 7:41 am

Janet Chen:

So, turn Portola Valley into a large, dense city so people can get around on bikes. Got it. Let me know how that works out for you.


Parent
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 5, 2022 at 10:26 am
Parent, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on May 5, 2022 at 10:26 am

"If you cut housing prices IN HALF - not that will ever happen - that would lower Portola Valley's average price to just $2.2 million. Assuming a 20% down payment, a buyer would need a mortgage of $1.75 million. If they had a perfect credit score, they will only need $425,000 in income to qualify... and that doesn't include the monthly cost of utilities, maintenance, insurance or the $20,000+ in annual property taxes."

This is the reality of the argument against building housing to satisfy what some people deem to be a "housing affordability crisis". This argument is flawed at its foundation. The increased housing does nothing to address affordability.

There is no argument to support that any housing which will be built will be "affordable", unless the definition of "affordable" is changed city by city. No mechanic, or grocery store clerk, or restaurant kitchen worker earns 400,000, or 300,000, or 200,000 per year. And therefore none of these service workers would ever qualify for financing. And of course who really has 20% down?

A good first step would be to go back an eliminate any reference to "affordable". Once it has been agreed that any housing units will only be affordable to the top 1% of earners, the next logical question is: why are we creating more housing for the wealthy? The so called "crisis" is not being solved. The only outcome of this push for housing is ... density.

If towns said: "we are not creating affordability, we are creating density, we are creating additional property tax revenues for the county, we are creating profit for developers, buyers need an income of approximately 400K per year..." at least the message would be honest! The dishonesty begins with: we are building affordability.

Our society has become immune to lies. It is becoming far too common for changes to be implemented based upon a lie. An unfortunate fact is the push to build "affordable" housing is based on a lie. It is not support by simple math.




pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on May 5, 2022 at 10:35 am
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on May 5, 2022 at 10:35 am

Parent said: “If towns said: "we are not creating affordability, we are creating density, we are creating additional property tax revenues for the county, we are creating profit for developers, buyers need an income of approximately 400K per year..." at least the message would be honest! The dishonesty begins with: we are building affordability.“

SPOT. ON.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2022 at 7:52 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on May 5, 2022 at 7:52 pm

Parent:

I call "affordable housing" a myth and you call it a lie. I think yours is the more apt description.


new guy
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 6, 2022 at 9:31 am
new guy, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on May 6, 2022 at 9:31 am

Good stuff.

How about also being honest about building housing in the parking lots. "Welcome to MP, we put low income people in parking lots!"


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