Woodside Mayor Dick Brown and Councilman Brian Dombkowski are seeking reelection this fall.
The Town Council, which is currently a seven-member body, will make the move to five members when it switches from the "from-district" to a "by-district" elections system beginning on Nov. 8.
There will also be a special election for a two-year term this fall to replace the vacancy in District 4 left by John Carvell, who resigned on July 1. Former Council member Paul Goeld pulled papers to run for that seat.
Only two council members will be elected for new four-year terms, even though the terms for council members Brown, Dombkowski and Sean Scott are all expiring. Scott now lives in District 1, which will be on the ballot in 2024. He could choose to run then, but he is not eligible for any of the seats on the ballot this November, according to Town Manager Kevin Bryant.
Dombkowski and Brown both joined the council in 2018. Goeld joined the council in 1999 and served until November 2007, according to Town Clerk Jennifer Li.
Brown said he's inspired to run partly because of his concerns about the state mandate to allow more housing to be built in town. He has vocally supported giving local control back to towns.
Woodside's 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) brings a significantly larger increase in the number of units to plan for than in cycles past. The town is required to plan for 328 additional housing units over the eight-year period, compared to 62 units over the last cycle.
"It would put a lot more pressure on traffic and our services," he said. "We need the housing for firemen, teachers, people who work in the town. ... The more houses we have, the more pressure it puts on to get every possible solution in place to protect from wildfires."
Brown said he does feel more comfortable about building new housing since he heard from the Woodside Fire Protection District that new construction is more fire resistant than older homes. Setbacks and driveway width requirements of new construction are also more stringent.
"Every house could be a huge problem, particularly if it's built in the wrong place," he said. "There are too many trees and other materials."
He said four years on a council may seem like a long time, but things move slowly in government and he's just starting to see projects he worked on two or three years ago come into fruition.
The town has expanded its equestrian trail system quite a bit to "really build on our rural character and heritage," said. It's also improved Kings Mountain Road and Portola Bridge.
"I see myself as an activist councilperson," he explained. "I can't just sit back and vote yes or no on something."
Dombkowski, who last served as mayor in 2021, joined the council in 2018. If elected, he would represent the new District 2.
He said he's willing to work hard and bring his institutional knowledge to the council during a transformational time for the town, which is facing increased state housing mandates.
The council needs to find a balance between accessible and affordable housing while respecting the history of the town, which will be the "greatest challenge of this generation's community leaders."
"If done properly, there are outcomes we can all be proud of," he said. "Housing density will dominate the agenda for years."
The town made national news earlier this year when it declared itself a mountain lion habitat to void Senate Bill 9 duplex projects. Dombkowski said he now sees that these projects will help the town meet its housing goals.
He said he does have concerns about wildfire risk with increased housing stock. The Edgewood Fire in Emerald Hills in June brought the risk of wildfire to Woodside's doorstep. He noted that the town has had a program for defensible space to mitigate fire hazards for over a decade.
Dombkowski said he is proud of resolving the town's pension liabilities by putting $1.8 million into retirement accounts in 2020 when pandemic market conditions created a long-term investment opportunity for the town.
He is also proud of the council's crime prevention efforts. For example, next week the council will look at finalizing a plan to install automated license plate readers around town. He notes that a lot of neighboring towns, like Atherton, Menlo Park, Redwood City and Portola Valley, already have them installed.