Woodside's deputy planning director Sage Schaan has stepped into the role of planning director following the retirement of Jackie Young this past fall.
The Almanac interviewed Schaan about everything from working on state-mandated housing plans to what it's like to work for a small town government. Schaan is in the thick of helping the town plan for 328 units to be developed over the next eight years as part of the 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), a process he was part of as deputy planning director. For the last eight-year RHNA cycle, Woodside had to plan for 65 new homes.
Woodside has yet to approve a compliant housing element to the state. On March 15, the town submitted its second draft recently and the state has 60 days to provide feedback. Some residents have pushed back against the development of any multi-family housing in town.
Schaan started with the town as a senior planner in July 2008. Since then, he was promoted to principal planner, then deputy planning director before becoming interim planning director on Nov. 1, 2022.
"We are fortunate to have such an experienced and knowledgeable professional leading the planning department for the town," according to a town newsletter. Woodside conducted an open recruitment for the position prior to Town Manager Kevin Bryant appointing Schaan to permanent planning director on Feb. 1.
The Almanac: How did you become interested in city planning?
Schaan: I was born and raised in San Francisco, so cities have always been an interest of mine. Going to Pomona for urban and regional planning, the idea was to go into city planning, which I've worked in since shortly after I got out of college. I've enjoyed (working for) smaller cities specifically. You deal with a range of projects and issues, and connect better with residents and applicants.
Q.: What are you excited about with this job? Why do you like working in Woodside?
A.: I enjoy the town. The rural character is different from San Francisco. I still get excited when I see deer in Woodside. Town staff has been amazing; the committees and (Town) Council are always great to work with. There's direct involvement with the community to make changes. Half Moon Bay was part of the California Coastal Zone, so any changes to be made for zoning would require approval from the coastal commission. It's nice to work toward goals of the community without the need for an extra layer of approval.
Q.: What unique challenges does planning in Woodside have?
A.: On the coast there were environmental constraints in planning. Woodside does share that commonality of environmental protection and balancing goals of the state for more housing.
Q.: How has your experience been with planning the housing element? A.: Overall it's been a good experience. It's challenging. It's significantly different than in previous cycles. Our target goals are about five fold (about 429%). ... The Town Council has worked through these challenges (and found) multifamily (housing) to a certain level could be appropriate at these sites and low impacts on surrounding communities.
Q.: What are your priorities as planning director?
A.: Housing issues are the priority; that will take up a lot of time. We'll need to process all the permits and inspections and respond to questions as necessary and work on programs that are outlined (in the plan) like rezoning. I had the opportunity to work with Jackie. ... For the last 14-15 years, we've worked really hard to look at how the municipal code can be amended to make it easier to build while balancing impacts and reducing unnecessary obstacles for development, especially ADUs (accessory dwelling units). ... Late last year the Town Council provided some waiver of permit fees for ADUs and plan check and inspection fees.