Woodside: Reform of architectural review process may start soon | October 21, 2015 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - October 21, 2015

Woodside: Reform of architectural review process may start soon

by Dave Boyce

The ways and means of Woodside's Architectural & Site Review Board (ASRB) are headed for change. By consensus, the Town Council agreed to consider an ordinance soon that could shrink the board to five members (from seven) and engage a consulting architect to help applicants prepare their projects to avoid rejection by the ASRB.

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Posted by Patient Observer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 21, 2015 at 11:25 am

The ASRB already has a seat at the table. Their comments have been collected and recorded as this article documents. But they should NOT have veto power. The ASRB is in trouble BECAUSE OF the people on it; the meetings are time consuming because they are very badly run and contentious, in particular due to Reyering and Mah as mentioned above. Their resistance to these changes is just a power grab; of course they don't want their influence reduced. The town council needs to take action and fix this. Handing the issues back to the ASRB is just putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

Posted by Nancy Reyering
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2015 at 11:41 am

Incorrect, Patient Observer. The report was prepared hastily by staff in August with no input from the volunteers most familiar with the problems some residents have when they come to meetings. By the way, the ASRB recommends to approve over 90% of projects with just simple review. The problem projects are the ones that do not meet the General Plan or Design Guidelines recommendations, and even in those cases as the Board can do is recommend changes. The ASRB is not a decision-making body.

Posted by Patient Observer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm

That the ASRB "recommends to approve over 90% of projects with just simple review" is a flat-out lie. I've sat through several ASRB meetings and even small projects (those that would have gone to an administrator until you torpedoed that idea) drag on under trivial questioning and mindless expressions of your personal tastes and interests. My favorites are the questions you raise that would have been answered by a site visit, if you'd bothered to make one. Every project, no matter how well thought out, gets some kind of negative criticism. If what you say is true the average time spend per project in your meetings would be 10 minutes. If the reviews were so simple, why are there complaints about ASRB member's workloads and time commitments?

Posted by Nancy Reyering
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm

I have never reviewed a project without a site visit, and I don't believe anyone on the current ASRB has either. ASRB members are appointed by council for their qualifications, and each of the sitting members has significant qualifications, for example having been part of the General Plan Task Force (3 of the members), having built in Woodside, or being an architect. Sometimes all 3. My statistic can be verified by the Planning Department at Woodside.

Far be it for me to deny that there can be significant improvement in the building process in Woodside, for instance the Building Department's arcane and seemingly arbitrary permitting and inspections are long overdue. The scapegoating of a review board that is one of the foundations of our Town's volunteer resident community, is not productive or insightful.

Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

As a construction professional and an outsider all I can say is that Woodside has the reputation for having the WORST planning/permitting process in the bay area. It is well known for the nonsense that goes on both in the building department AND the ASRB. Not scapegoating anyone. If I was a resident I would be looking at the ENTIRE process from start to finish. In fact, if I was a resident, I would be demanding something be done to the entire process. The length of time it takes to get even the simplest projects through the town is a joke.

Posted by ASRB PTSD
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 21, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Our project recently passed the ASRB process, and I can say from firsthand experience that it's absolutely ridiculous. Members consistently commented on their own opinion of my home, "I like it" or "I don't like it", without discussion of whether it met the guidelines (which it did.) Conforming my private property which was well within guidelines to their personal taste is just offensive.

As Woodside residents, we need to come together to change this process (or the ASRB membership.) Rather than protecting our property values, it drives out potential neighbors who don't want the hassle of dealing with our ASRB.

Posted by Woodside Resident
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Oct 21, 2015 at 6:25 pm

I agree with “Menlo Voter” and “ASRB PTSD” comments. Having lived and had remodel projects in Menlo Park, Atherton and Woodside I agree that trying to get something done in Woodside is awful. Additionally I’ve had contractors say they won’t even bid on projects in Woodside because of the wait of time, frustration and hassle dealing with the town. We need a change.

Posted by AnotherAnonymous
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 22, 2015 at 11:25 am

Woodside has a terrible reputation for being the worst town whether you want to build your dream house or do simple remodeling. Having made the mistake of buying a house in Woodside and having gone through a grueling ASRB review to build a simple structure and a shed on our property, I can wholeheartedly say stay away from this Town unless they do something about the nightmare called ASRB. Although the idea of an ASRB looks good on paper, ASRB has become a dictatorship led by members Mah, Reyering and Lubin. The only comments we heard from particularly Reyering and Mah were "I don't like it" ...Why? They just did not like it. They reviewed my simple structure and a shed as if they were reviewing the Taj Mahal. They have some distorted view of what 'rural' is. How much more rural a shed can get? We gave up mainly because our project costs were skyrocketing. Our architect quit, our contractor suggested someone else to help us out. Staff in the Planning Department, and director Jackie Young were very helpful but the final word was with the ASRB. I feel pity for the talented staff in the Planning dEpartment for having to work with the dictatorship of Mah and Reyering.It is sad to see that Reyering now wants to become a Councilwoman. Sad for the Town and sad for the residents. I stay anonymous because we may give a try to build our shed in the future.

Posted by Also anonymous
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 22, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Anyone can read the minutes from the ASRB. I've been reading the minutes on local projects and have been pointing out to my wife the comments made by Mah and Reyering over the past year for their capricious and subjective tone before this ASRB review issue started. There has been zero accountability for their absolutism. We have been told by neighbors that any simple project takes years to get done because of these particular individuals, to not cross them, and to work with local architects only, not because of the planning and design vagaries of Woodside, but because they know Mah and Reyering's personal tastes. I suspect these "recommended" architects also personally know the ASRB members.

This forum fortunately permits anonymity, otherwise I would never risk having my name recognized by them when we plan our remodel.

Posted by Anonymous#10
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 22, 2015 at 12:55 pm

A draft Ordinance was introduced at the Council meeting on 10/13/15 to streamline the process for smaller projects.

Currently within the Woodside system, small, incremental property improvement projects are burdened with the same process as larger more significant, higher impact projects. As a result smaller projects can take a year or two to navigate the system and suffer a much higher proportional cost.

The ASRB requirement is a major cost and time driver in this process. As a result of a steady stream of complaints to the Town, staff developed an initiative which would allow smaller projects to avoid the ASRB altogether, but still retain the public review as directed by a staff person known as the zoning administrator.

The proposed changes were reviewed at numerous times publically as well as by the ASRB and Planning Commission.

During the Council meeting, Nancy Reyering and a handful of her loyal activists, essentially usurped the process. There were statements made by this group such as: “Rush job”, Denigrated work of ASRB”, “Will not result in a streamlined process”, Council in violation of its’ own ordinances," “ASRB must have seat at table”, “more like a witch hunt”, “Not fixing what’s not broke”.

The substance comes down to power and who has it. Nancy and group want ALL projects to continue to go through the ASRB, which they control. Contrary to her statement, there was “input from volunteers familiar with the problems” as well as staff, including the ASRB and Planning Commission into the draft ordinance to streamline the process. However, she is complaining because her group did not play an initial role. Well, there are other residents as well as staff that have good ideas and can initiate change. She doesn't have to control everything.

Furthermore it is not in the best interest of Woodside for her to control everything. Now Nancy is saying if she is elected she will work to streamline the process for small projects. Well there was an effort to do just that. However she chose to thwart the effort of others with hollow and superficial arguments. Can we really rely on or believe what she says?

Posted by Anon
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Oct 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

I live in Woodside and have remodeled. Unfortunately I have to agree with all the negative comments above about the ASRB. We need a change. We all want to maintain the rural nature of our town, and we all want to be able to build to our own taste as long as it conforms to the town guidelines. What we don't want is a small group of individuals at the ASRB to be able to randomly impose their personal aesthetic desires on our properties and homes. We really need a change of certain ASRB members to those who will objectively interpret to town guidelines.

Posted by Patient Observer
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Oct 22, 2015 at 1:46 pm

My favorite quote from the article is:

'The ASRB is being publicly accused of being "the worst problem the town has," member Maggie Mah said.'

I assume she meant for us to be horrified at the idea that the ASRB is the worst problem.

If one were to identify "worst problem" as being the one with the most citizens angry at their own town government, I'm pretty sure the ASRB would be it.

Posted by AnonymousMe
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 23, 2015 at 2:02 am

We live in Woodside and want to build a guest house on our property. Our neighbors whose projects were reviewed by the ASRB told us they "went through hell" because members Reyering and Mah were capricious, unreasonable and imposed their own esthetics that could change from one meeting to the next . Apparently there is an Architect "favored" by Reyering and Mah and if we hired him we could have an easier review by the ASRB. However, this particular Architect charges more due to the good relationship he has built with Reyering and Mah.

This should give an idea what a broken system we have in Woodside. No wonder at the last Council meeting Reyering and Mah spoke against a draft ordinance that would have reduced their power and control. The council sent the draft ordinance back to ASRB review. This is like asking a wolf to watch the lambs. Woodside has to fix the broken committee that is called the ASRB. (since we want to build a guesthouse, I am afraid of retaliation and would rather keep my name anonymous)

Posted by Lifelong resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

Either Nancy Reyering stays on the ASRB (District 3 write-in candidate Chris Shaw wins) or she becomes a town council member with the ultimate authority on matters affecting Woodside, including the future of ASRB. At some point she becomes Mayor. Looks like we have a choice! [part removed.]

Please fill in the box and add write-in candidate Chris Shaw for town council in District 3. We need the voice of a sensible and balanced citizenry on the town council, not what appears to be a career politician wanting to mandate her personal agenda.

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