Secondary living units back on Portola Valley agenda Wednesday | March 13, 2019 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - March 13, 2019

Secondary living units back on Portola Valley agenda Wednesday

by Barbara Wood

A topic that has become contentious in Portola Valley — new regulations governing secondary living units — will return to the agenda for a public hearing when the Portola Valley Town Council meets on Wednesday, March 13, starting at 7 p.m. in the historic schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road.

Town officials have for years been discussing the thorny problem of how to provide more affordable housing in an area where housing prices have been steadily escalating.

While the town last year responded to changes in state law that required communities to liberalize their rules for accessory dwelling units in order to provide more affordable housing by changing its rules about secondary housing, the council also asked for another look at the topic.

The Planning Commission recommended a new ordinance that would be more liberal than existing regulations. The ordinance would allow separate secondary living units in all of the town's zoning districts; increase the currently allowed size for secondary living units; reduce parking requirements; allow separate addresses for secondary units; and eliminate owner-occupancy requirements.

While the proposed changes have attracted support from those who say they would allow Portola Valley residents to remain in the town by downsizing to a secondary unit, facilitate rental with a separate address that permits separate utility metering, and allow family members to occupy a property even if the owner is not living there, the proposal has also drawn objections.

Some residents say larger secondary units would change the character of the town and cause safety problems. Some also argue that rentals won't be affordable, and that eliminating the requirements for owner occupancy would encourage short-term rentals through companies such as Airbnb.

Some opponents have asked that the town submit the proposed ordinance to a public vote.

The public hearing on the proposed ordinance is the fourth item on the agenda. If the council votes to approve the new regulations, they would not go into effect until 30 days after a second vote.

Also on the agenda is a discussion of the council's priorities for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.

For more information, including the proposed ordinance, minutes from a February hearing on the proposal and previous public communications on the subject, go to


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay up to date on local coronavirus coverage with our daily news digest email.



The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

View Details