In 2021, development and fire risk dominated the conversation in Portola Valley | January 7, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - January 7, 2022

In 2021, development and fire risk dominated the conversation in Portola Valley

by By Angela Swartz

Much like in 2020, Portola Valley residents continued to push back against new development projects in town and raised concerns about fire hazards. Some vocal residents even staged their own evacuation drill to make a point about their fire safety concerns. And the Town Council continued meeting remotely over Zoom, but town services resumed in-person in 2021.

Development pushback

The group Portola Valley Neighbors United continued to oppose the Portola Terrace housing proposal, known as the Stanford Wedge project.

Although some residents have supported the 39-unit project, others have concerns that the addition of housing could cause a traffic jam on two-lane Alpine Road in the event of a fire emergency and about fire hazards on the property itself.

A draft environmental impact report on the project is expected in early 2022.

Residents also expressed opposition to a proposed tasting room and event center at Neely Winery.

One project that is receiving widespread endorsements across town is the development of 13 units of housing for adults with disabilities. The developers said they expect a fast-tracked approval process (between 15 to 18 months) since the units proposed are allowed "by-right."

Fire risk discussion

Homeowners, including former mayor Maryann Derwin, shared their struggles to insure their houses, as insurance companies became increasingly wary of densely wooded neighborhoods in the wake of a slew of wildfires in the West.

Fearful of what would happen if a catastrophic fire forced residents to evacuate, a group of neighbors decided to take matters into their own hands after town officials said such an exercise wasn't worthwhile. They hosted their own grassroots drill over the summer.

Other happenings

A ban on gas-powered leaf blowers took effect, which residents said made the town noticeably quieter.

Chabad Portola Valley & Woodside, a new Jewish organization, opened its doors to residents in the spring, saying it hoped to fill a void in Jewish services in the area.

Email Staff Writer Angela Swartz at [email protected]

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