Outdoor gathering spaces, fire safety and housing are top of mind for new Woodside mayor | January 14, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - January 14, 2022

Outdoor gathering spaces, fire safety and housing are top of mind for new Woodside mayor

by By Angela Swartz

With a human population of around 7,000 and a horse population of about 800, Woodside is "a rural calm island in the middle of face-paced Silicon Valley," said 2022 Mayor Dick Brown.

Brown, who moved to Woodside in 2011 and joined the council in 2018, said one of his goals during his year as mayor is to not lose that sense of calm even as the town faces significant increases in the number of units the state requires it to designate for development. The town was assigned 62 units last cycle and 328 units in the 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

"Our residents go to work in the high-tech business and they come home and breathe a sigh of relief," said Brown, whose term expires at the end of 2022.

Like most small towns in the area, Woodside is mostly planning on doing this by encouraging residents to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their properties.

"We're not looking for a lot of 10-story high rises," he said. "We think we can accommodate that mostly with our ADUs. We have been exceeding what's been required up until this year."

Another hot button topic in town is the development of two residentially zoned parcels of land in the Town Center, as called for by Measure A, which passed with a handful of votes (50.1%). After the votes were tallied, a old town resolution surfaced showing that the land along the Ca?ada and Woodside roads intersection, known as Ca?ada Corners and owned by George Roberts of Roberts Market, had been placed under an open space conservation easement. It's been proposed that this land be turned into parking and outdoor dining space. The other space, a town-owned parcel near Town Hall, could be used to build a public building — a gazebo or amphitheater — for community events.

The Roberts have not brought a plan to the Town Council yet, but the council can choose not enforce an easement (or amend it), if members deem it to be for the public good.

"We have to be very cognizant of what the community wants," said Brown, a serial small business entrepreneur, who lived in Atherton for 35 years before moving to Woodside. He suggested the town host focus groups on what they'd like to see done with the town-owned property.

"We need to make sure the parking stays as rural as we can. ... We don't have a mandate," he said, adding that he is confident they can find a way to make it happen that is not going to "antagonize the 49.9% who said 'no.'"

"I never dreamed the vote would be that close," Brown said.

With the increased amount of outdoor dining in town during the pandemic, there is a lot more traffic in the Town Center area, he noted, and Measure A should help with building additional parking capacity.

Fire safety is also on Brown's mind this year. Although no one in Portola Valley or Woodside was forced to evacuate because of the nearby CZU August Lighting Complex fires that burned over 86,000 acres, it was a wake-up call to the two small wooded towns that fire danger needs to remain top of mind. And fires are at the forefront of the minds of local officials and residents as temperatures rise.

Brown said that there is extreme fire danger on the hillsides and if the wind hadn't changed direction, Woodside could have been consumed.

"We want to try to work more with the county, state and federal government to get more funding and programs in place to build a significant barrier," he said.

In 2021, Woodside increased its police budget — by a little under $63,000 — to help address the volume of traffic in a town that's en route to the beach and popular destination for cyclists in the summer months, he said.

Neighboring Atherton has installed nearly 50 automated license plate readers to combat a recent string of residential burglars. Although Woodside hasn't seen a similar spike in crime, the Town Council will consider installing its own. Since the town is surrounded by others with license plate readers (including Portola Valley and Palo Alto), Woodside could become a target for such crime since they don't have any, Brown said.

Finally, he said he hopes to bring back annual events like Woodside's May Day Parade and the Fourth of July rodeo that have been canceled since the pandemic began.

"We can all get out and celebrate what's special about Woodside," he said.

Email Staff Writer Angela Swartz at [email protected]

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