The town's 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) brings a larger increase in the number of units to plan for than in previous cycles. The town is required to plan for 328 units, up from 62 in the prior eight-year cycle.
"I love the fresh air in the morning when I'm walking," Christopher Canellos told the council on Tuesday. "I love looking up in the sky at night and seeing the Big Dipper. I don't want to see this town lose any of the charm, the beauty it has."
Council member Chris Shaw said that planning for so many units "sucks," but that the town would face dire consequences if it didn't comply with state law.
"If we don't, the state will come up with one for us," he said.
The town's revised draft housing element, dubbed the "Shawkowski" proposal after the council members who created it, Shaw and Brian Dombkowski, includes 395 units.
The council modified the plan during the meeting to include eight more units, presumed to be generated thanks to Senate Bill 9, for a total of 16. The state duplex law that took effect in January requires local agencies to grant ministerial approval to certain lot splits and up to two primary units on each resulting lot.
Some 49 commenters wrote to the town with feedback on the draft element up until July 12, which responded to the draft housing plan prior to the adjustments and approval at the Tuesday council meeting.
Dispute over covenant
Some residents referenced a 2009 covenant between the town and Woodhill Estates HOA to argue that a Farm Hill Road parcel included in the draft element should remain as open space, with one threatening to sue the town if necessary. The town is proposing 10 units of housing be allowed at the site.
This covenant was agreed upon by neighboring property owners as a compromise to the development of Barkley Fields and Park, at 5001 Farm Hill Boulevard, in 2010.
Brown said he would have preferred the housing plan not include the Farm Hill.
"This parcel is unsuitable for the proposed intensive residential use for many reasons — open space violations, environmental and wildlife impacts, capricious and discriminatory sewer permitting, lack of nearby public transportation, and lack of nearby business, employment and consumer services," wrote Woodside residents Geetinder Chattha and Eldan Eichbaum in a July 1 letter. "You should know that our neighborhood is fully prepared to litigate each and every one of these violations should that become necessary."
Woodhill Estates resident Stacy Harris told the council on Tuesday night that it is "really disconcerting" that the town surprised residents with this proposal. She hoped it was a mistake, and said she understood officials are working fast to plan for the housing element. Other speakers said the town would lose credibility if it ignored the covenant.
During the meeting, Councilwoman Jenn Wall asked for clarification from Principal Planner Sage Schaan about whether including the parcel in the draft housing element would mean the town could rezone the land in September. He confirmed it and noted that the town would still need to take formal action to undo the covenant.
"I don't think there would be merit to a breach of contract claim," Schaan said. "(I) Don't want to belittle this because obviously there was an agreement reached 13 years ago. ... One of the benefits of using town-owned sites is we have control over the design and timing of those sites."
Fire safety on Canada Road
Residents asked that the town scale down the density of possible development at 773 Ca?ada Road from 20 units per acre to 10. The council agreed, modifying the plan.
Woodside Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Don Bullard said in a June 24 letter to the town that development of 30 units of housing at 773 Ca?ada would actually improve fire safety in the area. This is because most of the existing rolling grasslands will be covered with pavement and ignition-resistant and/or non-combustible construction, and would have improved infrastructure.
The fire district would impose a wildfire hazard assessment plan on the development that requires a 200- to 300-foot perimeter fuels management plan. Additionally, a connection to West Maple Way would be an improved evacuation benefit for both future residents and Western Emerald Hills residents.
"The potential for swift evacuation of this area is good," he said.
Resident Heidi Hess said the Emerald Hills Fire in June is an example of why the town should be cautious about developing higher-density housing at the site. She said that she and her neighbors are scared that if more housing is put in, that would remove a buffer from potential wildfires.
"We dodged a bullet yesterday," she wrote on June 22, the day after the Edgewood Fire started. "Luckily when the fire broke out, we had no wind, heroic firefighters with quick response and only grass and light scrub between the park and our houses. The fire came dangerously close to Palm Circle, where we live, and the power substation. ... If this fire isn't clear evidence of this, I don't know what is. This was our concern and nightmare come true."
Reliance on ADUs
Some residents are wary of how much the town is relying on accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in its plan. The town's original draft included 200 ADUs, but the revised plan approved Tuesday had 152 — which assumes there will be 19 units built per year.
The council opted to increase this to 20 units per year, bringing the projected ADU count to 160.
The Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, a housing advocacy group, gave the town several suggestions for improving its housing element plan. The group, in a letter to the town, said the Woodside has not provided enough evidence to show it can generate the number of ADUs it promises.
"This is not just a technical exercise; this is an opportunity to demonstrate Woodside's genuine commitment to promoting housing at all levels of affordability by implementing new policies," said Jeremy Levine, policy manager for the leadership council.
The group has several suggestions. It said the town could spur ADU development with pre-approved unit designs and waiving impact fees for building the accessory units.
Levine also recommends commissioning an environmental impact report to study the impacts of upzoning to allow 20 units per acre in Woodside in all neighborhoods located within half a mile of transit stops. The group also advocated for development of up to 20 units per acre in its commercial zone, along with upzoning for 10 units per acre within a quarter of a mile of the center of town to minimize the impact of new housing by allowing near amenities and transit corridors.
Ca?ada College site
The plan includes 80 units of faculty and staff housing at Ca?ada College.
There are already 60 units of housing on the Ca?ada campus off of Farm Hill Road for faculty and staff, which is located on 3.8-acre of land annexed to Redwood City in 2008, according to the town's prior 2015-22 housing element.
The housing project, known as Ca?ada Vista, includes two three-story buildings with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, and a community/recreation center at 1 Olive Court, according to the project developer's website.
As part of an agreement between Woodside and Redwood City, 24 of the 65 housing units required to be built in Woodside between 2007 and 2014 through the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process were transferred to Redwood City's allocation. Under the agreement, Woodside's RHNA allocation was reduced from 65 to 41 and Redwood City's number was increased from 1,832 to 1,856.
In the 2015 Housing Element update, town staff said the land in the 2015 overlay at Ca?ada could be used to potentially develop affordable senior housing, which was not built during the cycle.
Town staff plan to send the draft housing element to the state on Friday, July 15, which will trigger a 90-day review period by the state.
The Town Council plans to review and adopt the final housing element on Jan. 24, 2023.
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