Portola Valley housing issue: how to spend $2.88 million | April 17, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - April 17, 2013

Portola Valley housing issue: how to spend $2.88 million

by Dave Boyce

The controversy and comment about affordable housing in Portola Valley has boiled down to this: What should the town do with the $2.88 million it acquired in December from the sale of two topographically difficult lots in Blue Oaks intended for eight affordable homes? State housing authorities had approved the town's plans to accommodate those eight homes, so the money has now become a stand-in for those empty lots.

This summation by Karen Kristiansson, a consultant with the town's planning department, came during an April 8 community meeting and rests on the notion that the town will mostly meet its state-mandated obligations to develop credible plans for 64 new dwellings between 2014 and 2022 for individuals and/or families across the socio-economic spectrum.

After recent negotiations with the 20 other communities in San Mateo County, Portola Valley agreed on plans for 21 dwellings for the very low income range, 15 for low income, 15 for moderate income, and 13 for above moderate. Multi-family homes are a necessary part of the mix and would be open to moderate-income applicants. In San Mateo County, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, a moderate income is around $86,500 for an individual and $123,600 for a family of four. Eligible buyers would work or live in Portola Valley.

Woodside and Portola Valley were granted lower numbers in recognition of the open space and recreational opportunities they provide, said Onnolee Trapp, a member of the Ad Hoc Affordable Housing Committee. The committee has been holding meetings this spring and is set to report to the Town Council in May on the community's values in response to the state's interest in nurturing socio-economic diversity throughout California.

For very low and low income dwellers, second units should suffice if current trends continue, Ms. Kristiansson said. As for moderate income, the town can extend existing plans for multi-family housing at the Woodside Priory School. How to use that $2.88 million remains an issue.

Values expressed

Town Hall surveyed people employed in town in December on their interest in owning a townhouse in Portola Valley. Of 91 responses, 59 reported qualifying incomes, and 86 percent expressed interest in participating in a lottery for a home, Town Manager Nick Pegueros has said.

"The fact is there's a significant demand for eight units," Mr. Pegueros told the group on April 8. "(But) eight units is not going to put a huge dent in the applicants' demand."

Ms. Trapp said she knows of teachers whose long commute makes it difficult for them "to be bright and cheerful for their children."

"We're not a company town. We all have to drive to work," resident Bernie Bayuk said in response. "They wouldn't live in a small ghetto of affordable housing. ... Retain the tradition of Portola Valley: one house, one acre."

"This town is a rural town. We want to keep the rural feel," said resident Bob Adams at one point.

"One of my values," said resident Cindie White, "is to have local government control."


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