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Vice chair of Portola Valley wildfire committee member ousted, and town officials won't say why

Original post made on Apr 12, 2022

The town of Portola Valley removed the Wildfire Preparedness Committee's vice chair on April 5, but is keeping mum about the reasons behind the ouster. The advisory committee has seen an exodus of members in the past six months.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, April 11, 2022, 1:57 PM

Comments (6)

Posted by PVLover
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 12, 2022 at 9:23 am

PVLover is a registered user.

Angela Swartz — great article! This community is lucky to have you as a reporter.

I heard that Pfau was removed because he was being antagonistic and disruptive on the committee, and his behavior was a main reason other committee members were quitting. But then Pfau hired a lawyer and now the town can’t say anything about that.

All this antagonism…when people feel like they’re being attacked, they become defensive and have a harder time listening with an open-mind. That’s human nature. How can we de-escalate? All these grown-ups yelling about and hurling insults. The future generations need us to figure out a more skillful way to deal with conflict and to work together. I appreciate community activists working on these issues but, please, let’s try and see the bigger picture (that the youth already does see and will inherit) and figure out how to do this work more skillfully — without acting antagonistic and adversarial. That behavior might make us feel powerful, but it’s demoralizing for everyone and actually makes communication harder. We’re all in the same boat.

Also, I’m on a couple town committees and I think texting during a meeting is fine, and even helpful, as long as the brown act isn’t violated, which it sounds like it wasn’t in this situation. Texting during a meeting is just one of infinite new scenarios and possibilities engendered by technology. Not necessarily a bad thing.

Posted by Ron Eastman
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 12, 2022 at 12:22 pm

Ron Eastman is a registered user.

Dear Almanac,
Regardless of any post hoc excuse given to justify Dale's removal from Wildfire Preparedness, it is clear to many that Dale's “crime” was simply his insistence that the Safety Element update be completed before moving forward with the Housing Element update. The California Constitution states: "The protection of the public safety is the first responsibility of local government and local officials have an obligation to give priority to the provision of adequate public safety services" (Art. XIII, § 35). That is not what is happening in Portola Valley. If there were any other reason for the dismissal, one might wonder why he remains chairman of the Emergency Preparedness Committee. No, Dale has rightly and consistently insisted that the Safety Element be given highest priority, and that residents be given access to and allowed to participate in the process. His letter to PV Town Council, coauthored by the two other safety committee chairs, can be read on pg 173 of the March 23, 2022 Town Council meeting agenda.
With regard to the "extremely frustrating...misinformation" which "doesn't help the community", your example is a flier that showed a picture of 3-story apartment buildings. A similar photo was shown by Planning Director Laura Russell, in a meeting where Fire Marshall Don Bullard was asked if their fire truck ladders could reach 4 stories. “The flyer” was distributed in a neighborhood which, without any outreach to or communication from the Town to the affected residents, was proposed to be rezoned for up to 20 units per acre. I don’t know what 20 units per acre will actually look like, but I’m guessing it’d be something similar to what is depicted in the photo. Rezoning would be catastrophic for the residents of that neighborhood, who are at risk of losing their homes and the equity they’ve built up. I don’t understand how, or in what way, notifying these residents of the risk they face is “unhelpful”. Unhelpful to whom?
Ron Eastman

Posted by another neighbor
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 12, 2022 at 3:35 pm

another neighbor is a registered user.

Again the reporting is done without actual investigating. Mr. Phau has only been trying to get the town to put fire safety building standards and safe evacuation plans in place before building very high density housing in this very high fire area. He is trying to save lives and property after witnessing the killing wildfires the last few years. I applaud and thank Mr. Phau

Posted by GMS
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 13, 2022 at 12:34 pm

GMS is a registered user.

I would like to add to the conversation that Dale has been an excellent chair of the PV Emergency Preparedness Committee. I am on that committee and appreciate his leadership over the past year and a half.

It is most unfortunate for everyone in PV that we can not find the right tone to wrestle with the difficult problems and issues we face. We need to dig deeper and find the right way to disagree and reach consensus on how to solve the issues we face. We can't claim to be a great community if we don't do this.

Jerry Shefren

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 17, 2022 at 3:57 pm

Neighbor is a registered user.

In regard to the first comment by PV Lover, who feels that texting during a meeting is just fine----and is a member of several town committees---it's NOT just fine. It's NOT fine to text other members of the committee you are sitting on, and other town committee, or text members of the town council, or text the town manager. It's INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR for someone who is supposed to be listening, serving with an open mind, and considering what is being said at the meeting in which they are present.

If you feel the need to inform other members of other committees, the town council, or the town manager or other employees about the business currently being conducted at a meeting you are in, please wait until after the meeting. Using the excuse that it doesn't violate the letter of the Brown Act is a way of rationalizing your own behavior.

It's amazing how perfectly nice people can flip to become instruments of their own personal agendas when elected or selected for a position in power. Just serve the members of the town---ALL of them, not just the ones you agree with, or whom push forward your own personal projects. Thanks.

Posted by Meg
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 18, 2022 at 2:39 am

Meg is a registered user.

PV under the current town government has become a mess. There is too little transparency, too much playing fast and loose with the truth, instances of "skirting" of the Brown Act, nasty name calling and innuendo by members of the government and the manager of the PV Forum, and importantly very little progress on the important issues of town planning and fire safety. The town pays consultants for everything down to decisions about painting a red curb so fire access is maintained, while still getting next to nothing done. The whole situation has become absurd. At very least we need some new blood in the town government. An election in coming and it will be nice to see who is running.

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