Town Square

Post a New Topic

Guest Opinion: Portola Valley council should free the housing element

Original post made on Apr 8, 2023

Portola Valley was on track to approve its housing element and come into compliance with state law. But the decision has been pushed back again, raising concerns over builder's remedy and staff fatigue.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, April 8, 2023, 10:18 AM

Comments (17)

Posted by Serra Simbeck
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 8, 2023 at 5:00 pm

Serra Simbeck is a registered user.

Thank you so much for this important and timely OpEd. I could not agree more with all of the points made here. As a long-time resident of Portola Valley, I am disappointed to see that the new council members have been unable to recognize the importance of approving the Housing Element in a timely fashion after all of the money, time, and effort (by highly competent community members, Town Council representatives and staff) that has gone into this process. For the sake of the community, it is now time to focus on good governance. Portola Valley has the opportunity to be a leader here and show what a volunteer local government can achieve when faced with a daunting task. I hope our new representatives will recognize this and seize that opportunity.

Posted by Karen Askey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 10, 2023 at 1:22 pm

Karen Askey is a registered user.

Let’s focus on the specific issue. This is not about punting on the Housing Element, but about wanting to ensure that all alternatives were reviewed and analyzed before eliminating the livelihood of others with respect to the Glenoaks Equestrian Center site.

Councilmembers Hasko, Hufty and Taylor want to make one final effort to save a small, thriving business and associated jobs for its employees, mostly lower-income. The Glenoaks Equestrian Center site, owned by Stanford, is currently planned for 16 moderate and above-moderate faculty homes, which means multi-million dollar homes, NOT affordable housing. (Stanford has already planned for 27 faculty homes across Alpine Road). Hasko, Hufty and Taylor want to find a better solution, doubling back to see if Stanford would be amenable to developing on a portion of the site and allow the existing business to continue, and/or Stanford would allow development of housing for the employees of Glenoaks and Isola Stables, a lower-income group than currently planned.

I commend Councilmembers Hasko, Hufty, and Taylor for putting in the extra work and doing their due diligence with respect to the Glenoaks site. While the state has challenged all communities with its mandate of new housing units, the goal was for more affordable housing and not to eliminate businesses and jobs.

Posted by Serra Simbeck
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 10, 2023 at 5:49 pm

Serra Simbeck is a registered user.

With all due respect, I am intentionally focusing on the bigger issue, which is having a functioning, balanced Town Council that represents the overall community's interests. To me, this means managing the town's financial and human resources responsibly and respecting the outcome of a very professional committee that studied this issue for almost 2 years, involving hundreds of hours of work, input by all kinds of professionals, and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a community member, I am growing very tired of divisive politics that are overly concerned with optics. I would like to see Portola Valley be a shining example of respect, collaboration and pragmatic government. And in this particular case, I would like to see the council take into account the hard work that has already been done and move forward with the Housing Element as soon as possible.

Posted by Ulrich Aldag
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 10, 2023 at 11:05 pm

Ulrich Aldag is a registered user.

It would be fair and very much appreciated if former town council members Derwin and Richards in particular, would abstain from publicly criticizing their successors in office. Former presidents of this country don’t do that either.
The more so, since during their time in office, and with Ms. Derwin being the mayor, the Town of Portola Valley has made deploringly little progress towards fire safety and improving evacuation routes and procedures. They put the cart before the horse in that they were pushing housing development before fire safety.
My hope is, the new town council will do better.

Posted by pogo
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 11, 2023 at 7:14 am

pogo is a registered user.

Like Karen Askey, I also commend Council Members Taylor, Hasko and Hufty for their efforts with the Glenoaks site. Yes, a lot of work was done during the past two years and all three Council Members have acknowledged that. But at this point, it is their votes that actually count. Their reservations are not only reasonable, for those impacted at Glenoaks, they are essential.

Given the unnecessarily heavy hand that state officials have used with Housing Element issues, Portola Valley officials waiting a couple of extra months to get it right is well advised. Portola Valley is lucky to have such thoughtful Council Members who are willing to take some heat to arrive at a better solution and plan. The rest of us should thank them and support them. They are doing the right thing.

And we should keep in mind that none of the residences that Sacramento is demanding we build will be anything close to affordable. This Housing Element is a gift to developers and builders who support Sacramento politicians and who couldn't care less about our neighborhoods.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 11, 2023 at 8:20 am

Neighbor is a registered user.

Thank you, Karen, for explaining succinctly the actual issue. There’s a reason these Town Council members were voted in, and we are so grateful that they are doing the job the were elected for—measured, intelligent, and balanced examination of how to represent the whole community on complicated issues.

Posted by Former PVSF board officer
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Apr 11, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Former PVSF board officer is a registered user.

Thank you, Karen, for your thoughtful response, and thank you, Town Council, for sticking to your consciences and principles and making difficult decisions in the face of vocal and aggressive opposition.

The voters have spoken and we DO now have a balanced, functioning town council that represents the overall community's interests. I am also hopeful that we will also be managing the Town's finances more responsibly now and publish audited financial in a timely manner. Just because certain staff member choose to leave for various reasons in no way means that the council is not managing human resources responsibly. I would urge those who did not run for election to respect the time and effort of our volunteer council members and realize that we who are not on the council do not possess all the information, especially in personnel matters.

The low-income workers who would lose their livelihoods if Stanford develops the Glenoaks equestrian facility into moderate and above-moderate housing for university staff are real people who deserve consideration. Sometimes I fear we lose sight the ramification on the lives of individuals when we focus on lofty theoretical goals.

Posted by Dave Boyce
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 11, 2023 at 6:57 pm

Dave Boyce is a registered user.

[Post removed at poster's request]

Posted by theater goer
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 13, 2023 at 8:10 pm

theater goer is a registered user.

Our new PV Town Council is taking needed time to review alternatives before sending the Housing Element to Sacramento. Would that the prior Council had taken an equally serious look at some of the subtle and not so subtle “side effects” of the housing plan. Primary among them, in my view, is the unrealistic expectation that “affordable” housing will result, and that fire safety has been adequately addressed.

As for our “professional” Housing Element Committee: yes, there were long and frequent meetings—during which sincere safety concerns of current residents were repeatedly pushed aside or ignored altogether. (Example: A petition signed by 500 residents was never addressed by the Committee or the Council.)
Thank you to the new Council.
And please, former Council members: do not criticize your successors for trying to improve on the plan they inherited.

Posted by Kevin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 14, 2023 at 9:35 am

Kevin is a registered user.

Seems like several commenters are making a pitch to protect a facility to preserve lower paying jobs (admirable), but without a comparable focus on enabling people who work those jobs to live in the same community. That’s how we get into these housing issues in California - we opt for more jobs, which is good, but seldom back some of the inevitable community trade-offs (zoning density, funding BMR housing) that are required to enable the less well-paid workers to live in the same community.

There are no easy answers, but we should be cognizant when some our preservationists tendencies are at odds with with some of the costs and responsibilities that come with that preservation.

Posted by Meg
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 14, 2023 at 4:38 pm

Meg is a registered user.

I wish the "Former Guy"and the "Former Gal" would quit trash talking and attention seeking. The current town council members are doing fine without the information in this Guest Opinion. After all we have heard the TFG's opinions enough already

Posted by Jon Silver
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 14, 2023 at 11:30 pm

Jon Silver is a registered user.

I must confess to a bit of amusement. So often when people on the extreme right disagree with what I or others have said, they say we should keep quiet or be silenced. Rather than trying to silence those who you disagree with, why not just engage in democratic dialog, and say why you think we are mistaken?

The idea expressed above that former Portola Valley Town Councilmembers should forever stay silent after they leave office seems just plain silly.

I served on Portola Valley’s Town Council for four terms from early 1978 until December 1993. I was Mayor for three terms. By running for office, being elected, and taking an oath to uphold the California and US Constitutions, I never thought that I was surrendering my future right to free speech or to participate as an active member of our democracy and community. (I was 25 when I was elected, 40 when I handed over responsibility to those elected in my wake. I would hate to think at my current age of 70, that I should be required to bite my tongue and say nothing for ever more.)

Btw, speaking of ex-Presidents, if Abraham Lincoln, Teddy or Franklin Roosevelt, or Harry Truman (among others) could speak to us now, I for one, would want to hear what they might have to say, rather than to tell them to shut their traps.

Why silence others; rather why not debate using reason and actual facts? Why hurtle gratuitous insults or ad-hominem insults instead of giving reasons, details, and engaging in reasoned intellectual debate, I beseech you. (Think of those intellectual fathers of our American Revolution, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Please do this. I promise, it’s not too painful, but perhaps a bit mind expanding.) Actual, respectful discussion is interesting, fun, and educational. Please give it a try. You might like it.

In any case, I guarantee that it will be beneficial to our community and our body politic to think and discuss in a reasoned manner.

(to be continued)

Posted by Jon Silver
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 14, 2023 at 11:32 pm

Jon Silver is a registered user.

Continued from above:

In addition, the individual who said that former Town Councilmembers should stay silent, also said that Portola Valley had made “deploringly little progress towards fire safety and improving evacuation routes”. Really?

Just a few years back our Town Council appropriated funds to remove Eucalyptus trees in our public right of way, and required private applicants to do the same on their property when applying for new project approvals. At that time, our Town Council received a lot of criticism for wasting public money and overburdening private applicants.

If only Stanford University and San Mateo County had exercised such foresight, a good man killed by a falling Eucalyptus tree, with a now bereaved family, who worked in our Town, but could not afford to live here, might still be alive. But why bother with such details of actual public policy, especially if those hurt weren’t among us?

Jon Silver

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2023 at 7:37 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Jon Silver:

I agree with everything you said except one thing. It is not just those on the far tight that would silence those that disagree with them. Those on the far left demonstrate the same behavior. One only has to go to a college campus to witness it. There is zero tolerance for any opinion of anyone on the "right". Your post is right on point and applies to BOTH sides of the political spectrum.

Posted by John Charles
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 15, 2023 at 10:00 am

John Charles is a registered user.

This is really great article. I learned a lot because of this.

Posted by Jon Silver
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 18, 2023 at 1:55 am

Jon Silver is a registered user.

[regarding my post above]

“I agree with everything you said except one thing. It is not just those on the far right that would silence those that disagree with them. Those on the far left demonstrate the same behavior. One only has to go to a college campus to witness it. There is zero tolerance for any opinion of anyone on the "right". Your post is right on point and applies to BOTH sides of the political spectrum.”

I wish to say that I agree with this critique of my post. It is a very apt criticism.
After posting my comment, as I was falling asleep, I realized I should have been more thorough in what I said.

Of course, those who are engaging in dogmatic thought and authoritarian principles do such things from all parts of the political spectrum.

I say this as no excuse for myself, but I had been thinking primarily of those who I personally interact with, and those who actually hold elective office in our United States; after all we don’t see Blue state governors banning books or discussion of certain topics in public schools, or calling those who they disagree with, “The agents of George Soros”, or worse (if that is even possible). Nor do they justify violence against those with dissenting views.
But of course, there are unelected “leftists,” such as those we recently saw at Stanford Law School (which polling has shown were a minority of law school students) who sought to silence a right-wing judge who they disagreed with. Such behavior is shameful. All of us must stand against it.

As a former Progressive Republican (back when that was not an oxymoron), I considered it my obligation to speak out against those on the left, who were intolerant of intellectual difference, or who sanctioned violence in the struggle for peace (back in the 1960s). As a kid, I spoke against the SDS, and especially its Weatherman faction during the struggle to end our American War in Vietnam. [continued]

Posted by Jon Silver
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 18, 2023 at 1:57 am

Jon Silver is a registered user.

I considered violent “leftists” traitors to the Peace Movement.

Dogmatism of all varieties is the enemy of human progress. It doesn’t matter whether such dogmatism is grounded in religion, or political ideology. If a follower must believe in the “truth” of a statement simply because Reverend Moon, or L. Ron Hubbard, or Comrade Stalin has said it, it is equally fatal to human progress and thought.
Free inquiry and debate are essential for our future if we are to have any hope of surviving into the next century.

Jon Silver

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Holiday Fun in San Francisco- Take the Walking Tour for An Evening of Sparkle!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,536 views

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,291 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,692 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $300,000.