Dear Friends and Neighbors:
April 2023, Quarterly Update.
Hello! It has been a busy few months for the Town Council. As with any transition, we have had a lot to learn and discuss, with a particular challenge to get up to speed rapidly on many important topics.
I provide a brief update on key topics we have addressed below. Overall, I have been deeply involved in:
-facilitating discussions around our Housing Element and formulating post-adoption processes to ensure our commitment to achieving a balance between adding additional housing options for our community and preserving the tenets of our General Plan,
-driving processes to support our appointment of an interim Town Manager and identify a new Town Manager,
-collaborating with other Town Council members to recognize those in Portola Valley who have made special and significant contributions to our Town, and
-enabling public understanding and discussion of our General Plan.
If you have any perspectives to share on these or other topics, I invite your input as we move forward on an agenda that addresses critical issues for our community. I assure you I will listen and make sure your input is considered and heard.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments via my Town email: email@example.com.
During the beginning of the year, the Planning Commission had been working diligently to refine a Housing Element and the related environmental review documents for forwarding to the Town Council and in March the Town Council received the Planning Commission’s recommendations. To address these matters as quickly as possible, the Town Council met every week in March to discuss and consider the recommendations.
During this process, I served on a subcommittee with Craig Taylor to create a Post-adoption Plan for the Housing Element, for consideration for adoption along with the Housing Element and environmental review document. This document includes enhanced measures for the Town to take in the future to tailor development to our locality and community.
On March 29th, the Town Council approved the environmental review document along with Craig’s and my Post-adoption plan recommendations. In this meeting, the Town Council rejected the Housing element (as detailed below) and we are scheduled to revisit the Housing Element on May 10th.
In the March 29th meeting, I abstained from voting on the environmental review document.
-I did this because, just moments before the start of our meeting, the Fire Marshal provided us with a number of important safety items to be added to the documents we were considering.
-To be clear, I generally supported the Fire Marshal’s recommendations; however, I could not vote for something so important to our community without the benefit of proper due diligence on the implications of the proposal.
-I am working to identify more constructive ways for these types of proposals to be made in the future so that we can move quickly to make decisions in a responsible manner.
- I look forward to working to implement the Fire Marshal’s recommendations and the Post-adoption Plan in collaboration between the Town Council, the Town staff and the Woodside Fire Protection District.
In the March 29th meeting, I voted against adopting the proposed Housing Element.
-I did this because I needed a better understanding of the basis for including the Glen Oaks site in the plan, given that it is an ongoing business, and that the Ad Hoc Housing Element Committee had stated that one of its goals was avoiding interrupting business operations.
-Glen Oaks employs 30 workers, including those earning lower wages, and serves over 300 members of the local community, and it has been a vibrant business in Portola Valley for over 25 years.
-Craig Taylor and I formed a subcommittee to work with Stanford and Glen Oaks to better understand the current situation regarding, and possible options for, the Glen Oaks site.
Town Manager Search
The Town Manager, Jeremy Dennis, resigned in February and Howard Young, our Director of Public Works, is currently acting as Interim Town Manager. I worked with Mayor Jeff Aalfs to review the Town’s arrangements with Howard as he serves in this position while he continues in a modified capacity with his Public Works functions.
Working with Vice Mayor Sara Wernikoff, I served on the subcommittee to interview search firms to help the Town identify Jeremy’s replacement.
-We interviewed 5 firms and recommended 2 of them for potential selection.
-The Town Council approved the engagement of Peckham and McKinney, a very experienced search firm, to conduct this search.
-I look forward to working with Peckham to define the search process in more detail, including ways to obtain input from the community and staff.
-As part of the search process, we commissioned a public survey which will allow the residents to have input in identifying the characteristics of what we need for our Town Manager in 2023. This survey will be distributed in the coming months, and I urge everyone to participate.
Our Town Clerk, Melissa Thurman, resigned and, as we work to identify her replacement, Corie Stocker, our assistant Town Manager, and Kari Chinn, who leads our PV Communications efforts, are taking on aspects of her role. We are in the process of identifying an interim Town Clerk to support our Town.
I served on a subcommittee with Vice Mayor Sarah Wernikoff to define criteria for recipients of a new Founder’s Award to recognize volunteers who have made extraordinary contributions to the Town, and to receive and review nominations for this award.
To date, the Town Council has designated Sue Crane and Gary Nielsen as the initial recipients of the award. It was clear from the supporting nominations that these community members made the foundational contributions to our Town over many years. We look forward to granting the awards in a Town Council meeting in May.
General Plan Discussion Group
I am working with Mary Hufty to facilitate sessions to enable Town residents to better understand our General Plan. In these sessions, Town residents review and discuss our General Plan, a complex document that serves as the Town’s constitution. If you are interested please feel free to join these meetings.
Safety Element and Evacuation Plan
As set out in the Post-adoption Plan, after the Town submits an updated Housing Element, the Town Council will begin reviewing and finalizing the proposed updates to the Safety Element and Evacuation Plan. We will also review the Woodside Fire Protection District’s proposed ordinances and policies in parallel with these efforts.
Thank you for your participation in Town meetings and your input on these and other matters during my first quarter in office. I will continue to do my part to work collaboratively to address critical community matters to achieve equitable solutions for our Town. It has been a steep learning curve at the start of my work on the Town Council, but we have a great opportunity to achieve the right balance for Portola Valley, consistent with our values and community goals.