Fears over the loss of stables and scenic corridors, as well as the increased risk of forest fire, were part of an hour-long discussion on Wednesday July 13 in the Portola Valley before the town council announced approves its housing element project.

The draft will be sent to the state, pending revisions requested by the board to address concerns about moving the Isola Riding Academyand adding limits to the opt-in rezoning program to limit projects to four units per site (rather than four units per acre) and requiring a discretionary review process.

The city is responsible for planning 253 new housing units in the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) 2023-31against only 64 in the last cycle.

Jeremy Levine, local housing advocate and policy lead for the housing management board of San Mateo County, said the Portola Valley plan is the only one of nine housing element projects in the county that his organization is recommending for certification.

He believes the city, which has held more than a dozen meetings on the subject, has made a good faith effort to meet the housing needs of the community. He noted that the children of locals, teachers, blue-collar workers and others are being pushed out of the Portola Valley – where the average home now sells for $4 million – and said the housing plan is a good one. beginning to make the city more inclusive.

Councilman Jeff Aalfs said cities across the state have seen the same pattern that has limited housing development in California.

“At the end of the day, we’re elected, if we get 50 people who categorically oppose it and 5 or 10 who potentially support it, we’re probably not going to do it, and all jurisdictions are like that,” he said. he declared. . “The result is that we are very, very short of housing.” The difference during this housing cycle is that the state legislature has made housing a priority and is tougher on how cities plan housing, he said.

He also noted that city staff and the housing select committee had made a series of compromises to create the best possible housing element.

The city has received a number of written comments from people concerned about the 29 designated housing units on the Glenoaks site at 3639 Alpine Road, which is home to Isola Riding Academy. As a result of these comments, City Council directed staff to follow up with the owner and tenant to review options for maintaining equestrian operations.

“Woodside and Portola Valley are among the last equestrian strongholds in the Silicon Valley region,” Brigitte Hajos said in a June 16 email to the city. “This is equestrian land and the closure of even more equestrian facilities is pushing horses and riders out of the valley. Too many public equestrian facilities have been closed and we are losing precious opportunities to save the sport and those precious animals. When equestrian facilities close, horses are sold. Many are slaughtered or end up in slaughterhouses if there are no imminent buyers. Horses are majestic creatures with healing powers far beyond the human race. understanding of most people.

After residents of the Nathhorst Triangle area vehemently opposed plans to “zone” the housing density in their neighborhood in an earlier iteration of the project element, the city decided to create a zoning program opt-in allowing single-family residential plots of 1 acre or more to rezone to allow up to four residential units per acre. The city added in a clause that the owner opting for rezoning must live on site to prevent developers from buying land.

But some residents have raised concerns with the city that the zoning change “creates powerful economic incentives to fundamentally alter” the environment and wildlife habitats of the Portola Valley.

Resident Sylvia Thompson told the city on June 23 that the scheme allows developers to take advantage of urbanization and “harnesses fear and greed to encourage rapid development.”

“Neighbors are forced into an economic prisoner’s dilemma: the first up-zoner in a neighborhood reaps a financial windfall at the expense of neighboring landlords,” she wrote. “The only way to recover some of the value lost by the new high-density development next door is also to zone in and move out, ideally before someone else does. overnight overdevelopment seen in other once pristine places.”

On Wednesday, the council considered scrapping the membership program and adding a small number of Senate Bill 9 units, but staff said they likely won’t be financially viable for residents thanks to this program (SB 9 units are limited to 800 square feet in city size). The state’s so-called duplex law that went into effect in January requires local agencies to grant ministerial approval to certain lot divisions and up to two main units on each resulting lot, with side and rear setbacks 4 feet.

The board decided that planning for Dorothy Ford Field and the Ladera Church property would take place together approximately two years into the 2023-31 cycle. This will allow the city to first assess the progress of the implementation of the plan.

In a June 16 email to the city, Ford’s widow, Susan Ford Dorsey, said her husband gave the land on two conditions: the land remains open space and the park is named after his mother. , Dorothy B. Ford.

“I believe the city would break that promise to him and our family by developing it,” she said. “This land is a place of comfort to our community and it should be kept intact. Like all families in our community, our family has enjoyed the beauty and recreation provided by the park.”

While Susan Ford Dorsey and many residents have said the city has a moral obligation to keep the property in open space, but aside from the two deed restrictions governing the baseball field that expire in 2031, it doesn’t there are no legal impediments to changing the use of the open plan portion of the site.

City staff have confirmed that there are no proposed housing developments at Ford Field. There could be an opportunity to rearrange site uses and improve baseball facilities with the overall project.

Staff have had preliminary conversations with a non-profit affordable housing developer about the feasibility of developing the site. For financing and operating purposes, affordable housing developers typically need about 50 units to make these types of projects feasible.

See the videos of the meeting here and here.