Showdown tonight over Stanford housing proposal

Stanford is proposing to build this development on Alpine Road in Portola Valley. Illustration from Stanford.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

A showdown is expected tonight (May 27) between the Portola Valley Town Council and a community group that is perturbed over Stanford’s plans to build 39 homes some 500 feet from the Alpine Inn on Alpine Road.

Since the beginning of the year, a group called Portola Valley Neighbors United has sent at least four letters to town officials and Stanford, calling for Stanford to withdraw its plans. The group is also making various demands of town officials and wants the Woodside Fire District to take over the environmental review of the project.

The project, called the “Stanford Wedge,” would consist of 30 buildings — 27 single-family homes for faculty and three apartment buildings containing 12 low-income apartments. The buildings would be on 7.4 acres of the 75 acres that make up the wedge.

In a Feb. 12 letter to town Planning and Building Director Laura Russell, the group questioned the competency of town officials, as well as the competency of any consultants hired by the town. Thus, the group writes, the fire district ought to head up the environmental review of the project.

On its website, the group says it wants to protect the “wildlife corridor owned by Stanford,” and to ensure that fire safety is considered in order to “protect the rural ecosystem of the Stanford Wedge.” At least 45 people signed the group’s Feb. 12 letter to the town council.

In the proposed letter that will go to council for review today, Town Manager Jeremy Dennis writes that the town’s environmental review consultant picked Carol Rice to be the project’s sub-consultant on fire safety. Rice knows the area and is currently working with Portola Valley Ranch as its fire consultant, according to the letter.

Dennis said that some of the issues that the group claims are requirements by the fire district are actually recommendations. In particular, the group is adamant that there should be 100 feet between buildings, which would reduce the project to consist of six buildings, instead of the 30 buildings currently proposed.

“(Woodside Fire) has not, to the best of our knowledge, made this recommended setback a condition on any other project in Portola Valley, including areas of very high fire severity danger in the Woodside Highlands, where teardowns and replacement of existing smaller structures with larger homes routinely reduce the distance between structures to less than 100 feet,” the letter the council will vote on states.

In a newsletter sent to its followers, the group plans to confront the council with three questions, asking if the safety and well being of the community is really at the top of the council’s priorities, if the town is in favor of transparency when it comes to the project and if the project ought to be thoroughly scrutinized.

The project was submitted by Stanford in September, but the town has been after Stanford to develop the property since at least 2016.

The project has only been reviewed by the Planning Commission, where it discussed what ought to be in the environmental report. But there was no decision on whether the project ought to be passed or not. No meeting related to approving the project has been scheduled, according to Dennis’ report.

4 Comments

  1. Following the 2018 and 2019 fires in Wine Country, this development seems like a tragedy waiting to happen. The council’s best move would be to turn over the environmental review to the Fire Department, which would be on the front lines of battling a massive fire here.

  2. Disappointing that they’re building single-family homes there. They should all be apartments (and there should be more of them)!

  3. I don’t get why there is such opposition to this. The bay area is desperate for more housing. This seems like a reasonable proposal. The fire and environmental concerns seems spurious. Calm down people, they are building housing, not a coal power plant.

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