Residents in the vicinity of Haciendas Drive in Woodside turned out in some force on Tuesday evening (June 12) to complain to the Town Council about tentative plans by the local firefighting agency to build a fire station on the three-acre property at the northeast corner of Haciendas and Woodside Road.
The residents said they had only recently learned of a potential land swap between the owner of 10 Haciendas Drive and the Woodside Fire Protection District for its 1.1-acre property about a half-mile to the west, at 3111 Woodside Road, which is the location of the main fire station.
This initiative has been under discussion since 2015, the residents said, adding that the council had an obligation to inform the residents of the situation.
Mayor Chris Shaw, in response, noted that the fire district is an agency independent of the town, and that the council had not formally discussed the matter.
The fire district is considering moving its main station to the Haciendas Drive site.
Resident Janice Wilkins, a 20-year resident of Haciendas Drive, told the council that she and her family and her eight neighbors are "a closely knit but small community of families." She spoke of plans for the fire station that show a parking lot for 50 vehicles.
"The fire station would dramatically change the character of our small residential street, negatively change our lives and decrease the property value that many of us have relied on, especially the older, more longer-term residents," Wilkins said.
"We value the great service that people of the fire department provide to our community, but frankly we heretofore never thought the destruction of our beautiful small cul-de-sac community would be an objective of our fire department and city council," Wilkins said.
The neighbors will work with the town to find and build "a new and better station on property that does not devalue residents' land and homes," Wilkins said.
The residents met with fire district Chief Dan Ghiorso, who "unveiled a plan" for a "large fire station" that, in addition to a 50-vehicle parking lot, would include a training tower and new entrances to Woodside Road and Haciendas Drive, a resident of 30 Haciendas told the council. The road is narrow, has no sidewalks and is a route for children walking to school, and thus is "totally unsuitable for a development of this nature," the resident said.
Shaw said the town is responsible only for permitting and zoning, and that in his understanding, this fire station is currently just a concept. The fire district "was primarily interested in the opinion of the neighborhood" before going any further, he said.
Chief Ghiorso told The Almanac in an earlier interview that neighborhood opinion was one of four unanswered questions about the project, the others being whether the property has easements; whether the property's geological and topographical conditions would accommodate a fire station; and the results of traffic and noise studies.
Bill Ross, a Palo Alto attorney speaking on behalf of the residents, noted that three years had passed without the neighbors being informed. He told the council that he's submitted a public records request to Town Hall and to the fire district for all records associated with this initiative.
"We're looking forward to (seeing) what documents actually exist, what conversations took place, what phone records are applicable," Ross said. A three-year-old tentative plan for a fire station like this one, with its large parking lot, "shouldn't suddenly surface three years later," he said.