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News - November 28, 2012

Portola Valley flooded with volunteers

by Dave Boyce

The cup runneth over for the town of Portola Valley. Seventeen residents, including six incumbents, have applied for seven open seats on the town's two volunteer panels with the most consequential decision-making powers: the Planning Commission and the Architectural & Site Control Commission (ASCC). Openings on these commissions often draw just two or three applicants.

In response to the volume of candidates, the Town Council will begin its Wednesday, Nov. 28, meeting at the Historic Schoolhouse at 6:30 p.m., an hour earlier than usual. Following candidate interviews, the council will make appointments by paper ballots, according to a staff report.

Commissioners are appointed for four-year terms. Candidates who get three or more votes from the five-member council will be appointed. Each commission has five members. Terms are staggered, with three seats open and then two seats two years later.

The Planning Commission addresses policies on land use and development, including applications for variances and the hearing of appeals by property owners over decisions made by Town Hall staff in administering zoning and subdivision ordinances.

The commission has four open seats, including the one held by Denise Gilbert, first appointed in 2008. The term for Ms. Gilbert's seat expired in January 2012, but the churn of business at Town Hall at the time led to her reappointment becoming an unattended-to loose end, the report said. The council intends to align her seat with that held by Commissioner Arthur "Chip" MacIntosh, whose term expires in 2016.

The candidates

Ms. Gilbert, a former biotech executive, has applied for reappointment, as have Nate McKitterick, an attorney with a focus on commercial liability and insurance issues, first appointed in 2005; and Alexandra Von Feldt, director of land stewardship for a Silicon Valley environmental nonprofit and appointed in 2009. Longtime Commissioner Leah Zaffaroni is retiring.

The other applicants for the Planning Commission are, in alphabetical order: Tom Kelley, founder of a high-tech-oriented executive recruiting firm; Terry Lee, an executive with a private high school; Andrew Pierce, an attorney whose focus includes land use; Darci Reimund, who runs a home-design firm; and Nicholas Targ, an attorney with a focus on environmental and land-use law.

The ASCC advises the Planning Commission and the Town Council and reviews significant remodeling and building projects in town, with a focus that includes preserving the visual character of the town by preventing "unsightly or obnoxious" structures.

On the ASCC, incumbents applying for reappointment are landscape designer Danna Breen, first appointed in 2003; software entrepreneur Craig Hughes, appointed in 2009; and architect Carter Warr, first appointed in 1991.

New applicants are Tim Dyson, chief executive of a marketing communications group; Terry Lee, an executive with a private high school; Elin R. Pedersen, a research scientist focusing on human and social-centered technology; Marianne Plunder, a longtime, active and multi-faceted community volunteer; Dave Ross, a consultant on construction management and related dispute-resolution issues; and Jane Wilson, a longtime and active community volunteer with a background in architecture and estate management.

• Go to tinyurl.com/PV-applicants and turn to Pages 4 and 28, respectively, for further information on the process and the candidates' letters of application.

• Go to tinyurl.com/PV-incumbents and turn to Page 123 for statistical information on the incumbents.


In a Nov. 14 story on Portola Valley's plans to purchase 900 Portola Road for small homes affordable to people of moderate incomes, the Almanac reported that a group of neighbors opposed the plan because of concerns about lower property values. While the group has acknowledged that possibility, it also regularly states that it is not opposed to affordable housing per se. The group claims the town's process has not been "democratic and open" and that the obligation to provide such housing could be met with a "creative approach that emphasizes second units."


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