Why Build Relationships?
I support any activities in Portola Valley that help neighbors build community. Our PVForum provides a resource that brings people together, despite some disagreements.
When I moved to Portola Valley, almost 30 years ago, I knew from my own upbringing in a similar-sized town that it would be hard to get to know people because we had no children. So I invited everyone who lived around us to a party. The late Van Judah said it was the kindest thing anyone had done for him since he arrived in Portola Valley.
It is very easy to get overwhelmed with work, chauffering children and scheduling family. We need Portola Valley to provide a community for rest and relaxation. Having a strong sense of community can help us when there are disasters and tragedies, but also when there are good times to be enjoyed together. The Alpine Inn reopening, gives us an example of where a local business has helped foster relationships between residents.
Town Staff, Council & Committee Relationships
I have worked on two committees - the Bicycle, Pedestrian & Traffic Safety Committee, and the Sustainability Committee. This has enabled me to get to know town staff and members of the Town Council. I want to encourage more residents to build relationships with the town through volunteering.
Welcoming The Newcomer
If you move to Portola Valley with a family that has children, you are likely to get to know other families with similar-aged children through the school system and through children playing together. If you come without children then it can take longer to know what facilities are available to residents. I propose we provide town events to welcome newcomers, as has happened in the past, where new residents can meet each other, town staff and officials. It is also an opportunity to showcase some of the services provided by the town, town committees and volunteer groups.
We have neighborhood watch groups and emergency preparedness neighborhoods. We need to make resilient neighborhood groups because in an emergency, neighbors will need to help neighbors. Where are those who cannot drive who might need a ride? Who would need help turning off their gas or water in an earthquake? Some neighborhoods have Friday night street parties, other neighborhood groups have get-togethers for special days like July 4th. We need to strengthen our neighbourhood relationships to increase neighborhood enjoyment and safety. Maybe neighbors can car pool, helping the town reduce energy use too.
The trail users have changed since they were developed. There are more mountain bikes wanting to use Portola Valley trails. Mountain bikes are useful for children riding to school. We need to work with the schools to find ways that children can bike together to reduce the number of cars going to schools. Safe Routes to School have been identified, but are they in the right place.
We need to look at whether we need parallel trails for horses and bicycles in some places, ensure crossings are well-marked and signage is appropriate.
To ensure that trail walkers and joggers feel safe, I recommend that a volunteer group arrange hiking meetups for town residents to increase social interaction.
Aging In Place
The Portola Valley Women's Club has held some Zoom sessions on Aging in Place. There are swimming pool activities open to all at Alpine Hills. Various town committees organize talks and events. We could still do more to help older seniors stay engaged and make new friends as old ones leave the community. We don't have a senior center in Portola Valley, and with many very active seniors, maybe we don't need one. However, it may be useful to have daytime activities in the town center for seniors to reduce loneliness and anxiety.
Support Town Low Income Visitors
I am delighted the town has initiated community conversations on race and equity. Together with the library, the town is addressing prejudice with a talk from author Jennifer Eberhardt on her book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think and Do at 6:30 pm on Tuesday September 29th. On October 19th at 7:00 pm another event is planned with the County Sheriff's Office and other panelists on policing and justice.
In Portola Valley, we have many low income workers - gardeners, cleaners, construction workers, pool cleaners, garbage collectors. How can we make them feel included? Can we help them achieve their dreams by encouraging support for their families, holding events for them and helping them use energy efficient tools? As residents we can think individually or collectively about actions that will help regular visitors to our town feel valued and encouraged.
The Library and County Agencies Can Help Us
How can we reach out to those who feel marginalized? We have library programs to help people access computers and learn. Let's make sure that those who are discriminated against because of race, gender, ethnicity, language or disability can join town events by working with our committees.
We don't know when risks will become realities. So I'm running on addressing risks generally by:
Managing fire risk means helping residents create defensible spaces, promoting Woodside Fire District fire-awareness courses and helping make Portola Valley a Firewise community (PV Ranch is a Firewise community).
More people die in Portola Valley from vehicle accidents than from fire. Accidents occur because drivers are tired, distracted, drug-impaired or speeding, in many cases. In 2018, in California, 3563 died in traffic accidents - 1069 were alcohol-impaired, 927 were speeding-related. Also in California, in 2018, 488 motor cyclists, 893 pedestrians and 155 cyclists died because of traffic accidents.
The town has helped promote safe driving through the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety (BPTS) Committee, on which I have served since 2013, that receives reports on accidents each month from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. In 2017, Portola Valley had 14 accident victims, either killed or injured, and 3 were speed-related, 1 was at night. Cyclists were involved in 9 of these accidents. Cycling education starts at a young age and I engaged the San Mateo County Sheriff's office, to hold a cycling training session to preschoolers at Carillon Preschool, attached to Christ Church Portola Valley.
Portola Valley Residents are encouraged to keep supplies of water, should the pipes bringing water to their homes get damaged in an earthquake. Earthquakes can cause many hazards - falling trees, cracks in the earth, crumbling buildings, road closures, fires, water & gas leaks, fallen power lines, blackouts, road accidents, food distribution disruption and more. Most know the basics - how to shelter under a table, have adequate supplies and avoid downed power lines. I can help the town encourage citizens to prepare for an earthquake by using warnings on cellphones and ensuring residents can turn off their gas and water supplies.
It's encouraging in Portola Valley to see residents complying with San Mateo County Guidelines and town messaging to wear masks, social distance and shelter. We have lost Portola Valley residents due to the SARS CoV-2 Risk. The PVCares initiative has helped some residents with shopping and other activities. I hope this initiative can continue, as part of my vision to encourage helpful relationships among residents.
Another risk is worry and anxiety. Parents are anxious when their children walk to school, older adults are frightened of COVID-19, others fear government mandates, some have financial worries. The consequences of worry are that people fail to thrive, they may even be tempted to self-harm or suicide. We need to help people find appropriate help for their worries - risk mitigation is one way to reduce worry. Cars are dangerous, but risks have been mitigated through body design, seat-belts, rules-of-the-road and highway patrols. We can reduce worry for other risks through reasoned and pragmatic implementation of mitigations.
Climate Change Risks
When I was on the Sustainability Committee, we worked on reducing the town's carbon footprint by encouraging solar panel installation, promoting LED lights, adding charging points for electric cars at the town center and providing energy monitoring devices in the library. We also had seminars on climate science and energy conservation.
So whereas, I want to encourage water-saving, there are cases where to enhance the beauty of a small area around a home drip irrigation or water-efficient sprinklers may add to one's enjoyment, safety and peace of mind.
Moving away from dependence on fossil fuels is one way to reduce our impact on the climate. Peninsula Clean Energy has encouraged residents to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Climate change helps cause wildfires through hotter weather and lightning strikes. So making the community resilient to climate change, means reducing fire and lightning risk. As television aerials, which sometimes had lightning conductors attached to them are removed from roofs we need to ensure that those buildings likely to get struck have lightning rods affixed.
We cannot avoid aging, but many reluctantly are forced to move away because of the high costs of homes in Portola Valley as they age. Others cannot affod to move because their mortgages are paid and their property taxes because of Proposition 13 are low. I would be against any repealing of Proposition 13 as it helps cash-strapped seniors.
According to Data USA, the median age of Portola Valley is 54.4 years, older than many other Peninsula cities. The Portola Valley Women's Association has been discussing Aging In Place. Many would like to stay in their homes as they age. It is vital to support these residents, many of whom are lonely, forgotten and no longer able to drive. We don't have a senior center in Portola Valley. I am interested in whether you think the town needs one.
We do have the Continuous Care Community - the Sequoias - that opens its doors for some events and activities to the general public in normal times. I have experience in leading a non-profit that supports care communities with spiritual messages of hope, music and pet visits. I hope our PVCares initiative can be expanded to help all citizens. I will advocate for the older adults in our community.
Risks to Plants
The Conservation Committee encourages native plant cultivation, and discourages invasive plant species. I am in favor of the town's Broom Pull day when invasive Scottish Broom plants are pulled. Removing Harding grass from the Frog Pond next to Corte Madera School is another encouraging initiative. Maybe we should have other days to remove non-native plants - which plants would you choose - what do you think?
Mountain lions prowl around Portola Valley and hide in the vegetation. Trail signs put out by the town are helpful, as well as alerts from the Sheriff's Office. Whereas the risk is minimal, I'd like to encourage residents who are fearful of mountain lion attacks to hike with friends and neighbors, another reason to help residents cultivate resilient relationships.
Why Do I Focus On Risk Management?
To help Portola Valley residents and visitors enjoy our community, thrive and reduce anxiety.
Angela Hey is a candidate for Portola Valley Town Council. She is an experienced technology marketing consultant who serves nonprofits, as a volunteer.