I support the Conservation Committee's efforts to promote Portola Valley's natural environment. We need to make their documents more widely known. We received a Native and Invasive Plants list on arriving in Portola Valley.
I supported Portola Valley Neighbors United (PVNU) on its efforts to save the Frog Pond from having affordable housing placed nearby by creating a Photoshop picture of what housing could look like alongside this rural gem.
Risky Brush and Trees
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.
I support favoring the natural environment over the built environment in most situations. Design-thinking requires us to consider the impact of a new build on the quality of life, the rural ambience of Portola Valley and wildlife impacts. Occasionally, there will be situations, where we have to compromise, for example if commercial properties near the corner of Alpine and Portola Roads are rebuilt, we may need to favor pragmatic solutions for parking cars, increasing building height or illuminating interiors at night that favor the building architecture over vegetation, for example. Portola Valley's Conservation Guide for Residents goes into more detail.
The vigilance of Portola Valley's Architectural and Site Control Commission (ASCC) means that houses are designed to fit in with the natural environment. The Commission helps the town avoid "the erection of structures or additions or alterations thereto of unsightly or obnoxious appearance or which are not properly related to their sites". I support these objectives.
The Portola Road and Alpine Road scenic corridors need to be preserved as well as possible. The Land Use Element in the Town's General Plan aims to "minimize the need for non-local traffic to penetrate the planning area". Residents of other cities do come to hike and cycle in Portola Valley. Trucks deliver goods to businesses and residences. As more people order items online, the number of delivery vehicles has increased. Rush-hour traffic that is directed by Waze and other routing apps, has made the roads busier. Solutions might include displaying informative messages on the town's speed sign trailer, encouraging ride-sharing and pushing Caltrans to consider metering lights for Sand Hill Road on ramp (see Mr Roadshow's 2015 comments that says Caltrans would need to meter the entire corridor and there are no funds for that).
On a clear night you can see the stars, planets and space objects because the town has chosen to restrict lighting. The ASCC and town ordinances regulate the use of outdoor lighting. There are no street lights in Portola Valley. Let's keep it that way, so we can enjoy the night sky. I support keeping the town dark at night. I also encourage those walking or cycling at night to be well-lit.
The town's noise ordinance helps make Portola Valley a place of rest and relaxation for residents and visitors. Chippers and chain saws can only be used on weekdays, gardeners can only use power tools between 8:00 am and 5:30 pm on weekdays and between 10 am and 5 pm on Saturdays. Residents can use power tools from 10 am to 5 pm on Sundays as well. Holidays are when domestic garden tools are prohibited. There are exceptions for removing flammable brush and grass between April 15th and June 15th from 8 am to 8 pm. Given, the risk of wildfire, I'd consider extending these dates, for two weeks prior to when the Woodside Fire District chipper program for scheduled areas only.
Helping wildlife find trails and habitat requires us to be vigilant to preserve open space areas.
A critical feature of Portola Valley's ambience is that the built environment is subservient to the natural environment. I agree with this.
My caveat would be that if we need to build very many dwellings by unavoidable State mandate, and we cannot encourage residents to build ADUs, then the town should consider all options to prevent urban sprawl, which might even mean building higher than usual, or allowing existing homes to be divided into two or even three, providing the house doesn't look any different from its original plan from the road and cars can be hidden. We must still keep the town looking rural to provide healthy respite for residents, hikers, cyclists and other visitors.
I agree with keeping the rural look of our roads, particularly our approach roads, in accordance with the Scenic Corridor Plans of Alpine Road and Portola Road. Great care must be taken to ensure that views off Portola Road of the hills are maintained, in accordance with the Portola Road Corridor Plan. We have wide shoulders for cyclists. I am committed to encouraging cycling commuters who can help reduce vehicle traffic, which enhances the rural feel of the town.
Mandates for Affordable Housing
The town has decided that affordable housing should be integrated among existing development, in keeping with nature. This has worked so far, the question is will it work in the future if we have to build many more housing units than in the past. Here we look at what this means for Portola Valley.
So far the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) mandates have been met by building Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Homeowners may be able to build 2 ADUs (one attached to their house) and the other in a separate structure.
To ensure ADUs do not destroy the natural environment the town's ADU ordinance of March 27th 2019 states their number and size:
Night Sky and Noise Ordinances
We are fortunate to be able to see stars, the International Space Station and meteors on a clear night. We must be vigilant in ensuring that this is preserved. As an advocate for road safety, I see no need for street lights that could destroy the dark skies of our valley.
It is good that we can rest in the evenings and on Sundays, free from noises. We need to ensure residents understand the value of taking time off from noises that can affect hearing, temperament and relaxation in our town.
Committees and Commissions
I hope to encourage the town's commissions and committees that have contributed to the culture of rural ambience, in particular the ASCC (Architectural & Site Control Commission), the Planning Commission, Conservation Committee and various Ad Hoc Committees formed from time to time to address relevant issues.
Angela Hey is a candidate for Portola Valley Town Council. She is an experienced technology marketing consultant who serves nonprofits, as a volunteer.