Guest Opinion: Portola Valley City Council’s housing plan fails to consider fire safety | New

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The California Constitution clearly states that “the protection of public safety is the first responsibility of local government.” Unfortunately, our City Council ignores this fundamental responsibility.

In the Portola Valley, we live among many geological faults, steep hills and dangerous ravines covered with dry meadows, trees and brush. The increasingly hot and dry weather conditions increase our serious fire risks.

The devastating wildfires that have ravaged California over the past decade underscore the urgent need to address the extreme wildfire risks we all face. We must promote building and development practices that do not allow wildfires to destroy entire communities. We must organize our residents and schools to evacuate safely when fires occur. We need to improve our escape routes and capacity, upgrade our unsafe and unreliable power grid, modernize our water supply system, and repair our erratic communications infrastructure. Urgent city-wide action is needed.

Instead, the current city council is rushing to add over 250 new homes to the city with little regard for the impact of such massive development on our public safety, fiscal integrity, or the future character of our city. What will be the impact of such a dense new development on the risk of spreading forest fires in our neighborhoods? What impact will this have on our ability to evacuate our homes and schools? What improvements and expansions of existing roads, water supply, sewage, communications and electrical infrastructure will be needed? What additional resources for school, fire suppression, and emergency response need to be added? Your taxes will probably go up to pay for all of this.

A responsible city council must first address and answer these fundamental questions, before rushing to allow vast new development without regard to its risk, cost and impact.

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