Los Altos City Council Meetings June 2018

June 12, 2018

The City Council adopted the ordinance establishing Affordable Housing Impact Fees for residential and non-residential development. The fees would generate money for the city to use toward Affordable Housing initiatives. 

The City Council adopted a measure that may provide additional revenue for the city by placing on the November general election ballot an increase in Transient Occupancy Tax from 11% to 14%. In the meantime, the city will take no further action regarding a cannabis tax.

The City Council received the staff report about the effects of the proposed initiative delivered by petition from Los Altos City residents to identify public properties, parks, open space, and public and institutional land which can’t be sold, re-designated, or transferred without a vote by city residents. There are also lease prohibitions in the initiative. After comment by three residents, the council in accord with state law, decided not to immediately adopt the proposal, but voted 5/0 to put the measure on the November ballot. 

The city staff report found many difficulties in the initiative described above, especially in the details about leases of city-owned property. After six public comments, the council members directed the staff to prepare an ordinance to be submitted for the November election with elements identified by the council. The elements will include language to preserve from sale all city-owned land and properties; address provisions for long term leases; changes in use of city-owned land (except parks); and municipal services (eg, fire stations) parcels to exclude from the need for a vote. The measure must be prepared by the July 10 meeting, leaving time for community discussion, to bring forth a measure that will succeed on the November ballot, instead of the petition-delivered initiative.

June 26, 2018

The City Council authorized an agreement with Grass-Roots Ecology (formerly Acterra) as steward to manage and restore the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve. Previous action by the council for the 5.7 acre preserve was October 12, 2009. Staff assured the council that the selected steward has previously provided responsible service and is knowledgeable about open space needs.

After consideration of a Public Art Commission plan on May 8, 2018, an ordinance for a Public Art Development Fee is scheduled for a second reading and tentative approval on July 10, 2018. It will apply to non-single-family resident, private commercial, office, and public facility (eg, theater) development. Developers will install public art or pay a 1% fee on construction costs that exceed $1 million. The funds will be used for acquisition, maintenance, and promotion of art in the community. A second reading and tentative approval is scheduled for July 10, 2018.

Council considered two ordinances to amend the Municipal Zoning Code, first regarding Accessory Structures at 800 square feet size, including a basement if applicable, and a five-foot setback from the property line.

Second, to bring Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) into compliance with state law, increase the number of housing units, and address affordable housing in Los Altos, the ordinance will apply to conversion of existing space (eg. garage); new detached ADUs; and addition to existing accessory structures. Both ordinances are scheduled for a second reading and tentative approval on July 10, 2018.

For a ballot measure to compete with the effect of the proposed initiative by Los Altos City residents to identify public properties, parks, open space, and public and institutional land which can’t be sold, re-designated, or transferred without a vote by city residents, the City Council received and directed staff to revise the measure to include elements discussed at the meeting.

After public pro and con comment by six residents, council members discussed three parts for the measure. Voter approval is required for any sale, re-designation, or transfer of city-owned land parcels, such as parks, open spaces, public properties, and/or public institutional land. Voter approval for any re-designation of city-owned land defined as park, open space, public property, and/or public institutional land to a different land use.

Voter approval for lease of any portion of city-owned land, including new leases for new use, for non-municipal use, to private entity, or to private for-profit entity generated debate. Mayor Jean Mordo reminded council members and audience that the proposed initiative must benefit the city and increase vibrancy as part of the Downtown Vision. In addition, questions came up about a minimum length of a lease to trigger voter approval. The staff will draw up a revised measure for the meeting on July 10, 2018 that includes the lease elements agreed by members. At that meeting a decision must be made to include lease requirements in a simple, clean initiative or delete the lease section from the initiative and write an ordinance saying leases for the designated city-owned properties require 4 out of 5 votes by the City Council (a super majority).

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Mountain View Whisman School District Meetings May & June 2018

Enrollment Priorities

Trustees approved the recommended enrollment priorities drafted by the Enrollment Priorities Task Force.  The new Administrative Regulation No. 5115 will go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year and give first priority for enrollment to students who reside in a neighborhood’s school boundaries.  Second priority will be given to students who are the children of staff working as .5 FTE or higher if space is available at a school site.  Voluntary transfers are allowed to under-enrolled schools – those with 25% or greater under-enrollment – on a year by year basis and not including siblings.  Special circumstances will be reviewed on a case by case basis for exemptions through a formalized process via the district office.  For the choice schools, Mistral and Stevenson, a parent is required to attend an information session before applying.

Boundary Exemptions

The board also voted to adopt one exemption for the roll-out of new school boundaries in the 2019-2020 school year.  When the new enrollment boundaries take effect, students entering fifth grade and their younger siblings will be grandfathered for one year.  All other students will move to their new school if they are in a different enrollment boundary.  After that first year, the younger siblings of the grandfathered fifth graders will transfer to their new school if they are in a different enrollment boundary.  If a student has special hardship circumstances in light of the transfer, they can apply on a case by case basis for an exemption through the district office.

School Naming

Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School won support from the board as the name of the new school planned to open in the 2019-2020 school year.  Articles detailing the decision can be found in the Mountain View Voice and the San Francisco Chronicle.  Based on the list of names suggested during the community input process, trustees also voted to give the district’s two preschool locations the joint name of Barack and Michelle Obama Preschool and to rename the boardroom the Gail Urban Moore Leadership Center in honor of Trustee Gail Urban Moore who served on the Mountain View Elementary School Board for 29 years.  

Solar Power Planning

Over the summer the district will send out a request for proposals (RFP) for solar power installation across district school sites.  Sage Renewables presented the board with a projected cost benefit analysis of installing solar panels across all school sites or at three school sites with the most space and highest return available.  Board members also discussed funding sources, including the possibility of a new bond measure.

2018-2019 Budget Adoption (5/31)

The board adopted the final budget for the 2018-2019 school year after staff corrected an error that led to a miscalculation in the projected budget over several years.  In an accounting mistake, the district underestimated revenues and overestimated costs leading to a savings this year of  $1.6 million.  The savings this year mean the district will also be within budget for the next three years.  


A public hearing was held and the final Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) was adopted by the board.  

— Devon Conley, Observer

Bullis Charter School Meeting June 2018

June 18, 2018: The Bullis board accomplished its four agendized tasks for this meeting: [1] On a third reading, the board unanimously approved its Local Control Accountability Plan. [2] At its second reading, the board unanimously approved its 2018-19 school budget; [3] It had a lengthy and thoughtful discussion about board officers. Noting that their governance structure is that of a corporation, should they continue with having one chairperson or have co-chairs? One chair is simpler for communications, but is a lot of work. The board tentatively agreed to perhaps have co-vice chairs in order to share that work. Current co-vice chair Ann Waterman Roy was appointed the new chair of BCS for its tentative July meeting. (Board chairperson John Phelps is stepping down from this position.) [4] The board discussed possible extra July and August meeting dates before their normal “start of the school year” board meeting the Monday before the start of school. That firm date is August 20th.

     Re item #1, LCAP, the State of California utilizes a template for school districts to fill in and submit to their county offices of education. BCS describes itself this way: “BCS has a diverse student population with over 25 languages spoken, including Farsi, Vietnamese, Hindi, Finnish, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Greek, and Cantonese… Student demographics are as follows: Asian 49%, White 29%, Two or more Races 19%, Hispanic 4%, and African American 1%… All BCS students are expected to master or surpass rigorous, explicit Content and Performance Standards, and our staff has been trained to assess effectively each student’s academic and social emotional needs in order to provide programs enabling every child to maximize his/her individual abilities.” (Since LCAPs are long, complex documents, I am not going to include more detail. If people want to see the board-approved BCS LCAP in full, they may get it from BCS or from me.) 

     Re item #2, 2018/19 board budget report, their “ending fund balance” (including depreciation) for this school year is $1,139,525, with a reserve of 9.7%. School districts are required to submit three year budget plans to their county offices, so their 2018/19 preliminary budget is $1,157,606, with a reserve of 9.1%. Their 2019/20 projected budget is $1,181,642, with an 8.2% reserve, and their 2020/21 projected budget is $1,234,613, with a 7.9% reserve. (School districts are generally required to have at least a 3% reserve and commonly post a smaller reserve in the “out years.”) Their enrollment assumptions for staffing include one additional 8th grade class in 2018/19 and one additional fulltime employee. Their assumed enrollment goes up from 898 students in 2017/18, to 912 in 2018/19, to 1066 in 2019/20, and 1134 in 2020/21.

     Bullis Charter School board meetings are held in Classroom 35 on its north campus next to Egan Jr. High. Two people called in to attend this meeting: board member Clara Roa (which was listed on the posted agenda) and Superintendent Principal Wanny Hersey. Two board members were absent from tonight’s meeting (Rich Tang and Francis La Poll) while the other six members were in attendance in the meeting room.

— Ellen Wheeler, Observer

Mountain View-Los Altos High School District Meetings May 2018

Board Meeting 5/7/18

Two presentations were made that showed trustees what the schools are doing to promote excellent education.

 1. Performing Arts

  • LAHS and MVHS Performing arts departments offer instrumental choral, drama, and dance courses.
  • Classes range from open-to-everyone, audition, and touring and competition opportunities.
  • To address challenges, LAHS requests more building and storage space to create a stagecraft class, and to add new counseling staff.
  • Student achievements were highlighted
  • MVHS has stagecraft and makeup classes.

2. Los Altos Academy of Engineering and Design

  • Courses in mechanical engineering, computer science, fabrication, and design.
  • Also provides career assistance and opportunities for students.

—  Nathan Pier and Ellen Wheeler, Substitute Observers

Board Meeting 5/21/18

World Language Department Report

Mountain View- Los Altos High School has 12 teachers teaching 22 courses to 1129 students in Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Japanese.  Los Altos High School has 12 teachers teaching 23 courses to 1349 students in Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Latin.  Both schools are developing new and improved courses for Native and Heritage Spanish speakers. (A heritage language is a minority language learned by its speakers at home as children, but it is never fully developed because its speakers grow up with a dominant language in which they become more competent.)

Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen presented a preliminary overview of the 2018-19 budget.  Budget assumptions: secured property taxes growing by 7%, enrollment expected to be 4,433 students, plan to hire 8 additional teachers, health insurance premiums growing by 7%, MVLA Foundation donation is expected to be $1.9M, and the cost of retirement programs will be 16.28% for certificated staff and 17.7% for classified staff.  Progress is expected toward the district goal of a 20% reserve. Board members suggested adding funding for consultants to address student safety, academic and college counseling, Latino parent outreach, and data analysis management.

Associate Superintendent Margarita Navarro presented the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) preparation.  The LCAP documents progress in closing the achievement gap for English Learners and SocioEconomically Disadvantaged students, based on goals set in 2106-17: Balancing high-quality instruction with student wellness; Improving Math performance; Improving performance of English Language Learners; and Increasing Special Education student placement in the Least Restrictive Environment.

— Sally Ahnger, Observer

Action Corner:

We are in the final stretch of our petition signature gathering to qualify the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative for the CA ballot. To recap, the Schools and Communities First Initiative is a measure that would restore approximately 11 billion dollars per year to all CA schools and local community services by closing a Proposition 13 loophole that has resulted in certain commercial properties being undervalued. This undervaluation gives some large businesses and corporations a huge property tax break that they don’t need (the Prop 13 property tax rate would not change and is lower than most other states) and gives these certain companies an unfair advantage over others that pay much more. A more even playing field is long overdue. For more information, Google “Schools and Communities First”.

The state coalition (LWVC is on the Executive Committee) now has 270 endorsers,  many contributors including the Zuckerbergs, and 630,522 petition signatures. The goal for signatures is 850,000.

Many thanks to our League members who have participated so far in gathering over 400 signatures. If you aren’t already circulating petitions, please consider joining in to help to get this important issue on the 2020 ballot. I have gathered signatures by just carrying petitions with me most places I normally go in addition to taking them with me to a march, and several events including the Los Altos Farmer’s Market. Sue Graham got signatures from her neighbors, Claire Noonan has been getting signatures at her education meetings and events, Natalie Elefant has had great success, Donna Poulos recruited 2 non-League friends and together they have been the top signature gatherers. Please contact Merrian Nevin, [email protected] or 650-224-9714 for more information or to volunteer or participate in a group effort.

Please turn in all signatures that you have gathered, even partially completed petitions by June 15, as I am traveling from June 18 to mid July and want to turn in all that we have before I leave. However, continue gathering signatures as the campaign has been extended into August. I will resume gathering petitions when I return.

Los Altos City Council Meetings May 2018

May 8, 2018

If adopted, an Affordable Housing Impact Fee would generate funds for the city to stimulate production of or enhancement of affordable housing. Keyser Marston Associates, a joint jurisdictional study by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, supports adoption. Such fees are established by the City Council, based on gross square footage, and paid before a building permit is issued. A draft ordinance presented at the meeting applies fees to residential ownership projects with an increase of 2 or more units, residential rental developments with increase of two or more units, and to non-residential developments with increase of 500 plus square footage. If the properties are for affordable housing, the fees are waived. A public hearing will occur before the council considers adoption of the ordinance, probably at the May 22, 2018, meeting.

Los Altos City prohibits short-term rentals (STR) in any zoning district. However, STRs are not expressly prohibited, rather by omission of name in the ordinances. The draft ordinance presented to City Council will expressly prohibit lodging for compensation for fewer than 30 days (28 if in February). The issue is to help preserve the low-density single family residential neighborhoods of the city. There was talk of establishing a Transient Occupancy Tax which would cover the cost to the city of STRs and allow some residents to get income and stay in their long-time residence. The ordinance will tentatively be adopted May 22, 2018.

Since the interim urgency ordinance to temporarily prohibit any cannabis production, distribution, or retail in Los Altos, the city is looking into the regulations and ordinances to authorize one or more medical or adult-use commercial cannabis retailers. There are detailed regulations by the new Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) that preserves local control over the establishment of any kind of cannabis license. The council considered types of retail suitable to the community, where businesses might be located, a limit to the total number of businesses, appropriate regulatory and permit structures, and most important, whether or not the City wants to tax any type of cannabis production, distribution, or retail. The City Council directed the staff to conduct community outreach and prepare necessary documents for a tax on cannabis revenue.

May 22, 2018

The City Council adopted the ordinance for Express Short-Term Rental Prohibition within the City of Los Altos. See minutes of May 8, 2018 for details.

The City Council introduced and waived further readings for the ordinance to establish Affordable Housing Impact Fees for residential and non-residential development. See minutes of May 8, 2018 for details.

The City Council received a Sufficiency of Initiative signatures on a petition to put an amendment measure to the city’s general plan on an election ballot. The initiative measure asks for a vote by Los Altos registered voter residents before significant changes (sale or lease or rezoning to different land us) for city-owned parks, open space, and public/institutional properties. Public comment proponents want to preserve parks and open space within city boundaries from development. Opponents say the amendment will tangle up organizations’ leasing agreements at any kind of open space areas in the city and place extensive glitches in implementation of the Downtown Vision Plan. Four options for this proposed initiative are to adopt the plan immediately, set the initiative on the November 2018 ballot, set a special election date in August 2018, or have staff write up a report for June 21 council meeting analyzing the issues the City Council has brought up and then authorize one of the first three options. Questions raised by the council members include: church leases on public property, other leasing concerns, more detail on which properties are affected, risks of litigation over leases. Mayor Jean Mordo also asked staff to provide an alternative measure that addresses council questions, similar perhaps to one that Los Altos Hills approved. A final decision will be made at June 21, 2018, council meeting.

The City Council received the Los Altos Downtown Vision Plan (LADVP) developed by RRM Design, Land Econ Group, and Plan 2 Place Group. A downtown vision plan has been discussed at four previous city council meetings beginning in September 2016. The goal of the LADVP is to serve as the community’s long-range vision, and while not regulatory, will provide a roadmap for future public projects and private development. The plan provides the community and decision-makers with short (1-5 year), mid (5-10 year), and long-term (10-20 year) actions to implement the project. Ten chapters describe community preferences including a plan for public spaces, parking and circulation, and implementation suggestions. The plan divides downtown Los Altos into four districts: First Street properties, Edith Avenue, Main and State Streets, and San Antonio Road. When City Council asked how to move forward to implement LADVP, the design group presenters suggested focus on revision of parking standards; fiscal opportunities, like adding another hotel; and adding a live theatre to the central gathering place. The council requested a 3-D model and more financial analysis which will be presented before adoption of a final plan.

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Mayor Lenny Siegel on the housing crisis in Mountain View

Mayor Lenny Siegel spoke at the Technology and Society Committee luncheon on May 8th on the affordable housing crisis, pointing out the steps the City of Mountain View has been taking the last few years to help solve the housing crisis. He showed a chart which vividly pointed out how the City’s current plans could lead to an increase in housing stock of 77% over the number of units in 2010.

He stressed that North Bayshore (NBS) will be “car light” and will include complete neighborhoods with housing and parks, as well as retail and housing.  He pointed out that even though most of the new housing being built in the City is high end, increasing the supply of housing does help. Also, since the City is requiring 15% below market rate units in all its new rental developments, this will lead to significantly more affordable units.  When/if the goal of 9,850 new units in NBS is reached, with 20% of these units-or 1,970-being affordable, this will be more than the current number of affordable units in Mountain View.

He also touched on why he and other councilmembers opposed Sen. Wiener’s bill, SB 827, which died in committee.  He stated that this bill did not require proper transitions to existing neighborhoods, it focused on housing near transit centers rather than near job centers such as NBS, and it wouldn’t have allowed the bonus FAR system the City has in place now; this bonus FAR program requires developers who want to build higher to provide community benefits such as affordable housing, parks, land for schools, etc.  He hopes Wiener will visit Mountain View to see why SB 827 would have been a bad idea.

He hopes the State will provide transportation money to cities that build housing, as transportation is a serious problem.  Most of our local transportation money goes to San Jose.  The first and last mile situation is still the major issue. We need to recognize that ridership will not cover the cost of transit and come up with other ways to pay for it.  He’s hopeful that more ridesharing pools to get folks to transit centers will help with the first mile.

The City is moving towards building a fast link between the train station and NBS, looking at an elevated system.  The City is also working on preparing an employee head count tax to go on the November ballot; this money could be spent by Mountain View on its preferred transit needs.

Finally, he’s talking with neighboring cities, sharing what Mountain View has been doing to create more housing to encourage them to do more.

— Report submitted by Sue Russell, Housing Committee Co-chair

Mountain View Whisman School District Meetings April 2018

MVWSD Board Meetings, April 5th and 19th, 2018

In April the Mountain View Whisman School District Trustees reviewed the first and second trimester benchmark assessment results and took an in depth look at the 2017-2018 English Learner Board Goal.

Benchmark Assessment Report

The Benchmark Assessments are created by the district’s Assessment Task Force, a group of over twenty elementary and middle school teachers.  In kindergarten through second grade, math and English Language Arts (ELA) benchmarks are given each trimester and assess the standards covered during the trimester only. In third through eighth grade, the math and ELA benchmarks are given in the second and third trimesters and include content from the entire school year.  There is also a writing benchmark and an additional literacy benchmark called Literably.  The benchmarks help teachers track student learning during the school year in a less formal setting than the annual state testing.

The benchmark assessments were revised for this year, therefore it is not possible to compare this year’s data to last year’s results.  For kindergarten through second grade, the first trimester and second trimester results are not comparable because they test different content.  For the third through fifth grade benchmarks, the first and second trimester tests cover the same content and track growth over the course of the year.  The benchmark data can be found here.

2017-2018 English Learner Board Goal Update

In January 2017, the board created a goal to address the achievement gap between English Learners (ELs) and their peers.  The 2015 District Quality Review found that “The provision for English Language Learners across the District is ineffective, inconsistent, and, in many cases, counterproductive.”  The District Quality Review and Schools Reviews laid the groundwork for the Strategic Plan 2021 and the board’s EL goal for the 2017-2018 school year.

Research on English language acquisition, “indicates academic English language proficiency at 6-8 years,” according to the presentation. The board’s goal is to “Revise the English Learner program to ensure a minimum of 80% of students who are enrolled in the program will reach competency in the English language on par with their peers within a six year period.” This goal focuses on English Learner students who are  Long Term English Learners (LTELs) or at risk of becoming LTELs.  LTELs are middle school students classified as ELs for more than six years.  Students at risk of becoming LTELs are fifth grade students classified as ELs for six years (discussed in more depth in the November-December observer report).  Across the district, Long Term English Learners and students at risk of being LTELs total 177 students or 15% of the English Learner population.

In October, the board discussed how to achieve their goal by adopting English language development programs for students in upper and lower grades (included in the October observer report). For the current school year, the district chose separate approaches for the upper and lower grades. For the upper grades, the district adopted the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), an instructional model to support ELs.  For the lower grades, the district originally planned to implement an evidence-based early learning language acquisition program for kindergarten through third grade. Heidi Smith, the district’s Director of Federal, State, and Strategic Programs, recommended the district create its own program drawing from different models reviewed, and the board agreed.

In April, the in-house K-3 Early Language Learning Safety Net for English Learners was unveiled. Rather than implementing a program across the elementary schools, the district will have a nineteen-day summer school for K-6, with a total of eleven classes.  Using curriculum developed by the district, the summer school will foster language development through science content.

For the 2017-2018 school year, the district also changed the English Learner goal for individual schools’ Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA).  The SPSA are plans developed by principals and staff at each school using goals driven by the board and student achievement data from the previous year.  This year, schools were directed to focus on LTELs and students at risk of becoming LTELs.  The previous year, schools had focused on increasing the performance of all ELs in English Language Arts and mathematics.

The April 5th board discussion focused on how to track English Learner student progress in light of the board goal.  Dr. Rudolph asked trustees what data they want the district to gather to measure the board’s success.  Each of the data tracking options focused on students who enrolled in the district for six years, meaning that if an EL student arrived after second grade they would not be included in the data used to measure the board’s success.  There are challenges with the quality of data management software used to monitor student progress.

Trustees decided the district should track students by cohort, separating students new to the district each year into subgroups.  Each year, the district loses and gains students at different grade levels. Only students enrolled in the district for at least six years will be used to measure the board goal.

— Devon Conley, Observer

Los Altos City Council Meetings April 2018

April 10, 2018

The City Council directed the staff to negotiate an exclusive lease agreement with Children’s Corner, the non-profit drop-in daycare and pre-school in the current Hillview Community Center. A revised Letter of Intent presented to the City Council asks that the renewal agreement extend the current lease until March 2019 before construction on the new community center begins in June 2019. Children’s Corner organization agrees to increase their financial commitment/deposit from $600,000 to $1million to provide funding for constructing the expanded square footage in the new facility. Children’s Corner will provide up to $200,000 for purchase and installation of new playground equipment. The City Council directed staff to reduce the lease to 10 years instead of 20 years. Children’s Corner support helps the current budget for the new building which needs $5-10 million above the $35 million already allocated for renovation of the facility.

Since 1981 Children’s Corner has leased rooms and outdoor space in the Hillview Community Center to assist families within the Los Altos city boundaries, families of city employees who work in Los Altos, and, regardless of residence or employment, low-income and/or military families and special education needs children. Despite criticism both written and expressed during the public comment period that dedicating public land for non-profit organizations is bad policy, the City Council agreed that the benefits to the city outweigh the objections.

April 24, 2018

City Council received a third professional services agreement with an architect to provide design services to renovate the Grant Park Center Commercial Kitchen. Design services costs have increased substantially over the budget limit for the renovation. After discussion of other ways to upgrade the cabinets and equipment, Jeannie Bruins, council member, moved to eliminate the commercial kitchen renovation. It was approved 4 to 1.

City Council heard from Myra Orta, 50 year Los Altos resident, who advocated for gun safety and control actions to council members. The suggestions to alter existing municipal code laws were:

  • Prohibit sale of fire arms for any reason in downtown Los Altos.
  • Motivate ‘gun buy back’ by Los Altos Police Department.
  • Define what vendors may sell at city festivals, by, for example, prohibiting sale of toy weapons.

Council member Mary Prochnow suggested the attorney, Chris Diaz, examine the possibility of prohibition within the entire city limits and the regulations for prohibiting sales of toy weapons at city-sponsored festivals. Council member, Jeannie Bruins, outlined the ‘gun buy back’ policy of Santa Clara County (SCC). She suggested promoting ‘buy back’ police department policies in Los Altos Town Crier and city newsletters and noted that SCC offers gift cards in exchange for the weapons returned. Police chief, Andy Galea, said that Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Sunnyvale are examining the funding issues to promote ‘buy back’ – not to purchase, but staffing etc. Mayor Jean Mordo asked the city attorney to look into laws about prohibiting sale over the internet of weapons parts and equipment to Los Altos residents.

Los Altos Municipal Code requires permits to own a gun, prohibits weapons on public streets, requires a seller to post and give a copy of city gun regulations to purchaser, and allows for police confiscation of weapons, if necessary.

California has an A rating for the six key gun safety policies on the Gun Law Scorecard kept by the Law Trend Watch of the Giffords Gun Safety Foundation.

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meetings March & April 2018

Update on Initiatives to Assist Homeless and Consideration of Parking Enforcement Options

On March 6, the City Council received an update on many initiatives previously approved to assist homeless people in Mountain View. A biannual count conducted Countywide revealed that the homeless population increased from 276 in 2015 to 416 in 2017. The Council voted to continue a number of programs with some minor refinements based on experience gained over the past 10 months. These programs include: rapid rehousing (short term financial assistance); biohazard waste cleanup and waste dump pilot (for RV dwellers); safe parking program pilot for vehicle dwellers; RV/vehicle repair assistance; Dignity on Wheels (mobile shower and washer/dryer services for hygiene support); and rental assistance.

The Council also provided direction on parking enforcement policy options to address concerns about RV and vehicle dwellers on public right-of-way. A December 2017 count by the Mountain View Police Department identified 291 inhabited vehicles in the City. After considerable deliberation, the Council voted 4-3 to “use current tools with enhancements to parking and towing enforcement in order to enhance the management of City streets.” Under this direction, the Police Department would continue to enforce existing parking regulations, and additional traffic measures and parking signage could be installed to enhance safety.

Short-Term Rental Regulations

Short-term rentals (like Airbnb) are currently prohibited under the municipal code – that is, hotel and motel uses are not permitted in residential areas. On March 20, the Council directed staff to study allowing and regulating short-term rentals. Short-term rental operators would pay the transient occupancy tax (TOT), which is paid by hotel and motel operators. Additionally, the Council directed staff to explore placing a limit on the number of days homes can be rented out unhosted (that is, without the homeowner occupying the home).

Amendments to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance

The Council approved modifications to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance on March 6 to conform to the voter-approved Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), also known as Measure V. This included increasing the eligibility threshold for relocation assistance from 80% area median income to 120% area median income. (As a baseline, the median income in Santa Clara County is $113,300 for a four-person household.)

The other key decision was related to the “First Right of Return” provision in the CSFRA. This pertains to the Ellis Act, a law passed by the state legislature in the 1980s that allows landlords to legally withdraw their rental units from the housing market. The Council on a 5-2 vote approved the staff recommendation, which was to be consistent with provisions previously approved by the Rental Housing Committee. Under this direction, tenants who are displaced when their landlord withdraws their unit from the rental market have certain rights and protections. If that landlord returns that unit to the rental market and re-rents it to a new tenant (or fails to provide the former tenant with a First Right of Return) within two years of the withdrawal, then the former tenant has a right to collect actual and exemplary damages. For up to five years after the withdrawal, the former tenant has a right to renew their tenancy under the same monthly rental amount as when the tenancy was terminated. For up to ten years after the withdrawal, the former tenant has a First Right of Return, but no longer at the original rental amount as at the time of the termination of the tenancy.

Gatekeeper Process Update

On March 27, the Council approved modifications to the gatekeeper process. Development proposals that require discretionary actions by the Council (such as General Plan Amendments or re-zonings) must first receive Council permission before they can be processed by City staff. This preliminary “approval” is referred to as the “gatekeeper process” – in other words, for development proposals that do not comply with existing zoning or General Plan regulations, the Council needs to explicitly allow the project to move forward to the entitlements process. This ensures that City planners do not spend a lot of time on a project that the Council will definitely not support.

Previously, gatekeeper proposals did not require public noticing beyond what is required for regular meeting agendas. The Council voted to require that notifications be mailed to property owners near gatekeeper sites and to any tenants living in units that would be demolished or affected by the gatekeeper project. Additionally, gatekeeper proposal applicants would need to provide more information about their proposal to the Council, and approved gatekeepers would require Council reauthorization if significant changes are made to the proposal. (In other words, if the Council allows a gatekeeper proposal to move forward, and the developer makes substantial changes to the proposal, then the proposal would need to go through the gatekeeper process again.)

Public Comment Regarding Newly Proposed Charter Amendment

On April 17th, nearly 20 members of the public used the portion of the meeting reserved for comment on items not on the agenda to speak about the effort to place a charter amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would significantly modify the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), also known as Measure V. Six speakers expressed concerns about the impact of the CSFRA on their rental property and supported the effort. The remaining speakers urged residents to not sign the petitions circulating to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

The most significant provision in the charter amendment would reduce the vacancy threshold at which the CSFRA would be suspended entirely. The CSFRA grants the Rental Housing Committee the authority to suspend the law (terminating the rent stabilization program and the just cause eviction protections) if vacancy rates exceed 5%. If approved by voters, the proposed charter amendment would reduce that threshold from 5% to 3% and make the suspension mandatory. The current vacancy rate is approximately 4.4%.

Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

Despite strong support from the Council for environmental sustainability efforts and programs, the updated Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory revealed that 2015 emissions were significantly higher than the baseline 2005 levels. The inventory is a regular measurement of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions being generated citywide.

On April 24, City staff alerted the Council that, even with the 100% carbon-free electricity being procured by the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority, 2020 emissions are projected to be significantly higher than the goal for that year. Transportation and energy together comprise more than 90% of all emissions, and while emissions from energy are down from 2012, transportation emissions have increased significantly. This means that, despite very positive progress on reducing emissions from electricity, increased emissions from transportation not only wipe out the progress made with cleaner energy, but in fact is making things much worse than projected.

The Council approved the staff recommendations to increase the frequency of developing greenhouse gas inventories, conduct a transportation greenhouse gas analysis, and begin working on the next Environmental Sustainability Action Plan (ESAP-4), which includes a number of programs and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Human Rights Analysis Pilot

In December 2016, the Council approved a resolution designating Mountain View a “Human Rights City” and adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as guiding principles. On April 3rd, 2018, the Council approved a pilot program based on a recommendation from the Human Relations Commission to “implement a human rights policy analytical framework to analyze policy decisions through a human rights lens.” The pilot program would assess the impacts of policy proposals on four priority concerns: housing displacement, housing affordability, social equity (disparate impacts on racial, ethnic and economic groups in Mountain View), and economic prosperity (fiscal impacts on small businesses and specific demographic groups in Mountain View).

The Council approved the staff recommendation to apply the pilot to three upcoming policy issues: Short-Term Rental Regulations, the East Whisman Precise Plan, and Vision Zero, which is a goal to eliminate all bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries caused by collisions with cars. During the pilot, the Council will evaluate the usefulness of the additional analysis and the impact on staff time and resources.

VTA North Bayshore Transportation Access Study

On April 17, the Council provided input on a study conducted by VTA in partnership with Google regarding transportation access to the North Bayshore area. Originally a feasibility study on a Light Rail extension project from the Bayshore/NASA Station, the study scope expanded to evaluate several transportation technologies. Based on a number of factors including capital and operational costs, the study recommends a “hybrid option of buses and autonomous vehicles (AVs)” in the near term, and further analysis of AVs and possible light rail in the long term. The Council generally agreed with the analysis and directed staff to work with VTA to identify funding partners and integrate this work with the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) study, which is investigating alignments and transportation technologies that will connect North Bayshore with the Downtown Transit Center.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer