Los Altos City Council November 2020

November 10, 2020

The City Council adopted four ordinances to amend the Los Altos Municipal Energy Code relating to REACH state amendments to the 2019 California Energy Code for All-Electric Buildings discussed in October council meetings. In addition, the Council adopted the ordinance amending a section of the Green Building Standards Code for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure.

The City Council will draft a letter to submit to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) providing the Council’s views on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) from the update of the allocation process presented at the meeting. The detailed presentation from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCMD) determined that the nine Bay Area counties forming the regional RHNA that includes Los Altos would have to plan for 441,176 total units across the very low, low, below moderate, and moderate income level housing by 2050. The public comments offered opinion from outrage to agreement that communities must relent in their opposition to housing needs. The ABAG presentation from the HCMD explained the factors that apply so that Los Altos’ allocation will go from 477 to 2,267 units, and the City would be required to meet 20% (580 ‘very low’ and 333 ‘low’income) of the housing goal by 2031.

Los Altos Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor, the City’s representative to ABAG, supports the methodology for arriving at the numbers but asked that the process be delayed. She feels there is no way to reach the benchmark for even the next two years, given the trouble to reach the current required units for 2023. A major problem for Los Altos is its zoning ordinances which limit building height. The letter will be written and submitted before November 27, 2020, the end of the committee’s public comment period for the proposed methodology to determine housing requirements.

November 24, 2020

City Council received the final recommendations from the Citizens’ Police Task Force. The report discusses, in detail, steps to address the needs of the stakeholders and the Los Altos community concerning police services. After comments and analysis of the job description of the position of School Resource Officer (SRO), it was decided to discontinue the SRO services at Los Altos High School. If, on occasion, police resources are needed the Police department will be called.

After fifty public comments and discussion by the council members, decisions were passed to enact measures for the process to file complaints against police officers. There are two detailed ways to submit complaints – either directly to the Police Department or to an independent third- party auditor. There also is a long list of factors to use to track complaints with the police and resolve them. In addition, an annual report of complaints and resolutions will be completed and available to the community. There will be a cost for the services of a third-party independent auditor.

A letter has been drafted to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) from The City of Los Altos, in agreement with the Cities Association of Santa Clara County, that  explains objections to the methodology that allocates the largest share of housing unit needs to Santa Clara County and unreasonable shares to the City of Los Altos. The letter states that the City agrees with the Cities Association that the RHNA process should be delayed until the State has a better understanding of the impact of COVID. See the notes explained at the November 10 meeting for details of the problems perceived by Los Altos and the Cities Association.

Los Altos City Council October 2020

October 13, 2020

Nine Los Altos residents were appointed to the Citizen’s Police Task force. A report will be delivered to the City Council at the November 24 meeting about school resource officers’ role at the MVLA Union High School District.

City Council considered the repeal and replacement of the Los Altos Municipal Code regulations for Accessory and Junior Dwelling Units by adopting a zoning amendment. In addition, the Council reduced permit fees for ADU dwellings for twelve months after the final adoption of new regulations. The Council also directed the staff to prepare an annual ADU rental income survey for the city which can be sent to the state to meet Los Altos’ Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) housing element figures. Final decision will be made on the zoning amendment at the October 27, 2020 meeting.

To continue financing for the Community Center construction the City Council authorized the City Manager and Council to pursue an agreement for a $10 million loan on behalf of the City with Sterling National Bank. The staff will return to the Council with the final agreement and resolution for approval at the council meeting on November 10, 2020.

October 27, 2020

City Council confirmed the repeal and replacement of the Los Altos Municipal Code regulations for Accessory and Junior Dwelling Units by adopting zoning amendments that provide details on the ADU and Junior ADU requirements. The main purpose of the proposed amendments is to ensure compliance with new state laws affecting the development of accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units in the residential zone districts of the City.

Every three years, the State of California adopts new building standards that are organized in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, referred to as the California Building Standards Code. The Los Altos Environmental Commission recommended the City Council adopt building electrification and electric vehicle REACH codes, which amend the 2019 California Building Standards Code that had been adopted and became effective on January 1, 2020. The ordinances would put into effect requirements for newly constructed buildings.

New development would be all-electric with exceptions and include the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure for new construction. The adoption of the new regulations would reduce carbon emissions associated with new construction, reduce costs of new construction, improve indoor air quality and building safety, support affordable housing, and increase adoption of electric vehicles, all qualities to improve the quality of living in Los Altos. The Council discussed possible exceptions. A second reading and discussion of adoption is scheduled for the November 10, 2020, council meeting.

The City Council authorized the City Manager to enter a Memorandum of Understanding between Los Altos and Santa Clara County to agree to the purchase by the county of property for developing a 90 unit affordable housing site at Distel Court in Los Altos. In addition, the council agreed to waive park-in-lieu fees and traffic impact fees for the development. Three-quarters of the site units would be low-income level units which improves the Regional Housing Needs Allocation of affordable housing for the city.

Los Altos City Council September 2020

September 8, 2020

The City Council adopted a zoning text amendment to the Municipal Code to ensure compliance with new state laws affecting the development of accessory dwelling units, junior accessory dwelling units, and multi-family accessory dwelling units in the residential zone districts of the City.

The City Council directed staff to start processing an amendment to the zoning for the General Plan Land Use designation for Civic Center lands. The amendment would limit the City’s ability to sell, transfer fee ownership, or re-designate lands of the Los Altos Civic Center. The goal is to preserve park and open space areas within the Civic Center Complex.

On July 28, 2020 a virtual Police Town Hall Meeting took place with Los Altos residents, Mayor Jan Pepper, Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor, City Manager Chris Jordan, and Los Altos Police Chief, Andy Galea. The City Council offered support for a Citizen’s Task Force that would provide recommendations on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools, however, the decision to approve the formation of such a task force was postponed to the September 22 meeting. If the proposed task force resolves the SRO issue, the group might address other concerns brought forth from reflections in America about systemic racism that affects all communities big and small.  The task force would include citizens of varied age groups and races.

Also, the city manager and police chief were instructed to expedite the collection of ‘police stop’ data under the Racial Identity and Profiling Act to provide more information since current data is not complete enough to draw significant conclusions.

September 22, 2020

The City Council approved the formation of a Citizen’s Task Force to review and make recommendations on the services of a School Resource Officer (SRO) and for a method to receive complaints about an SRO. The Task Force will serve for six weeks, ending on November 24, 2020. The services of the group are limited to recommendations on the role of an SRO at the high schools. A Task Force is a first attempt to resolve questions raised at the July 2020 Town Hall.

The City Council approved new amendments to the City municipal code which conformed in 2019 to the California Building Standards Code. Called Building Electrification and Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (Reach Code), it mandates newly constructed buildings to be all-electric with certain possible exceptions and electric vehicle charging infrastructure installed. According to the City Environmental Commission which has studied research since early 2019, these new regulations to the building codes are aimed to reduce carbon emissions which are part of the City’s Climate Action Plan. In addition, the changes will improve indoor air quality, support affordable housing, and place Los Altos City in sync with construction changes in other communities. Of thirty public comments, most were positive to the amendment. There were three top reasons for opposing the changes. One, Reach Code is governmental overreach. Two, greenhouse emissions reduction may be limited (not supported by the Environmental Commission research). Three, residential and consumer choice is rejected. In the end, adoption of the regulations mean that new building construction will be all-electric with the exemption of cooking appliances and fireplaces. Infrastructure for electric vehicles is part of the adoption. The amendment pertains to new residential, commercial, multi-family, ADU, and mixed-use buildings.

Los Altos City Council June, 2020

June 9, 2020

City Council resolved that the next general municipal election will be November 3, 2020 to consolidate with Santa Clara County, state, and national elections. Candidates will campaign for three City Council seats.

City Council authorized the closure to car traffic on Main and State Streets from Thursday to Sunday beginning Thursday, June 11, 2020. More businesses can reopen downtown while customers maintain social distance when walking and dining. If deemed successful, downtown streets will be closed to car traffic on certain days until the end of September.

June 23, 2020

City Council authorized a conditional use permit with modifications to the Los Altos Municipal Code to the design for a new pre-school at the site of St. Simon’s Catholic Church at the intersection of Grant Road and the Foothill Expressway, 1860 Grant Road. The project, approved by the Los Altos Planning Commission, includes a one-story pre-school plus two shade structures for outdoor play and a covered walkway to a new multi-use building at the St. Simons school. The main problem, now resolved, is possible traffic backup during drop-off and pick-up hours. The exit driveway will only allow right turns to avoid holding up traffic movement at the intersection.

Despite current events across the nation, City Council delayed a vote to set up a sub-committee of the mayor and vice mayor plus a Citizen Task Force to review and make recommendations regarding Los Altos Police Department policies and procedures.  

Instead of a Citizen’s Task force, a town hall meeting will convene in the middle of July 2020. It is probable that an expert consultant will be hired to facilitate the study. The city staff is to provide administrative assistance and the city attorney is to provide legal assistance. It is expected that four-six meetings are required to produce a report by the end of November 2020.

Fight Today for a Better Tomorrow

Fellow League Members:

On May 25, George Floyd was murdered by an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department. He is only one of too many names on a list that should not exist. It is time that the League of Women Voters take a stand for social justice for Black lives in America.  

Over the years we have watched Black men, women, and children lose their lives at the hands of people who benefit from a system that protects them. Today we witness the rage of those who are tired of due process being a privilege not afforded to Black people.  

The League is committed to expanding our voice beyond the statement we released last week. We are joining our partners who serve in the civil rights community in fighting for policy reform that will dismantle systematic racism. We joined coalition partners on a letter calling for congressional action on police violence, and in the weeks and months ahead, the national office will be stepping up our commitment to racial justice. Virginia Kase wrote a blog, Standing in Solidarity with the Black Community, to share how the League plans to proceed as allies in the social justice space.  

 As allies in the social justice space I encourage us all to do our homework and learn more about the iniquities that Black Americans face, without leaning on Black people to educate us.  

We encourage you to continue your get-out-the-vote and voter education efforts. This is a time to highlight the power of voting, especially in local elections, and informing voters where candidates stand on issues that are important to them.

Lastly, we acknowledge that the League hasn’t taken such a strong stance against racism in the past, and as we move into the next century of work, we hope to play a bigger role in fighting for social justice. I hope you’ll join us.  

In League,

Chris Carson, President

League of Women Voters United States

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Los Altos City Council, May 2020

May 12, 2020

Initiated by Vice-Mayor Neysa Fligor, the City Council resolved to denounce xenophobia and especially anti-Asian sentiment brought on by Covid-19 news. The Council joined other cities, counties, and states to confirm its commitment to the well-being and safety of the Asian-Pacific American community. Actions against Asian-Pacific Americans and all groups are considered a hate crime.

The state and county have given out conflicting guidelines as to how small businesses can continue or re-open. To ease the situation the City Council provided the process and eligibility criteria for accessing $250,000 allocated at the April 18 meeting for the Small Business Relief Assistance Program (SBRAP). City Council staff with the assistance of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce and the Los Altos Community Foundation developed the model for the approximately 800 Los Altos businesses with 1-25 employees. Eligibility requirements include ability to demonstrate loss of revenue, that the business has a physical commercial storefront, that it is not a chain business, and that the business has no financial or legal issues. Because of the possible closure of Downtown streets further discussion was moved to the June 9 City Council meeting. Over the next two weeks, City staff will hold several webinars to understand community businesses’ perspectives more thoroughly on the possible street closures. City staff can then craft a more effective SBRAP that benefits residents and businesses.

The City Council authorized the City Manager to execute an agreement with Alta Planning + Design in an amount not to exceed $165,340 for the development of a Complete Streets Master Plan. The focus will be to update the 2012 Bicycle Transportation Plan, the 2015 Pedestrian Master Plan, the Routes to Schools maps with infrastructure recommendations for the thirteen schools, and Pedestrian and Bicycle Corridor improvements. These elements of the Complete Streets Master Plan will be developed with community engagement.

May 28, 2020 – no meeting scheduled

The League of Women Voters is Turning 100!

In 2020 the League of Women Voters (LWV) will celebrate its 100th anniversary and the LWVC joins more than 700 other local and state chapters to celebrate this historic milestone.

As we look to a vibrant future on the threshold of our next 100 years, the League is excited that dedicated members across California continue to steadily attract significant numbers of activists who share the League’s commitment to Making Democracy Work.

The League of Women Voters president, Chris Carson, issued the following statement regarding the League’s efforts ahead:

Today we are faced with many challenges that threaten to compromise our democracy. Our efforts to support voting rights and to fight against voter suppression and discrimination at the local, state and national levels have been very successful, and this has been achieved primarily by educating and empowering voters, circulating special petitions, and intervening in several critical court cases.

The League’s historic commitment to register, educate and mobilize voters is not only stronger, but more effective than ever, utilizing such tools as Voter’s Edge—a cutting-edge election information website utilized by millions of voters each election cycle.

Dora Rose, Deputy Director of the LWVC, had this to say about the LWVC’s work to come:

We will continue to fight voter discrimination and to keep secret money out of our elections to ensure that our elections are fair, free and accessible. We’ll also continue to push for improved access to housing as well as recognizing that Climate Change is a scientific reality that must be addressed to ensure a sustainable planet for everyone.

One hundred years after the League was founded in 1920, members of the League are proud of the great progress achieved when it comes to truly Making Democracy Work.

The League Fights For Fair & Accessible Voting

The League of Women Voters of California is collaborating daily with the Secretary of State, elections officials, and civil rights groups to ensure fair and accessible voting this November amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Turnout of traditionally underrepresented groups is of special concern.

“The challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic are unique but not insurmountable,” reads an article on the State League’s website from April 20. “It is vitally important to understand that vote-by-mail (VBM) is not a panacea,” elaborates the State League and the other collaborating groups, listed at the bottom of this article, in a list of recommendations for the upcoming election. The list, sent to Governor Newsom and Secretary of State Padilla on April 14, cites multiple sources that report the risks posed by expanded reliance on vote by mail to already underrepresented communities, such as communities of color, youth, language minorities, people with disabilities, people with low income, and those who are unhoused, housing insecure, or geographically mobile.

“Changes to our voting process must be done in ways that will protect voters who are already underrepresented in our democratic system,” wrote the State League for their article. Accordingly, the list of recommendations has been assembled by advocacy groups carefully with the main, general objectives of maximizing voting opportunities, increasing voter education and engagement leading up to the election, and allocating resources dedicated specifically for underrepresented communities and those that do not traditionally vote by mail. The list is separated into categories that focus on vote-by-mail, in-person voting, poll workers, dropboxes, language access, disability access, voter registration and same day/conditional voter registration, provisional voting, elections administration plans (EAPs), public messaging, voter education, and voter engagement.

The LWV Los Altos-Mountain View will pursue its usual vigorous Voter Services efforts with emphasis on helping voters to sign up for vote-by-mail to comply as fully as possible with ‘sheltering in place’ directives which may still be in force at the time of the General Election in November.

–Thank you to Karanina (Laszlo) Zim, Communications Intern of the LWV Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville for this article.

List of Groups in Collaboration
American Civil Liberties Union of California
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
California Common Cause
Disability Rights California
The League of Women Voters of California
Mi Familia Vota
National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educationa Fund
NextGen California
Partnership for Working Families
Voting Rights Lab

For more details read the list of recommendations here.

LWVUS Work Featured by the U.N.

This week the United Nations acknowledged LWVUS for our work protecting voting rights in light of COVID-19

The League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) is working to protect voting rights and democracy during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They have called for adequate funding for measures including voter education (informing the public of new practices and immediately quashing disinformation as it arises), an extended early in-person voting period (allowing citizens to vote over an expanded period rather than in a cluster on Election Day), expanded voter registration options (including online voter registration and same-day voter registration), no-excuse absentee voting-by-mail, and prohibition of polling place adjustments that disproportionately impact vulnerable populations. 

Los Altos City Council April 2020

April 14, 2020

At a virtual meeting the City Council listened to the request for an additional waiver to reduce the size of 75% of the 108 parking spaces from 9’ wide to 8.6’ wide for the project at 4846-4856 El Camino Real. The project would still install outlets for 27 EV charging stations. Plans from both the developers and the city staff were presented to the council. The city staff recommended that the project remain as is by a 3/2 vote. Council members Jeannie Bruins and Neysa Fligor dissented as they saw the proposal to provide an outdoor ‘tot lot’ as a positive for the development.

April 28, 2020

At a virtual meeting the City Council heard and saw several Power Point presentations prepared by the city staff on aspects of the fiscal impact of Covid-19 on the city’s revenues and the financial relief programs to be pursued by the city.

The city’s largest revenue sources of property and utility taxes will not be immediately affected. There will be a decrease in other funding streams like sales tax, transient occupancy tax, and recreation fees for an estimated total of $3 million.

As of April 28, essential services (police, fire) are on site, city staff works from home, and some essential businesses remain open such as restaurants for take-out and delivery. No city business travel allowed and no vacant city positions are being filled. YMCA, including Mountain View, provide childcare centers for essential workers. The Los Altos Farmer’s Market (an essential service) is scheduled to open on May 7, 2020 under specified conditions.

Loans are forthcoming from FEMA’s Community Disaster Loans plus the Public Assistance Program. In addition, the Federal Reserve Municipal Liquidity Facility Program will provide funds.

WomenSV will receive a grant of $40,000, CHAC will receive $20,000. CSA will receive $75,000 to provide services for needy residents. A Small Business Relief Program will be created to provide $250,000, given on a first come, first served basis to provide for payroll and lease expenses. City Council also directed staff to work with the Los Altos Community Foundation to create a community relief fund to solicit contributions for the benefit of Los Altos businesses and residents most in need during the COVID-19 emergency.