Los Altos School Board, June 2021

LASD Board Meeting June 1, 2021

The board members voted unanimously to adopt a new math curriculum for grades TK-5 following a brief presentation and public hearing.

The Citizens Advisory Committee of Finance (CACF) presented their annual report, which showed that the district is in a strong financial position. Reserves are above target levels and projected to increase due to stable tax growth and flat enrollment. LASD facility maintenance fees are higher than those of neighboring districts, so the CACF advised setting aside $5 million from Measure N ($1 million per year for 5 years) to upgrade aging facilities. (Measure N was approved by voters in 2014, allowing the district to issue bonds in order to fund facility upgrades and the purchase of a new school site.)

Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon presented the 2021-22 District Budget. The budget projects that revenue will exceed expenses by about $900,000 next year, bringing the district’s total reserves to almost 15%.  Property tax revenue is expected to increase by 4% while federal and other state funding sources will decrease because one-time funding to address the pandemic will be withdrawn. Expenses will also decrease for a variety of reasons, including carryover from the 2020-21 budget and the cessation of COVID-related spending. Multi-year projections show reserves growing year over year.

For more information about the budget, please see item H.10 from the agenda for the June 1 meeting.

LASD Board Meeting June 8, 2021

Assistant Superintendent Sandra McGonagle presented preliminary results from the spring academic assessments in reading and math. Despite the pandemic, the percentage of students testing below grade level was similar to previous years, with  87% of students at or above grade level in both subject areas.

The board of trustees voted unanimously to approve the 2021-22 District Budget.

Superintendent Jeff Baier also announced increased compensation for both teachers and staff.

The board will meet on Monday, June 21 to vote on the following:

  1. A one-time payment in the amount of $1000 per FTE (full-time equivalent) for the 2020-21 school year for both teachers and staff
  • A 5% raise for all teachers and staff (in addition to the 2% raise approved earlier this school year) for the 2021-22 school year to keep salaries competitive

The board also approved the annual report from the Measure N Citizens Oversight Committee. The annual report included a clean audit showing that all Measure N expenditures during the 2019-20 fiscal year met the spending requirements specified by the measure.

LASD Board Meeting June 21, 2021

The board voted unanimously to approve the increased compensation for both teachers and staff (including non-represented employees) as discussed during the last board meeting on June 8, 2021.

Stella Kam, Observer

Los Altos City Council, June 2021

June 8, 2021

The City Council wishes to achieve a Housing Element Update that reflects the City’s goals (including community involvement) and can be certified by the State of California in compliance with State law. The City’s sixth cycle Housing Element update must be completed by January 2023. State law requires that every eight years cities prepare an update of Housing Element, a guide for the housing needs of all segments of its population.

To enlist a consultant experienced in developing a Housing Element Update, Council approved adding some Capital Investment Projects funds for the Housing Element Update and authorized the City Manager to execute an agreement with Lisa Wise Consulting (LWC) to provide the Update.

In addition, new changes in State law (SB 166) related to zoning creates new pressures for the City to ensure that sites identified for lower-income housing are not concentrated in one area but must be spread out.

Also, the City will face higher scrutiny for non-vacant and vacant sites during this cycle. State regulations designate land which is deemed ‘non-vacant’ and ‘vacant.’

Finally, the City will need to accommodate a much higher number of lower income housing units to meet the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) State mandates to be completed by 2031, which may require the City to amend its general plan and zoning code to allow for more housing opportunities for residents—regardless of income.

Discussion about community outreach and engagement included organizing a variety of ways to educate the community about the heavily regulated State requirements for the Housing Element Update and RHNA before the project is completed.

The City Council heard an update from the City Council Legislative Subcommittee on State Assembly and Senate bills that affect the positions of the League of California Cities. For bills which had been previously on the “watch” list, four have been changed to specific positions and the subcommittee has letters for the Assembly and Senate committees to be approved by Council. Of those bills, City Council opposes AB 602 which changes laws that govern local development impact fees, such as Traffic Impact fees; opposes AB 989 which creates a new appeals commission to make judgements on local public health and safety decisions about housing development; opposes AB 1401 that prohibits local government from imposing minimum parking requirements for housing. The city supports identical SB 4 and AB 14 which prioritize deployment of broadband infrastructure in California.

June 22, 2021

The City Council welcomed a new City Manager. Gabriel Engeland will begin work in Los Altos on July 19, 2021. He previously was City Manager in Sierra Madre, California, and also worked in Trinidad, Colorado and Gilbert, Arizona. He received his Masters Degree in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. His expertise is finance and budget.

The City Council directed the city staff to file an appeal of the City’s housing allocation for the sixth housing element cycle to the Association of Bay Area Governments/Regional Housing Needs Allocation (ABAG RHNA). The appeal against California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) challenges the method used by HCD to determine the numbers of housing needed in Los Altos.

The City Council Legislative Subcommittee presented further update on State legislation the Council has been asked to support or oppose as recommended by the League of California Cities. The Council voted to support SB 16. The bill makes subject to disclosure every incident involving unreasonable or excessive force by police, and any finding that an officer failed to intervene against another officer using unreasonable or excessive force. Councilmember Jonathan Weinberg states the bill provides transparency to police action and in doing so augments public trust in the police. On reconsideration, the Council changed 3/2 to support AB 989 about an appeals commission to make judgements on local public health and safety decisions about housing development. The council changed 3/2 to support AB 1401. The bill prohibits a local government from imposing a minimum automobile parking requirement, eliminates expensive parking mandates in areas with good transit, and supports changes to public driving and parking models in the future, according to Member Weinberg. Vice Mayor Enander states that the legislation would take away the ability of local governments to make parking requirements.

Observer Claire Noonan

Annual Meeting of LWV Los Altos Mountain View

Come and learn what your League has been doing, help us elect new officers and, once business is completed, we will be joined by State Assemblymember Marc Berman for a Q&A period. 

  • Virtual meeting, Saturday, June 19, 2021, 10:00-12:00pm
  • Marc Berman, Assembly District 24, to speak and Q&A
  • To register to attend: 2021 Annual Meeting

Download the Annual Meeting Kit   (includes revised agenda)

Bring your own tea or coffee. Doors open at 9:45 am for the virtual event. During registration you will be given the opportunity to suggest a question for Assemblymember Berman. 

 

Los Altos City Council May, 2021

May 11, 2021

Council reviewed a resolution to endorse the Carbon Fee and Dividend Act of 2021, (H.R. 2307). The resolution would recognize the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emission and would align with a City Council decision to adopt REACH practices for all new building in the city. HR 2307 creates a Carbon Dividend Trust Fund that will provide a steadily rising carbon fee and return the revenues to Americans as a dividend. This is estimated to reduce carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050 and to offset the cost of higher energy prices for consumers. The council voted unanimously to send the resolution to the City Environmental Commission for review and recommendations.

Vice Mayor Anita Enander and Council Member Jonathan Weinberg discussed seven of thirty-four bills in the current legislature that have been proposed to watch by the League of California Cities (LAC). Of most importance is opposition to SB 9 and SB 556. The mayor was authorized to sign a letter of opposition to both bills.

 SB 9 makes two important changes to state law:

  • It allows homeowners in most areas around the state to divide their property into two lots, thereby increasing opportunities for homeownership in their neighborhood.
  • It allows two homes to be built on each of those lots, with the effect of legalizing fourplexes in areas that previously only allowed one home. 

SB 556 would prohibit a local government or local publicly owned electric utility from unreasonably denying the leasing or licensing of its street light poles or traffic signal poles to communications service providers for the purpose of placing small wireless facilities on those poles.

In addition, the mayor was authorized to sign a letter to support SB 612. The bill aims to ensure all California ratepayers have fair and equal access to benefits associated with investor-owned utility (IOU) legacy energy resources. Public comment supports the Council position on SB 612.

May 25, 2021

After many debates and studies at Council meetings on the fate of Halsey House in Redwood Grove, questions still haven’t been answered adequately. City Council approved funds for three consultants to make recommendation on the property. The Architectural Resource Group will provide historical structure analysis. Page & Turnbull is to provide a historical resource evaluation. Both reports are important because the house is currently a designated historical resource. David J. Powers & Associates will review California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) questions. With active pro and con positions from public comment, it is hoped for a decision from the recommendations to either renovate or demolish the Halsey House part of the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve.

 

The City Council adopted 3/2 an amended resolution to take a leadership role on the question of the disagreement between statements by Council member Lynette Lee Eng and Los Altos resident Kenan Moos. The resolution noted that the community is affected, and Council meeting time is negatively impacted by the conflict. In the resolution the Los Altos City Council asked residents to join the Council in finding ways to move forward and unite the community. Public comment of nearly eighty residents and seventeen written comments did not lead to resolution. The Council took no further action to resolve the disagreement between Lee Eng and Moos beyond adopting the amended resolution

The City Council received an additional update on the legislative bills the city is asked to oppose or support as suggested by the League of California Cities (LAC). The bills take a position on legislation that affects the cities, mainly on revising housing regulations. The total list from LAC has been reduced to twenty-two bills. The Council agreed on authorization of additional letters for six of the bills moving from the Assembly to Senate or vice versa, including further support for AB 612 and opposition to SB 9.

Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos School District May 2021

May 10, 2021

LASD is eligible to receive $2.28 million in grant money from the State of California for the purpose of learning recovery post-pandemic. The funds must be used by August 31, 2022. The board approved the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grant Plan as presented by Assistant Superintendent McGonagle in order to apply for this funding. Full details of the plan can be found here.

An LASD subcommittee will be meeting with the City of Los Altos on June 2 at 7:15 pm to discuss topics of mutual interest, including Safe Routes to School, public housing, and school site decisions. The full agenda can be found here:

May 24, 2021

The State of California has signaled that virtual instruction will no longer be required next school year (2021-2022). When the decision is officially announced, LASD will notify parents of student placement, with the expectation that all students will be back on campus full-time.

LASD is proposing the adoption of a new math curriculum for grades TK – 5. The curriculum chosen for adoption comes from San Francisco Unified, and Assistant Superintendent McGonagle gave a detailed presentation outlining the reasons for this choice. There will be a public hearing at the next regular board meeting (June 1 at 7 pm) for further discussion before the board votes. Assistant Superintendent. McGonagle also wanted to reassure parents that the current 7th and 8th grade math offerings (including accelerated math) will not change.

In order to minimize conflicts with MVLA school board meetings, LASD approved a revised board meeting schedule for the 2021-2022 school year. Most LASD board meetings will now take place on the first and third Monday of each month. The full meeting schedule can be found here:

Stella Kam, Observer

Los Altos City Council April 2021

April 13

The City Council received the Housing Element Annual Progress Report (APR) with amended and now complete data for calendar year 2020. Council authorized staff to submit the report to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Housing Element provides an analysis of a community’s housing needs for all income levels, and strategies to provide for those housing needs. The annual APR report also demonstrates housing permit progress toward the City’s part of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). In 2020 the 444-450 First Street development provided three moderate-income and one low-income unit of the 26 total units. In addition, 53 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) are approved by the Planning Commission and 25 ADUs are at final stages by the Building Division. The current numbers are concerning to reach the number of affordable housing units needed by completion of the 8-year Housing Element cycle in 2023 and are fewer than the number of affordable housing units needed by the city for RHNA, due in Summer 2021. Public comments on the APR that signaled ‘no’ came from those who remain attached to single-family housing with spacious yards, oppose increased traffic and infrastructure, want to retain parks and open space, and think that ‘local control’ is being taken over by the State. Those signaling ‘yes’ for the need for more housing density promote affordable housing models like those being developed at 330 Distel Court.

The City Council received and provided feedback on the Los Altos Community Center Phased Opening Plan. The project is scheduled to be finished June 10, 2021, but completion is still affected by Covid restrictions. The phased opening for summer and fall parks and recreation and community use are projected to be limited. Move in and operational training will begin mid-summer 2021. Facility rentals will open in August 2021. A Grand Opening is scheduled for Fall 2021. In-person special events will be permitted in October 2021.

April 27

EAH Housing and its team, the proposed developer of the 330 Distel Circle affordable housing project, were introduced to the City Council. EAH provided the City Council and the community with information about the other affordable housing projects they have developed and shared their concept for the 330 Distel Circle site to meet both the current as well as the emerging housing needs and demands of Los Altos and Santa Clara County’s lower-income and workforce residents. The City has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Santa Clara and the City Council will continue its financial support for this project.

City Council authorized the Interim City Manager to execute contract Amendment No. 3 on behalf of the City with NOVA Partners for additional construction management services on the Los Altos Community Center project through June 30, 2021. This amendment includes essential construction management services needed to complete the construction of the Los Altos Community Center due to the project schedule being extended owing to delays caused by COVID-19 and other unforeseen circumstances. The amendment includes twenty-two items to justify costs. The amount of $120,884 is still underbudget to complete the project.

In addition, City Council authorized the Interim City Manager to execute contract Amendment No. 5 on behalf of the City with Noll & Tam Architects for the Los Altos Community Center Project. The amendment includes unforeseen design updates and consulting services that occurred since October 2020 and an extension to match the current construction schedule. Although originally the project was to be completed by November 2020, the cost of Amendment No.5 at $117,581 is still underbudget to complete the project by June 2021.

Council member Jonathan Weinberg initiated a request for City Council to produce a Safe Firearms Storage Ordinance. In the California Penal Code 25100 “a person commits the crime of ‘criminal storage of a firearm’…unless reasonable action is taken by the person to secure the firearm against access by the child.” The issue is identifying “safe storage”. Of public comments, one was against an ordinance and ten others strongly supported the measure. Council voted 4/1 to direct staff to draft an ordinance to be modelled on the Santa Clara County ordinance that specifies any safely stored firearm in the home be kept unloaded or with a trigger-lock in a locked container.

Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos School District April 2021

April 25, 2021

Mr. Baier and Mrs. McGonagle shared that students in grades TK – 6 are now attending classes in-person 5 days a week (effective April 20, 2021). Junior High students are continuing with the hybrid schedule (2 days a week in-person for each cohort) but now have extended hours on campus as well an additional opportunity to meet with teachers virtually on Wednesdays. Summer school will be in-person at Santa Rita Elementary School and the first round of invitations will be going out this week.

For next school year (2021-2022), plans are being made to have all LASD students back on campus 5 days a week. It’s not yet clear whether virtual school will be an option. Under normal circumstances, the education code does not count virtual attendance as true attendance, and the district does not know when Governor Newsom’s special order for virtual instruction will be rescinded.

Sarah Stern-Benoit (LASD Director of Communications) presented the results from the parent survey conducted in March of 2021. Over 1100 LASD families responded, and of those over 93% are prepared to send their children back to campus 5 days a week. A little over one quarter of respondents (26%) agreed with this statement: “I am working regularly with my child every day on school work and I am overwhelmed.” 21% of respondents have “hired a tutor for the first time due to distance learning.” (5% of respondents had already hired tutors pre-pandemic.) A commentor asked to see some of the answers broken down by grade, as it could be the case that younger students need significantly more support. Another takeaway from the survey is that students need more social connection and community experiences, so that will be an area of focus for the district moving forward. There will be another survey going out to parents over the summer regarding enrollment.

Mrs. McGonagle presented information about upcoming academic assessments in math and language arts for students. Board member Mr. Ivanovic wanted to inform parents that they can opt-out of these assessments by notifying their school principal in writing.

The Board voted to approve the 2019-2020 audited financial report which showed the reserves at a healthy level (11.2%) and significantly increased revenue generated by the sale of development rights on excess land around the 10th site (purchased to build a new school).

Stella Kam, Observer

2021 LWV Legislative Interview with Assemblymember Marc Berman

Each year Leagues across California conduct interviews with their local state Assemblymember and Senator.   These Local League legislative interviews are an opportunity for us to connect with our district representatives, expand our League’s presence, and heighten our collective impact. They are also an excellent chance to cultivate new leaders and build new relationships.

Our interview with Assemblymember Berman addressed land use and climate change; housing, homelessness, zoning, and affordability; and an equitable recovery from COVID-19.

Overall comments:  

The Assembly District 24 includes most of San Mateo County and the northern section of Santa Clara County.  As such, it includes urban, suburban, and rural/coastal areas.  Its population is diverse economically and ethnically.  The area within this district has the highest cost of living in the state.   

Assemblymember Berman’s legislative agenda is well aligned with League priorities:  Fair elections, voter protections, inequity caused by housing shortage and the impacts of COVID on low-income workers.  He was the Assembly’s lead for the 2020 Census and for the state to mail ballots to all registered voters in 2020. 

At the end of the interview, the Assemblymember commented that the issues raised during the call are interrelated.  They all must be addressed to accomplish overall goals of mitigating climate change, housing supply and inequities in our communities.    We need solutions to reduce carbon emissions, expand local denser housing, improve regional transportation while addressing inequities in our communities.  

Question 1:   Land Use and Climate Change. 

What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach net drawdown from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities?

Summary of Assemblymember Berman’s response: The efforts to convert natural and working lands to lands that remove and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere is an area that the Assemblymember has not focused on.  He is supportive of the developments underway to sequester CO2.  These efforts could be implemented on San Mateo County coastal working farm lands.

Encouraging infill affordable housing in urban areas would preserve carbon sinks in the edges of urban growth.  He sponsored a law a few years ago which allowed infill development in unincorporated county land to be exempt from CEQA to achieve this purpose (AB 1804.)

Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and Affordability.

What can be done to reform exclusionary single-family zoning in California? What reforms do you support to legalize and incentivize more affordable housing (both naturally occurring, and deed restricted) in high opportunity neighborhoods?

Summary Assemblymember Berman’s response: Housing, homelessness and the relationship and impact of zoning regulations is a topic that we need to address.   Much can be done to increase California’s overall housing supply.   He is following the work of cities such as Sacramento, Minneapolis, Los Angeles that have changed policies to allow denser housing.  The changes needed include changing single family residence zoning laws, encouraging accessory dwelling units, and allowing lot splits in R1 zoning areas.  

For his district, AD24, more housing is needed for homeless, low income and moderate-income residents. This year’s state budget is able to provide more funding for building affordable housing and homeless shelters, but that is not enough. 

To increase the housing supply takes multiple approaches.  The state has passed several laws to address bottlenecks in the development and permitting process for denser housing. Tax credits can incentivize affordable housing development.  We need to ensure that local governments approve denser housing.  We need to look for underused properties that can support temporary housing or even RVs and cars.  He continues to look for more ideas and approaches. 

Berman is interested to learn more about alternative financing approaches to expand housing.  He commented that “we aren’t going to publicly fund our way to affordable housing by building subsidized housing alone, but we need to encourage the market to build housing and encourage partnerships of public funding, private funding, philanthropic funding.”  All methods should be explored to determine how to locally expand affordable housing.  

Question 3: Equitable COVID-19 Recovery.

What can be done to ensure that California’s COVID-19 economic recovery is equitable and focuses on the needs of those most impacted?

Summary of Assemblymember Berman’s response: “Everything we do needs to be done with an equity lens.”  

Our region with its high cost of living driven by a housing shortage that has long suffered from inequities, which have been exacerbated by COVID.   The Legislature is working on the multiple areas to address equitable relief to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on our communities.   

  • Extend eviction moratorium from end of January to at least the end of June
  • Expanding and prioritizing access to COVID 19 vaccine:  
  • Expand child-care resources:  
  • Address food insecurity:  
  • Ensure that basic needs are met for community college students
  • House homeless college students and priced-out faculty

Question 4: Personal Priorities for Assemblymember Berman

    • Election reforms to expand voter participation.
    • increasing voter participation by under-represented groups by promoting voter education, awareness,  and support for multiple languages.  More state funding is needed to support these efforts.  
    • Housing:  
    • Transportation
    • Ban on sales of gas-powered small appliances
    • Additional Local Issue discussed:   Wildfire prevention and mitigation.  Need for affordable fire insurance.   

    2021 LWV Legislative Interview with Sen. Josh Becker

    Each year Leagues across California conduct interviews of their local state Assemblymember and Senator.   These Local League legislative interviews are an opportunity for us to connect with our district representatives, expand our League’s presence, and heighten our collective impact. They are also an excellent chance to cultivate new leaders and build new relationships.

    Our interview with Senator Josh Becker addressed land use and climate change; housing, homelessness, zoning, and affordability; and an equitable recovery from COVID-19.

    Question 1: Climate change and land use 

    What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach net drawdown from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
    Climate change is a big priority for Sen Becker and he has put forward several bills focused on clean energy. SB 67 would accelerate the state’s goal of having 100% of electricity provided by renewables or other zero-carbon sources 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Another bill is designed to speed the transition to electric powered buildings. He is in favor of the “30 by 30” initiative which Assembly Member Kalra proposed last session and which Governor Newsom took executive action on last October. Sen. Becker supports efforts in regenerative agriculture though he is not as familiar with California’s Healthy Soils initiative and invites the League to share information and resources with him. 

    Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and Affordability 

    What can be done to reform exclusionary single-family zoning in California? What reforms do you support to legalize and incentivize more affordable housing (both naturally occurring and deed restricted) in high opportunity neighborhoods? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply: 

    Housing: The housing crisis has worsened during the pandemic and California needs a housing strategy. Sen. Becker will work to address strategy and to streamline affordable housing approval processes. He plans to address the crisis with bills this session to support additional rental housing, assist first-time home buyers and allow duplexes. While the state does this work, the local governments have to take the lead with the state supporting through funding, such as bonuses to cities that increase density

    Homelessness: The state is working to prevent evictions during the pandemic and provide more affordable housing. Mental health issues are important and we must look deeply at how to help with more supportive services for mentally ill people. 

    Question 3: COVID-19 recovery 

    As we look toward recovery, what can be done to move California to be a more equitable place for all of us? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply: 

    The pandemic has exacerbated the inequality in California, and it has exceptionally affected people of color and low income people. We must look deeply at how to make the state more equitable, especially for the vulnerable. A pathway to economic mobility is early childhood education and child care, and we have to help those workers, who are mostly minority, with vaccination priority and economic support. Early childhood education needs more funding. California’s education system is decimated by the crisis. There is learning loss, and problems with digital equity and inclusion. Education must prepare children for the jobs in this economy and mentor networks are necessary to help build skills too. This year it will be hard to make these issues a priority but there is a budget surplus and we are working on it. 

    Question 4: Personal Priorities of Legislator 

    What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal within 2021? What are your personal priorities? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
    The first priority is COVID recovery, including eviction protection, helping small businesses, and supporting family child care providers. Next is economic opportunity, including education and equality of education, especially early childhood education, including expanding access to higher education and criminal justice reform. Also climate and the environment, including pushing S.B. 67 and the potential for 24×7 clean energy. 

    Question 5: Trust in Government 

    These days there is a lack of trust in government. Democracy requires trust in facts and in government. How do you think we should combat misinformation while balancing freedom of speech? How do we build unity and engagement across the political spectrum? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
    Misinformation: Sen. Becker says this is in his priorities document, and he looks at the European social media policies as useful examples for his staff to analyze. In our area we have Facebook and Google and YouTube so we have a responsibility to look at radicalization and misinformation.


    Bipartisanship: Sen. Becker was surprised when joining the California Legislature that there are so many friendships in Sacramento and in Congress between Democrats and Republicans as well as bipartisan bills.  There needs to be more publicizing that legislators do work together.