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 February 2020

February 11, 2020

The City Council heard the second reading and adopted the final version of the ordinance to amend R3-4.5 zoning, particularly valuable to the multi-family duplex Marshall Meadows district in Los Altos. The ordinance establishes development standards for such districts to make reasonable improvements and additions to the owner’s property while maintaining the character of the district as a duplex style neighborhood and limiting any impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

The City Council did not approve a consultant agreement with Alta + Design for development of the Los Altos Complete Streets Master Plan. Before the meeting, the council received a detailed proposal for the Scope of Work. In addition, they received a detailed set of answers to city council’s questions from the November 20, 2019, introduction of the proposal. Councilmembers had more questions and Staff will bring the item back to the Council after renegotiating the Scope of Work and contract amount with Alta + Design. A specific date to bring the item back to the City Council has not been set.

Especially because of the dangers associated with vaping flavored e-cigarettes, the City Council authorized the staff to write a draft ordinance to further restrict tobacco retail licensing in Los Altos. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has adopted and requested cities in the county to adopt restrictions on kinds of tobacco, tobacco products, locations for retail sale, and advertising limits as well as adopting a tobacco retailer’s license. The city of Los Altos will enforce the policy, not Santa Clara County. The council received written comments in support from the Northern California American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and from Breathe California. Other interesting written comment was received about the use of hookahs in Middle Eastern communities and concerns that hookahs would be restricted. The draft ordinance is scheduled for review at the February 25, 2020, council meeting.

February 25, 2020

The City Council approved and adopted the ordinance to further restrict tobacco retail licensing in los altos after staff amended the original draft of the ordinance.

In closed session after almost a year of mediation the City Council voted to settle the litigation with GoldSilverIsland Homes LLC about the property division at 831 Arroyo Road. With a vote of 4/1 the Council followed staff recommendation to sub-divide the property as requested. A year ago the council had denied the subdivision request and the lawsuit was filed, citing that the LLC had revised the proposal for the property to accommodate comments by Montebello Acres residents.

Los Altos City Council November 2019

Los Altos City Council – November 2019

November 12, 2019

The City Council adopted a resolution for a Mills Act authorization for a Gambrel design barn at 210 Alta Vista Avenue, Los Altos to be designated an historic property.

The City Council heard the proposal for Ordinance #2019-467 to amend the zoning code in the Los Altos Municipal Code regarding R3-4.5 for a multi-family district. The issue came up when property owners in Marshall Meadows want to remodel their duplex property. At the August 27, 2019 council meeting the staff was directed to standardize the zoning code for such districts to bring the code in line for similar surrounding single-family home districts.

From an environmental review perspective, the project is compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with no potential for direct physical damage or for damage in the reasonably foreseeable future. The proposed code changes are to establish developmental standards for existing properties already developed. The change provides for separate and independent basis for CEQA compliance for each project and to any future alterations to parcels in a R3-4.5 district.

In addition, standards are set for additions and exterior modifications to multi-family district dwellings in the design review process. Other provisions align with those in other surrounding residential zoning districts. The amendment has received Planning commission approval. The council approved 4 to 1 to amend the ordinance proposal to keep the properties at single story, except the two-story properties as of 2019. The smaller unit must be at least 900 square feet to maintain proportionality of residences. Setbacks are amended to be 20 feet from property line. A public hearing on amended ordinance will be held at the December 12, 2019 regular meeting.

The other November City Council meetings were Special Meetings.

The November 26, 2019, regular meeting was cancelled.

Los Altos City Council October 2019

Los Altos City Council – October 2019

The council had special council meetings on October 1 and 29, 2019. The council did not meet the second Tuesday of October.

October 22, 2019

The City of Los Altos owns Redwood Grove Nature Preserve, a 5.7-acre nature preserve located off University Avenue. The City contracted with Grassroots Ecology to assist in preserving and maintaining this valuable community asset. The term of the current contract dated October 3, 2018 is valid through the end of the 2019/2020 fiscal year. An amendment (Amendment 1) authorized payment to Grassroots Ecology for the second year of their contracted stewardship services in Redwood Grove. The amount for fiscal year 2019/2020 is budgeted. The total amount authorized for the second-year contract is $155,420.

The City Council voted to continue deliberation until December 10, 2019 about the proposed property development at 5150 El Camino Real located at the terminus of Rengstorff Road after considering multiple requests for changes in the plan. Dutchints Development LLC proposed a community enhancing project with market rate and below market rate (BMR) units. Two buildings are condo units with different numbers of bedrooms and townhomes at the back of the property are adjacent to single-family homes on Casita Way. The project is planned for sustainability, walkability, and proximity to public transit.

The Dutchints Development LLC presentation addressed air quality, an arborist’s report, a geotech investigation, environmental site assessment for Phase 1 of project, a noise and vibration study, and transportation impact analysis.

Public comment speakers had major problems with the project’s parking plan, both number of spaces so that residents would not park on side streets and size of spaces. They disputed the project’s proximity to public transit on and near El Camino Real which must be within one-half mile of property to be eligible for density bonus rates. There was criticism of the architectural style, saying that the drafted plan doesn’t blend into the neighborhood. Among Casita Way resident requests, at the top of a long list are: issues about the bulk and height of the buildings, privacy landscaping at the back of the project, reduction of possible construction and transformer noise, and safe routes to schools.

The council discussed parking requirements, below market rate units, mass-bulk and privacy issues, transit issues, number of EV stations, solar panels, and changes to recreation areas before deciding to resume discussion at the December 10 meeting.

Pre-registering Students at Los Altos High School

On September 17th,  Constitution Day, members of our Voter Services team went into classrooms at Los Altos High School helping to pre-register students to vote.  The 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution was a good day to discuss with students the importance of voting and how every vote matters.

We went into 19 US History and US History AP classes and talked to 516 students about how a citizen’s vote is their voice in government and voting helps elect representatives who will work on the issues you care about. Volunteers helped students complete voter registration forms and we left with 246 completed forms and delivered them to the Registrar of Voters in San Jose.* * Students who completed the forms will be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18 and will receive a ballot in the mail for the next election. Teachers complemented our presentation, which included the history of the right to vote, evaluating ballot information, and the importance of civic engagement. 

The traditionally low youth voter turnout was demonstrated by having 20% of the class stand up, representing the 1 in 5 youth voters who voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Youth voter turnout increased almost 50%  with the student led Never Again MSD movement after the Parkland shooting which motivated young people to register and vote. LWV members engaged the students by sharing personal stories about growing up in a society with no representative government, choosing a political party preference for a first election, and the importance of choosing school boards. 

Constitution Day was a great success for our Voter Services team and the culmination of a year’s long effort that started with Claire Noonan and Claudia Hevel reaching out to the MVLA Superintendent about going into the classrooms to pre-register students and later collaborating with the teachers of the LAHS  History Department to make it happen.  The process has given us new ideas to take into the classroom next year.  We appreciate the support and collaboration with the MVLA School District and LAHS administrators and staff.  

** Some students took forms home to fill in missing information and others had already pre-registered, were too young (under 16) to pre-register, were not citizens, or chose not to participate.

Voter Service Highlights

In addition to pre-registering students at Los Altos High School, the Voter Services’ team has been very busy the last few months.  

New Citizen’s Ceremony: Seven League volunteers helped to register  522 voters from over 60 countries at the July 25th New Citizen Ceremony in Campbell where we also we also talked  to everyone about the upcoming Census and the Voter’s Choice Act changes to election procedures in Santa Clara County.

National Voter Registration Day: Seven LAMV League volunteers had tables at Mountain View, Los Altos and Woodland libraries on National Voter Registration Day, September 24. While most people were either already registered or non-citizens, we had something useful to say to all 89 people we talked to during our 3 hours at the libraries. In Mountain View, none of the non-citizens were aware they should fill out the census too.  They appreciated hearing that they can contribute to their communities by participating in the census. 

LWV Supports Foothill College’s Political Awareness Day: On October 9th, LWV LAMV members partnered with Foothill College’s ASFC Student Government Leaders to hold an information session and rally to register students to vote and plan to participate in the 2020 Census.   Students dropped by our table to ask questions, register and get a ticket for the free Taco Bar.  We collected over a dozen completed registration forms and several forms went with students to be completed later. 

Foothill’s President Thuy Nguyen visited our League tables and thanked us for supporting Foothill College’s students.  Daphne Small, Foothill’s Director of Student Activities has asked if the League will support more student focused events in the January-February timeframe.     

Update from Our Housing Committee

Our Housing Committee advocates for increasing the supply of affordable housing in Los Altos and Mountain View area. The team monitors new condo and apartment developments as well as the rent stabilization program in Mountain View. Read copies of their Action Letters. They also keep track of state legislation that will impact local housing regulations, such as, the 25 new housing bills recently signed by Governor Newsom, some described below.

Local News

Mountain View

Oversized Vehicle Ban and Safe Parking: We have written/spoken against the oversized vehicle ban because it includes so many of the city’s streets and is not tied to finding safe parking for these vehicles.  Additions to safe parking spots are moving very slowly.  We will continue to monitor these issues.  Action Letter re: oversized vehicles & Action Letter re: Safe Parking .

To learn more about this issue: MV City Living in Vehicles and Homeless Information

CSFRA (Rent Stabilization):  We also are monitoring the discussion about amendments to CSFRA (Rent Stabilization), as our LWV studied and then took a position supporting this charter amendment.  The Council and the Rental Housing Committee are continuing to discuss what issues might be included in a ballot referendum, presently targeted for the March primary election.  One of the major concerns we have is the possibility of changing the annual rate of increase in rent to a flat number such as 5%, or even higher, rather than tying it to the CPI, which we believe is fairer to all.  We are also looking for ways to mitigate displacement, which is becoming a major issue. This is mainly because there are so many rental units built over 50 years ago that may need major rehab and/or can be scraped and built at higher density and/or more profitably as market-rate condos, townhomes, or rowhomes. Action Letter re: CSFRA.

Los Altos

In Los Altos, we continue to advocate for denser housing along El Camino and inclusion of the maximum possible number of below-market-rate units.  Oct. 22nd the Council will hold a hearing on 5150 El Camino Real, a 196-unit condo and townhome development that includes 28 BMRs (19% of the total units). Action Letter re: 5150 El Camino Real.

New Housing Bills Signed by the Governor

In addition to what’s happening locally, 25 new State laws affecting affordable housing were signed by the Governor, including:

AB 1482 caps rent increases and requires just cause for eviction.  This law will not replace CSFRA in Mtn. View, but it expands rent control to post 1995 rentals that have been built prior to the last 15 years.  The 15-year exemption is to allow developers that time period to ensure that they make the profits they anticipated when they initiated their developments.  Due to this exemption, plus the fact that with vacancy decontrol (meaning when there is tenant turnover the landlord can charge market rent), developers will not be discouraged from building, according to our research. This law will also apply to condos and single-family homes owned by corporations, not individuals.  The rent caps are 5% plus inflation (CPI), so not nearly as stringent as the CPI cap in Mtn. View for the pre-1995 rentals covered by CSFRA.  Los Altos and Los Altos Hills do not have any rent stabilization, so all rentals in these communities will be covered by AB 1482. Equally important, AB 1482 requires “just cause” for eviction, so that landlords cannot evict tenants without a valid reason, then raising the rent to market rent for new tenants. (LWVC supported this bill.)

SB 330 – The Housing Crisis Act of 2019. For 5 years this will prohibit downzonings, housing moratoria, and caps on building permits. It prohibits cities from changing fees or other requirements after preliminary applications have been submitted and streamlines the permitting and approval process. It contains anti-displacement measures and many other measures designed to accelerate housing production but protect tenants at the same time. This bill is perhaps the most controversial bill signed into law from the cities’ perspective.

AB 68, SB 13, AB 881 all relate to encouraging more accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Impact fees are reduced, owner-occupancy requirements are limited, permitting is streamlined, parking requirements are reduced amongst other loosening of the requirements for ADUs. (LWVC supported AB 68 and SB 13).

AB 1763 gives 100% affordable housing developments a higher density bonus and reduced parking.

AB 1486 strengthens the Surplus Land Act and SB 6 creates centralized database of surplus and vacant land. Surplus land is to be made available for affordable housing; these bills will make it easier to identify.

AB 1487 establishes the San Francisco Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, which will be able to place affordable housing revenue ballot measure before the Bay Area voters. This was an outgrowth of the CASA Compact and many local cities oppose this (especially the smaller ones.)

SB 329 prohibits discrimination because a tenant is using a housing voucher, such as Section 8, or any other government subsidy. (LWVC supported this bill.)

To look up state bills:  https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml