Los Altos City Council March 2021

March 9, 2021

The City Council voted 3 to 2 to regulate, not ban, boardinghouses.

“Boardinghouse” is defined by the current ordinance to include any housing unit where lodging is furnished for compensation to more than two individuals. This allows a homeowner or renter to have one or two boarders without having the home defined as a boardinghouse.

In 2019, the Council considered banning boardinghouses, but in October 2020 the Planning Commission determined that an outright ban would further reduce city housing options.

Public comment and the two Council members who disagreed with regulation said that the several unpermitted boarding houses operating in Los Altos create overcrowding, noise, traffic and illegal parking conditions in neighborhoods. Since the Los Altos Municipal Code does not contain provisions relating to boardinghouses, the City Council directed the staff to tighten up relevant land-use definitions by eliminating ambiguous overlap and needless gaps in the Code and to regulate what is now only implicitly prohibited by omission. This will aid in the city’s enforcement efforts.

Instead of an outright ban, the Council’s regulations for boardinghouses would preserve the character of residential neighborhoods in Los Altos.

March 23, 2021

The Council passed a resolution to condemn Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) violence.

Decisions on the Housing Element of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) will be continued until an April 2021 Council meeting.

Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos School District March 2021

LASD Special Meeting March 1, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier announced that 7th and 8th graders will start returning to campuses this month using the blended model. (The blended model is designed such that half of the students are in-person Mon & Tues and the other half of students are in-person Thurs & Fri. When they are not in-person, students continue with virtual learning.) Other grades have already been using the blended model (see chart below for dates), with a portion of students electing to continue with virtual-only rather than spending 2 days a week in-person.

Blended Start Dates:

Special Day Classes: Sep 28

TK & 1st grade: Oct 12

Grades 2-3: Nov 9

Grades 4-5: Dec 7

Grade 6: Jan 21

Grade 7: Mar 8

Grade 8: Mar 15

Sandra McGonagle presented preliminary student performance data (reading, writing, math) for grades K-5 and emphasized that there does not appear to be learning loss in the form of regression or missed opportunities for learning.  It is too soon to tell whether there is less growth than in previous years, and there seem to be more students struggling with writing and in Kindergarten and 1st grade. She also shared that academic support is available to students that need it in the form of extra hours and subject-based interventions. Over half a dozen parents spoke during public comments to share their personal experiences and to ask for more opportunities to provide parental feedback (e.g. by conducting a parent survey). Many parents have either hired private tutors in multiple subjects or even quit their jobs to be more involved. Commentors pointed out that these factors may be compensating for academic losses that would otherwise be observed. Several parents expressed that they want more time in-person for the students, and board member Jessica Speiser replied that they are working toward that very goal. Board member Bryan Johnson stated that though the data may not show it, based on parent feedback it sounds like many students are struggling behind the scenes.

The board also gave some guidance regarding summer school offerings (which will be in-person). The board suggested casting a wider net and offering longer hours in order to boost attendance.

LASD Board Meeting March 8, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier shared some good news regarding school re-opening. The majority of LASD employees should be vaccinated by Spring Break, and cases continue to be very low among LASD families. (Case data can be found here: https://www.lasdschools.org/District/Portal/coronavirus-information) Grades K-12 are now subject to state health orders rather than those formerly issued by Santa Clara County. In light of these changes, the Board would like to see the school district prepare to offer in-person instruction 5 days a week. The expectation is that all students will be back on campus 5 days a week by the fall of 2021, with the possibility of doing so even sooner (especially for grades TK-3). The board would like the district to prepare to make this happen as quickly as possible and to figure out what it will cost to meet state guidelines.

Randy Kenyon presented the 2nd Interim Financial Report with updates to the budget. Funding from the Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) is now expected to be $2.4 million (down from $2.7 million). COVID related spending has cost the district $2.9 million so far. $1.8 million in funding for this purpose has already been received with another $3.8 million on the way from State and National sources. The additional funds can be used retroactively to cover what has already been spent.

In December 2019, LASD purchased over 11 acres of land at the corner of California St and Showers Dr, some of which will be used to build a new school. (The property is commonly referred to as the 10th site, because there are 9 existing campuses within LASD.) The school will not occupy all the land that was purchased, so the board approved a transfer of development rights to Merlone Geier for 150,000 sq ft. This agreement will bring in $19.5 million to help pay for the construction of the new school.

LASD Board Meeting March 22, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier shared a recent change (effective March 20, 2021) in the CDC and California Department of Public Health guidelines stating that a 3 ft distance between students in the same cohort is now sufficient (6 ft was formerly required). In order to accommodate more students in each classroom, the school district has ordered additional single-student desks which will take a couple of weeks to arrive.

For grades TK-6, board members directed Mr. Baier and Mrs. McGonagle to prepare for the switch to 5-days of in-person instruction to occur the week after Spring Break (April 12-16). (Families may also continue with 100% virtual learning if they so choose.) Shorter school days or a minimum day on Wednesdays will be considered as a response to teacher requests for adequate prep and collaboration time. The board also instructed the district to look into longer in-person school days for 7th and 8th graders rather than switching to 5-days of in-person instruction due to the overwhelming burden of making that change.

Greg Drummond and Bhavna Narula gave a presentation on behalf of the Equity Task Force and asked the board to adopt a new framework to serve as a guide for anti-bias instruction. The board unanimously approved the new framework, which can be found here: https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=1285264&IsArchive=0. The board also unanimously approved a resolution “Denouncing Hate Crimes and Bigotry Targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

Stella Kam, League Observer

Los Altos City Council – February 2021

February 9, 2021

The City Council further discussed issues related to the large number of affordable housing requirements issued to the City by the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). The question is whether the Council wishes to prepare a response to the RHNA assignment for the City. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is the body which assigns the RHNA number of housing units the City will be expected to add to its area housing. The City can appeal its numbers, and the timeframe to do so is by Summer 2021. Vice Mayor Anita Enander, with public comment from the Embarcadero Institute president, made a power point presentation of the reasons to appeal the numbers.

Mayor Neysa Fligor and council members Sally Meadows and Jonathan Weinberg questioned the power point because a majority had voted at the January 26 meeting to not allow a presentation by the Embarcadero Institute. Residents who gave public comments at the meeting also questioned the procedure that allowed the president of the Institute to give remarks after the council had voted to reject hearing its analysis. At the end, Enander suggested engaging with other cities in the region to revisit the numbers and to identify ways to preserve land for affordable housing with local zoning code changes. At Mayor Fligor’s recommendation, the council tabled the item, allowing Enander to re-do her presentation with the directive that information be presented to staff and fellow council members prior the intended council meeting. No specific future date was announced.

The City Council reaffirmed commitment to a diverse, supportive, inclusive, and protective community especially in public City spaces. The staff was directed to distribute a copy of Resolution to every Los Altos City Commission and include the resolution in the Commissioner Orientation and Handbook. The project had been initiated on January 10, 2017. The advantage of distributing the handbook is to reaffirm and support the City’s commitment. It is an opportunity to emphasize the intent of the Resolution, given the current events in society.

February 23, 2021

The City Council heard presentations on three housing projects. The City Council approved with a unanimous vote, as the Planning Commission had recommended, the construction of the five-unit condominium project at 140 Lyell including one Below Market Rental at low-income level. The project meets Density Bonus Review and Zoning Code requirements. In addition, it satisfies the Reach Codes (‘reach’ for zero-emission electric buildings—where all equipment is powered by clean renewable electricity) for new construction and provides progress on the city’s RHNA needs. Concerns from public comment included privacy, parking and traffic, and the height and bulk of the project. All concerns are addressed in the revised plan, including exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines.

The Council approved the final tract map that subdivided the property for 450 First Street which will include four affordable housing units. The Interim City Manager was authorized to execute the agreement. The revised plan included improvements to the site and affected properties based on earlier public comments.

The Council received an update from the Community Development Director on the 330 Distel Circle affordable housing project. Three-quarters of the 90-unit site would be low-income level units.

The Council received the staff presentation from the Engineering Services Director on the Community Center Construction Monthly Update. Site demolition began in September 2019 with the completion to be by December 2020. The project was delayed by the arrival of the pandemic. In addition, PG&E delayed the capping of gas lines, and below grade conditions revealed at demolition had to be fixed. The projected completion date is now April 2021.

The City Council presented its 2021 goals from the retreat on January 30, 2021. There are eight goals with creating diverse, affordable housing and supporting mix and density of land use set as the first two goals.

Submitted by Claire Noonan

Los Altos School District February 2021

February 8, 2021

Superintendent Jeff Baier provided an update on school re-opening plans. The 7 elementary schools are fully open using a hybrid model. (Half the class in-person for 2 days, then the other half. Virtual learning when not attending in-person.) New state guidelines mean that the 2 Junior Highs cannot re-open until the county has been in the red tier for at least 5 days. There have been low COVID-19 case counts at all 9 schools, with only 26 cases since resuming in-person instruction on Sept 28, 2020. A total of 5 cohorts have been required to quarantine. CARES (Coronavirus Relief) Act funding has paid for modifications (e.g. ventilation) and supplies necessary to operate in person. PPE (including N95 masks) are available to teachers and staff who want them.

Based on the results of a mental health survey conducted in October 2020, board members would like to see better dissemination of information regarding where to go for help. LASD is working with the Community Health Awareness Council and has dedicated additional resources to better support the mental health of both staff and students (e.g. district wide training on suicide warning signs).

Randy Kenyon presented the preliminary budget and emphasized that it is still very early in the process and the numbers are subject to change. Governor Newsom is introducing a cost-of-living adjustment to the Local Control Funding Formula. Since Bullis Charter Schools receives funding from LASD based on this formula, an additional $350,000 will be owed to BCS next year. The $2.7 million grant from the Los Altos Educational Foundation is now considered to be at-risk, and the grant for next year is estimated to be $2.5 million (significantly less than in previous years). Board member Bryan Johnson commented that he feels comfortable tapping into the reserves as long as it continues to meet its target range of 8-10% in order to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic and stated that this is not the time to cut programs. The Budget Review Committee will take that into consideration when they begin meeting.

Fred Gallagher presented the mid-year report from the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance and focused on the impact of the pandemic. Whether required to or not, LASD is considering a significant upgrade in the HVAC system, which could cost around $1 million. A member of the public commented in support of this upgrade and inquired about the use of HEPA filters. LASD experienced an unprecedented decline in enrollment this year of 11%, so the committee is preparing for a possible post-pandemic spike in enrollment next school year. The committee would also like to allocate resources to address learning loss caused by the pandemic. Governor Newsom’s proposed budget calls for one-time funds to address learning loss. LASD may be eligible for around $2.4 million in funding.

Stella Kam, Observer

Los Altos City Council January 2021

January 12, 2021

The City Council officially appointed Brad Kilger as Interim City Manager. He retired after forty years’ experience as City Manager for a number of California cities. Although retired, he helped South Lake Tahoe as Interim City Manager in 2020 during the initial pandemic months. He is expected to serve Los Altos well and provide more time to find a permanent City Manager.

The City Council adopted the Cut the Commute resolution to support the goal of reducing vehicular commute and increasing remote work in the Bay Area for city employees. The Los Altos City priority is to “adopt policies and practices that advance the City’s sustainability and GHG emission reductions.” It follows the Bay Area Air Quality Management District request to employers to pledge to allow employees to telecommute one or two days per week even after restrictions stemming from COVID-19 stay-at-home orders are eased. The city’s IT staff has established the necessary infrastructure and tools to make remote work successful, and the past nine months have demonstrated that the City has the ability and means to have city employees successfully work remotely. The resolution demonstrates the City’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases and protecting the environment.

The City Council accepted the State Certified Local Government grant in the amount of $34,100 for the Halsey House Feasibility Study. In addition, the City Council authorized appropriation of $16,353 of Park-in-Lieu funds to the Halsey House Feasibility Study for the City’s matching contribution amount. The Historic Structure Report and any other studies will be shared with the Historical, Parks and Recreation, and Finance Commissions. Recommendations will be formulated on the direction they would like the Council to go with the Halsey House in Redwood Grove. The recommendations will be delivered by March 2021.

The Halsey House is located at 482 University Avenue in what is now the City-owned 6.12-acre Redwood Grove Nature Preserve. The 1923 house, a local historical landmark, was purchased by the City of Los Altos in 1974 to be part of a nature preserve and for recreation programs.

January 26, 2021

After negotiations first discussed in an April 2020 council meeting, the City Council adopted the resolution amending the North County Library Authority Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) Amendment. The original JPA language stated that the two member entities (LAH and LA) will split specific expenses while the City of Los Altos provide staff and basic support to the JPA. The NCLA Commission recommended amending the JPA such that NCLA will pay the cost of consultants hired by NCLA to provide administrative support services using NCLA funds. Los Altos will no longer provide staff and basic support to the JPA. Both Los Altos Hills and Los Altos have now approved the amendment.

The City Council authorized the Interim City Manager to approve the final Tract Map and execute the Subdivision Improvement Agreement for development of the housing project at 389 First Street. It will contain one unit of two-bedroom affordable housing at the moderate-income level.

At the end of the meeting, Anita Enander made a request to have the Embarcadero Institute, an interest group, discuss its views on the RHNA issue facing the region. Mayor Neysa Fligor denied the request, and two other council members agreed that it’s not wise to bring questionable groups before the Council. City staff said they were in the process of hiring a consulting group for upward of $500,000 to assist in preparing the city for the updated housing element. Results from the consulting group leave open the possibility of appealing the RHNA required numbers if the City finds it cannot accommodate the RHNA numbers for affordable housing.

Claire Noonan, Observer

Program Planning and Member Survey Outcomes

Program Planning Outcomes

League of Women Voters Los Altos-Mountain View met virtually on January 30, 2021 to discuss what local issues we want to work on and to emphasize during the upcoming year, 2021-2022, and what three issues we would recommend to LWVC to prioritize for 2021-2023.

League program is the education and advocacy platform that we adopt to move forward our mission of promoting an active and informed citizenry.  Program planning is the tool for focusing and prioritizing our work to ensure that League’s human and financial resources are engaged where they have the most impact. Each year members are urged to attend this event to learn more about the League and offer their thoughts and suggestions about our priorities for the upcoming year.

Locally, we decided to focus our efforts on Voter Services, Affordable Housing, and Civil Discourse Events Around Community Issues. These priorities were approved by the board at our February 1st board meeting and will be presented to the membership at our Annual Meeting for adoption as our 2021-2022 program.

In addition to LWVC’s primary priority, Making Democracy Work in California, League members recommended that LWVC focus on Housing and Homelessness, Climate Change and Criminal Justice. Our League’s recommendations will be forwarded to LWVC by March 1, 2021 and voted on by delegates at the June, 2021 convention.

LWVC requested a local volunteer to work on each area of emphasis that we recommended and to designate the type of work: legislative action, education or toolkits. Our results:

  • Climate Change: Donna Davies, focus on legislative action.
  • Affordable Housing and Homelessness: Sue Russell, focus on legislative action.
  • Criminal Justice: no representative.

Member Survey Outcomes

75 members responded to our survey about what local issues we should prioritize for the upcoming 2021-2022 year. This represented a 36% response rate of our 208 members.  The following graph represents the survey outcomes.  Please note, as Voter Service work is our core mission, we did not include it as an option.

Program Planning on January 30th

Join us for our virtual Program Planning on January 30th, 10:00am-12:00pm

League program is the education and advocacy platform that we adopt to move forward our mission of promoting an active and informed citizenry.  Program planning is the tool for focusing and prioritizing our work to ensure that League’s human and financial resources are engaged where they have the most impact. We will discuss our local priorities and make recommendations to LWV California. 

All  members are welcome to attend to learn more about the League and offer their thoughts and suggestions. Join us on January 30th. Come at 9:30 to sign in and chat, program begins at 10:00.

Register to attend Program Planning

League of Women Voters of the United States Calls for Immediate Removal of President Donald Trump

1/8/2021

WASHINGTON – Thursday night, the League of Women Voters board of directors met and voted unanimously to call for the immediate removal of Donald J. Trump from the office of the President of the United States of America via any legal means, including and in order of preference: impeachment with disqualification, the invocation of the 25th amendment, or resignation. Today, the League of Women Voters board of directors issued the following statement: 

“Donald Trump must be immediately removed as President of the United States of America and banned from running for federal office ever again. 

“The sitting president was the instigator of Wednesday’s domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five Americans dead and many more injured. He commanded an army of insurrectionists to forcefully overturn our free and fair elections in an effort to maintain power. These are the actions of a tyrannical despot, and they are in direct opposition to American democracy. President Trump continues to present a clear threat to national security as well as the safety and security of the American public.

“For violating his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, Donald Trump must immediately resign or be removed from office by any measure possible in accordance with the law. Removing President Trump from the office of the president and swearing in Vice President Mike Pence to fulfill the duration of this presidential term will ensure our Constitution is maintained and upheld. 

“The League of Women Voters calls on both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to immediately impeach President Trump with disqualification and remove him from office. Should Congress fail to impeach him, we call on Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office immediately.”

###

CONTACT: Sarah Courtney | 202-263-1332 | [email protected]

Contact your senator about impeachment:

Send an action letter through LWV or by phone at (202) 224-3121.


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.