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 

A House Divided – From Polarization to Collaboration – Bringing Back Effective Government Workshop Report

Sponsored by the Santa Clara County Council Leagues of Women Voters and the Santa Clara County Council of the American Association of University Women, the workshop, held on September 21, 2019 at the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, hosted 53 participants eager to use their civil discourse skills.

The background for this event focused on the situation that our country is having trouble making important decisions and solving problems in the United States. 

The workshop introduced a concept of the country starting out with diverse and competitive biases from their original countries and settled areas. 

 We progressed to discuss views about ways to bridge the divide based on

• Reducing dangerous, toxic talk

• Making and following fairer rules for politics

• Taking control and making decisions closer to home

Our conversation covered options, trade-offs, and agreements.

Participants completed a feedback form that included results covering:

  • 36 of 41 respondents felt the workshop was a valuable use of their time
  • Actions citizens could take to address this problem: increase participation in public and neighborhood meetings; get involved; hold local events to learn civil discourse; show support for transparency, participation & better outcomes; raise awareness; more civil discourse at city council meetings; grass roots community volunteering; be the change.
  • Future workshop topics: use of military funds; monetary reform in politics; global economy & outsourcing impact on Americans; local housing & transportation; climate change.

Interested in practicing how to converse with “the other side”? 

Join us Sunday, Oct. 20, 2-4pm in Cupertino to practice civil discourse and plan our 2020 program. Contact [email protected] to reserve a spot. 

Together we can revive civility. Our democracy depends on it.

I Voted

Voters Choice Act

Making Voting Even More Convenient in Santa Clara County

We will have a new method of voting in Santa Clara County starting with the March 3rd, 2020 election. Passed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, the Voter’s Choice Act gives you more choices on how to vote in our elections.
What will be new?

  • Every voter will receive a Vote By Mail ballot in the mail.
  • You can vote at any of 110 Vote Centers in Santa Clara County.
    • 22 Vote Centers will open for 11 days including Election Day. 
    • 88 additional Vote Centers will be open for 4 days including Election Day.
  • Vote Centers will offer more space, additional services and new enhanced voting equipment.

Our League is an outreach partner with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (ROV) to educate the community about the Voter’s Choice Act so that we are ready for the March 2020 primary.  Many of our members attended the  ROV’s “Train the Trainer” program in September preparing us to speak to community groups about our new voting system. Please contact Karin Bricker about speaking to your group about the VCA or the Census.

Learn more about the VCA on the ROV website.

Census 2020

Everyone Counts! The 2020 Census

Census Day is April 1st, 2020, the day when the U.S. Census Bureau starts to count every person in the United States.  The U.S. Constitution requires a count of the nation’s population every 10 years to determine the number of congressional representatives for each state.  The government also uses census data to distribute an estimated $600 billion dollars in federal funding annually. 

To find out more about why it is so important for every California resident (not citizen) be counted, check out the City of Mountain View’s website on the Census.

Core to the League of Women Voter’s mission is to uphold our democracy and ensure that all voices are heard. We are partnering with Santa Clara County’s Census Complete Count Campaign to reach out to our community about the importance of the census. The County of Santa Clara has dedicated resources and expertise to develop a comprehensive, collaborative and ongoing effort to identify hard-to-count populations and identify the most effective ways to encourage participation in the census.  

Julie Cates, as the League of Women Voters Santa Clara County representative to the Census Complete Count Campaign, is working with League members to share their community partnerships and education expertise to reach hard to count populations. To learn how League members are supporting the Census locally, visit the LWV SCC 2020 Census Resources Website. Contact Julie Cates if you would like to be involved in securing a complete and accurate count.

Centennial

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.

Thanks to LWV North County San Diego for article content

Delegates Return from Convention

California Convention 2019
2019 California Convention

Karin Bricker

This was my first state convention and I enjoyed the chance to talk to people from other area leagues and to listen to speakers share the importance of increasing the diversity of our organizations and our democracy — to involve younger people of all races and ethnicities. Evidently this convention was already much more inclusive than the one in 2017. My favorite parts were the best practices sessions, sharing inspiring and practical ideas. One was on voter’s services projects and the other on advocacy and education activities. People applied to present and 5 projects were chosen for each session. All demonstrated effective collaboration with community partners.

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Lisa McLain

The state convention was a wonderful opportunity to learn what other leagues are doing and talk with members from throughout California, some who who have been members for decades and others who have joined recently.

In addition to voting on budgets, officers and  priorities for the next two years, we had the opportunity to attend a wide variety of caucuses and workshops. There was a very interesting workshop about how our implicit cultural biases impact us and limit our outreach to more diverse communities. I learned more about the Voter’s Choice Act, the upcoming Census and how to craft a better presentation. It was a very full weekend. 

I left the state convention with some good ideas, appreciative of our League’s work and thankful to live in voter friendly California.

Crownie Billik

I particularly enjoyed the plenary session. The session for me, was an adventure in democracy, as over 200 delegates , representing  53 local leagues, delegates voted/resolved the business, voted in new state positions, and set State priorities for action. 

I also very much enjoyed, meeting with a cross section of delegates at the Candidate Forum workshop, where we shared/discussed/role played practical ideas, to avoid confusion and promote civility at local league Candidate Forums. 

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Karin Fitzerald

As a new member to LWVLAMV I jumped at the chance to go to convention.  I have so much to learn.  Diversity inclusion caught my eye immediately because groups that are diverse are stronger. I got to attend a full day workshop on racial equity as well as shorter classes on transgender and prior incarcerated community issues.  I was comfortable enough to ask all the questions that pop up with these issues as well as made uncomfortable so that I could explore why I felt that way.  I learned to “understand before trying to be understood” and to push my boundaries.  One speaker talked about how each political party always tries to get out ‘their’ voters but more advantageous is to get disenfranchised communities involved in voting.  Expand the voting base.  Suffrage.  I hope to work in areas I am not comfortable to reach new voters and help disenfranchised communities with voting rights, changes and education as well as info about the census.  I also enjoyed finding out what other leagues were doing and all the aid that is available to us from their work.

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Ellen Wheeler

Delegates approved the following motion regarding charter schools at their 2019 convention in Pasadena. 

APPROVED: “Update Pre-K Education position to include charter schools’ accountability” 

Next steps: The approved motion will be taken up by the LWVC board, perhaps at their July board meeting. That board will begin their discussion of the process for how to utilize this motion. What was described to delegates on the floor is that the board will solicit local Leagues for their input. The state board will create explicit positions regarding this accountability provision regarding charter schools. (It was noted that the current Pre-K Education position for traditional public schools includes “accountability.”) The board may utilize the local study of LWV Fresno to inform their work. As is normal, these new positions will be voted on and approved by the LWVC board at an upcoming board meeting and will be activated at that time. Note that the standard LWVC norm is for all positions to be voted on at future LWVC conventions in their standard “re-affirmation of positions” segment during a plenary segment.

Ellen Wheeler is the education chairperson of LWV Santa Clara County. This charter school motion work will be discussed at future education committee meetings. Contact Ellen if you’d like to be added to this committee list. ([email protected])