I Voted

Voters Choice Act

In 2016 the California Legislature passed the Voters Choice Act (VCA) to increase flexibility and convenience for voters. Five counties piloted it for the 2016 Presidential election.  Santa Clara County and others will implement it for the 2020 elections.

Under the VCA every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail starting 29 days before the election. The voter can return it by mail, drop it in a secure County drop box, or return it at any vote center in the County.

Vote centers will replace traditional polling places.  Approximately 25 vote centers will open eleven days before the election, 100 for four days before the elections, and 125 will be open throughout the County on Election Day.  

At these centers a voter may:

  • Vote in-person
  • Drop off their ballot
  • Get a replacement ballot
  • Vote using an accessible voting machine
  • Get help and voting material in multiple languages
  • Register to vote or update their voter registration

Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters VCA page:  

https://www.sccgov.org/sites/rov/VCA/Pages/home.aspx

California Secretary of State VCA page:  

https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voters-choice-act/

— Claudia Hevel, Voter Services Committee

Annual Meeting June 15

SAVE the DATE: Saturday, June 15, 2019

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS

Los Altos – Mountain View Area

Annual Business Meeting

Come Celebrate Another Successful Year. Board Elections. Give directions to the Board for the coming year.

Michaels at Shoreline

2960 N. Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View

(past Shoreline Amphitheater near the Golf Course)

(650) 962-1014

9:45 a.m. Sign-In

10:00 a.m. Call to Order

10-11:45 a.m. Annual Business Meeting

Noon: Salad Luncheon  $30

12:45-1:45 p.m. Program

Special Guest Speaker

Santa Clara County Supervision Joe Simitian, District 5

Annual Meeting Kit is available here.

Burning Questions? Email Carol Kuiper or call her at (650) 941-8190.

Los Altos City Council March 2019

March 12, 2019

The City Council received an update on the status of the design readiness for construction of the new Los Altos community Center from Tam and Noll architects. Oppenheim/Davis presented the current construction cost estimate. From the retreat, council members had raised concerns about the cost of additional design elements in bid documents and the possibility of re-prioritizing the project as part of the City Council 2019 Strategic priorities.

Bidding documents are scheduled to go out for bid in May 2019. Ground breaking is scheduled for June 2019 with the expectation to complete and move into the new Los Altos Community Center in December 2020. Of twenty public correspondence documents, nineteen were positive to move forward with the project. One letter suggested caution because of cost. Twelve public comments received at the meeting requested the council to move forward. One was concerned about program space and one wanted the library expansion to be part of the design.

After the presentation, two council members stated concern for the risk of additional costs to taxpayers. One member worried about rain water drainage on the roof design. Concerns were raised about the building’s programmable space versus the large space for a lobby and about council members held “at arm’s length” by staff when questioning the programmable space issue. Naming several other city community centers that are bigger but cost less, one member thinks the city can get a better plan. In addition, the lack of a project manager and a construction manager due to staff changes is discomforting. Ms. Tam from Tam and Noll answered the questions raised to the satisfaction of other council members. City Manager, Chris Jordan, agreed to find a third party to pursue a constructability review to further answer cost concerns.

The council agreed to continue with the construction schedule and wait until bids were received to further address costs. Re-prioritizing the project was not discussed.

May 26, 2019

City Council received the Housing Element Annual Report (HEAP). A plan to increase affordable housing in the city’s general plan is required by the state. A statement of current and future housing needs and actions committed to increase housing in each category, HEAP was generated in 2015. Updated yearly until 2023, the HEAP report shows progress in ‘extremely low’, ‘very low’, ‘low’, ‘moderate’, and ‘above moderate’ housing permitted and built in the city. Because housing in Los Altos is very expensive, some council members felt the city was successful in finding ways to reach its goals. The city has rezoned areas for more housing, the minimum lot designations for Accessory Housing Units has been deleted from city zoning requirements, and the city has engaged a third-party organization to analyze further possible actions.

Five public communications and seven public comments to the council commended the report for showing gradual actions to increase affordable housing. Both communications and public comments to the council also expressed concern about the charts depicting actual units rented/available for purchase in the ‘extremely low’, ‘very low’, and ‘low’ categories. The chart showed 34 total units permitted or being built out of 234 units in the three categories required for the area by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). 330 more units than the 97 that were designated unit needs in the ‘above moderate’ category by RHNA have been permitted or built.

Additional zoning changes, further coordinated action with other RHNA areas, and results from the third-party organization analysis were noted to meet the RHNA goals by 2023.

March 12, 2019

The City Council received an update on the status of the design readiness for construction of the new Los Altos community Center from Tam and Noll architects. Oppenheim/Davis presented the current construction cost estimate. From the retreat, council members had raised concerns about the cost of additional design elements in bid documents and the possibility of re-prioritizing the project as part of the City Council 2019 Strategic priorities.

Bidding documents are scheduled to go out for bid in May 2019. Ground breaking is scheduled for June 2019 with the expectation to complete and move into the new Los Altos Community Center in December 2020. Of twenty public correspondence documents, nineteen were positive to move forward with the project. One letter suggested caution because of cost. Twelve public comments received at the meeting requested the council to move forward. One was concerned about program space and one wanted the library expansion to be part of the design.

After the presentation, two council members stated concern for the risk of additional costs to taxpayers. One member worried about rain water drainage on the roof design. Concerns were raised about the building’s programmable space versus the large space for a lobby and about council members held “at arm’s length” by staff when questioning the programmable space issue. Naming several other city community centers that are bigger but cost less, one member thinks the city can get a better plan. In addition, the lack of a project manager and a construction manager due to staff changes is discomforting. Ms. Tam from Tam and Noll answered the questions raised to the satisfaction of other council members. City Manager, Chris Jordan, agreed to find a third party to pursue a constructability review to further answer cost concerns.

The council agreed to continue with the construction schedule and wait until bids were received to further address costs. Re-prioritizing the project was not discussed.

May 26, 2019

City Council received the Housing Element Annual Report (HEAP). A plan to increase affordable housing in the city’s general plan is required by the state. A statement of current and future housing needs and actions committed to increase housing in each category, HEAP was generated in 2015. Updated yearly until 2023, the HEAP report shows progress in ‘extremely low’, ‘very low’, ‘low’, ‘moderate’, and ‘above moderate’ housing permitted and built in the city. Because housing in Los Altos is very expensive, some council members felt the city was successful in finding ways to reach its goals. The city has rezoned areas for more housing, the minimum lot designations for Accessory Housing Units has been deleted from city zoning requirements, and the city has engaged a third-party organization to analyze further possible actions.

Five public communications and seven public comments to the council commended the report for showing gradual actions to increase affordable housing. Both communications and public comments to the council also expressed concern about the charts depicting actual units rented/available for purchase in the ‘extremely low’, ‘very low’, and ‘low’ categories. The chart showed 34 total units permitted or being built out of 234 units in the three categories required for the area by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). 330 more units than the 97 that were designated unit needs in the ‘above moderate’ category by RHNA have been permitted or built.

Additional zoning changes, further coordinated action with other RHNA areas, and results from the third-party organization analysis were noted to meet the RHNA goals by 2023.

Claire Noonan, Observer

Protecting the Front Line in Elections

On March 6, 2019 Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian hosted an all-day symposium on the security of our county election system. Here are my notes. Sue Graham

Law and Policy

Speakers: Kim Alexander, Ann Ravel, Stephanie Singer

The counties have the responsibility to run elections. This is a giant unfunded mandate. The agencies and the candidates should pay for the work that the county does on their behalf.

According to Ann Ravel, parts of the constitution do give the federal government the power to regulate state elections if the election is for a federal office. States need federal oversight. All states should operate under the same standards for federal elections.

We don’t know if 2018 election was tampered with as some states are using equipment that doesn’t allow evidence to be preserved. We need the ability to audit all elections. Smaller counties don’t have the resources to make voting secure.

Important steps: Audit each step:

  • Audit the voter registration list.
  • Seek Department of Home Security involvement.
  • Lease voting equipment rather than buying.
  • Insist on a paper trail.
  • Have a checklist of what you do.
  • Be sure that the voter has confidence that their votes count.
  • County IT technicians should be on staff all the time.
  • Support HR1.
  • For reliable information seek websites that end in .gov or use Voter’s Edge.

Technology

Speakers: Ben Adida, Barbara Simons, Philip Stark

Voting security is hard because:

  • There is no referee.
  • The ballot is secret.
  • We don’t fund ROV properly.
  • ROV uses a volunteer staff.
  • The technology is old.
  • Voting happens in a condensed period of time.
  • American ballots have 20 to 30 questions.
  • We have many languages.
  • We can’t count the ballots by hand.

The threat model in voting is very complex. Who wants to do something nefarious? How do you defend against all the possibilities?

What are the core best practices?

  • Paper ballots, hand marked.
  • We need audits – a paper trail.
  • The voter registration database needs good security measures.

Voting machines present new vulnerabilities to the voting process. The ES&S machines came under harsh criticism by the panel. Among other things, it is hard for the voter to be sure that his vote was tallied as he wanted. The paper in his hand doesn’t necessarily match the data in the machine. Also, voting machines take longer to vote on, causing lines to form in big precincts. A very interesting article about its short-comings can be found with this link.

https://medium.com/@jennycohn1/progress-states-are-replacing-unverifiable-touchscreen-voting-machines-with-unverifiable-3d77c0905cfd

Should we be worried about hacking? Yes.

We should ask for evidence that elections were not hacked.

Just because the computers are not connected to the internet doesn’t mean they can’t be hacked.

Hackers only need to tamper with a few key states to swing an election.

Many vendors are partisan.

A disinformation campaign on social media has as much power to change an election as cyber security.

County Perspectives Panel

Speakers: Mike Shapiro, Gail Pellerin, Warren Slocum

Implementing election security:

  • Ask Department of Homeland Security to come in and do a stress test – ‘risk limiting audits’.
  • How do we protect the front end?
  • Train employees correctly
  • Train election day volunteers well.
  • Communicate with the public.
  • Observers should be posted at all polling places to ensure adherence to good voting practice.
  • Lease voting equipment; don’t buy.
  • Need continued source of funding.
  • Maintain partnerships with federal, state and local entities.

Voting is a positive affirmation between the people and their government.

Los Altos City Council February 2019

February 12, 2019

Speakers from the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) presented their current plan for realigning transit lines. The staff will draft a letter to the VTA with suggestion to reroute bus line 51 in order to provide ‘school tripper’ service to south Los Altos students in the Cupertino School District and Fremont Union High School District. The draft will be received at the February 26, 2019 council meeting.

Council member Anita Enander and Mayor Lynnette Lee Eng brought up writing a letter to Joe Simitian, President of the of Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, to consider the community impact from Stanford University’s request to the county for an upgrade to its General Use Permit. The university wants to build more housing for staff and students, 3150 units in all, in the county. Member Enander thinks that Stanford is not considering the effects of more university housing on the communities surrounding the campus, referring specifically to the Colonnade Los Altos that the university recently purchased for staff and student housing. She thinks the university should build more housing on its own property for their staff and students. Council members Jan Pepper and Jeannie Bruins state that Stanford is being a responsible community member by pursuing the housing issue, unlike other big companies in the area. Council member Neysa Fligor doesn’t think the council can provide a letter with substantive input on solutions at this time. Enander will call Simitian’s office for more information.

February 26, 2019

Mayor, Lynette Lee Eng, was authorized to send the letter drafted by staff to Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to request changes to bus route 51. During designated times of the day, before and after school hours, the route would change to pass Homestead High School and Cupertino Middle School, to benefit students in south Los Altos who attend Cupertino Unified and Fremont Union HSD schools.

The North County Library Authority’s Redevelopment Task Force presented an update to the November 2017 report. They presented the next step to decide on an upgrade for the Los Altos libraries. NCLA has gathered evidence of the needs and demographics at the library to suggest further redevelopment. The Task Force wishes to begin an outreach program to educate the community on potential future uses of a redeveloped library building. The services of a professional firm will assist in the outreach.

The City Council was asked to provide support for the Task Force’s continued action, but not to provide actual commitment to approve or place a revenue measure on the ballot to pursue another upgrade. In the future if authorized, the upgraded library would be at the same location and built at no cost to the city. Three agencies support the Task Force: Friends of the Library, North County Library Authority, and Los Altos Library Endowment.

Five community members commented and agreed. One expressed concern about costs of the Task Force and possible costs to the city and disagreed on pursuing the upgrade. Council members asked about library program attendance. They were told it exceeds the room occupancy available at the current library. A suggestion was to use rooms at the new community center when completed. As for earthquake standards and ADA, it was stated by staff that the current building is up to code requirements.

The City Council agreed unanimously to continue with next steps in the NCLA Task Force plan.

Mountain View City Council January 2019

January 8

Council Chambers was packed for this primarily ceremonial session as outgoing Councilmembers Ken Rosenberg, Pat Showalter, and Lenny Siegel stepped down; newly elected Councilmembers Ellen Kamei, Lucas Ramirez, and Alison Hicks took their seats; and Vice Mayor Lisa Matichak and Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga were elected Mayor and Vice Mayor, following the standard progression.

Most of the council members made brief remarks regarding their priorities. First, Kamei spoke of her goals of working on creating more housing (and offering rental and ownership opportunities particularly for those with a middle income), housing the unhoused, transportation, climate change, and diversity.

Ramirez, noting “I was conditioned by the candidate forums to speak briefly”, simply listed three requests:

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me.
  2. Please be respectful in your speech and in your deeds
  3. Hold me accountable when I fail you.

Hicks spoke about affordable housing, homelessness, climate change, and making sure to speak to every city in and out of the county for regional solutions. She thanked Progressive Action and Livable Mountain View (which she noted she founded but was no longer a part of).

Matichak, upon her election to Mayor, listed three personal areas of emphasis for 2019:

  1. Being very proactive to push back on federal and state attempts to reduce local control.
  2. Working towards greater regional consistency and collaboration
  3. Most importantly, addressing what residents have been asking Council for regarding quality of life issues (including tree canopies and traffic).

January 15

Council first held a study session interviewing the candidates for the Rental Housing Commission for two positions and one alternate. After a brief discussion after the interviews, they decided in a unanimous straw vote to promote the current alternate (Julian Pardo de Zela) to a full member, citing his experience on the board during a time of transition; then appointed Susyn Almond as the second full member and Nicole Haines-Livesay as the alternate.

Later that evening, Council held a second study session regarding whether Mountain View should adopt a formal Vision Zero program. Vision Zero, first pioneered in Sweden and primarily adopted by larger cities than Mountain View, (quoting the staff report) is a set of policies, plans, programs and approaches based on the philosophy that loss of life from traffic collisions is unacceptable and preventable. Council was supportive of adopting a Vision Zero policy, primarily to add measurable goals to the project and work already underway to decrease traffic collisions.

January 22

In this session, Council discussed the policy they would use to establish their two-year Major Goals and Work Plan. This year, they agreed to submit project ideas during the initial brainstorming workshop (on February 28) in addition to discussing the goals. Ramirez proposed that councilmembers could optionally submit their list of potential programs early so it could be included in the agenda.

Also during this session were two transportation items. The first was on the Downtown Valet Parking Pilot Program (as explained, valet parking increases parking lot capacity by enabling cars to be parked in the aisles, blocking others, since the valet could move cars as needed), and the second was on approving appropriating funds to implement a redesign of the intersection of State Route 237 and Middlefield Road.

Council also discussed their priorities for their visit to Washington DC as part of the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in March; deciding that the most fruitful meetings to schedule were with NASA, the Department of Transportation, the Pentagon, and Anna Eshoo.

January 29

This was a special Council team-building session, held in the Library. Your observer was late due to unexpected work on-call duties and arrived at the tail end of the session; where Councilmembers compared and contrasted the “Brown Act” style of San Jose (where groups of councilmembers release proposals before meetings) and Mountain View (which as Vice Mayor Abe-Koga stated, where councilmembers come with an open mind, listen to public input, and then make a decision). They closed with a discussion on staff and council relations, agreeing that Council’s job was policy and Staff’s job was implementation and day-to-day decisions.

—Max Beckman-Harned, observer

Los Altos City Council January 2019

January 8, 2019

The City Council addressed a renewal and increase to Park in-Lieu fees. The term refers to the requirement that residential property developers, especially for multi-unit residential development, have a green area in the plan or prepare to pay a fee instead. The city has not increased the fees for developers in several years. The proposed fee per unit built will rise 37% over the current cost. Property parcels to be developed along El Camino Real will soon reach the planning stage when costs will be determined. Also, the council discussed the need for fees in the city budget to be available to purchase land for a park should it become available in north Los Altos. The vote was 4/1 to adopt the fee increase and the staff was directed to examine additional options, for example, adopt a commercial Park in-Lieu fee, determine the effect on affordable housing costs, and examine waivers for Below Market Rate (BMR) and senior properties.

The city council had a discussion of SB 50, the state legislation introduced by Senator Scott Wiener, CA District 11, which is a revamped bill after SB 827 did not come up for vote last year. This bill would require a city like Los Altos, upon request by the State, to grant an ‘equitable communities’ incentive when a development proponent seeks and agrees to construct a defined residential development that satisfies specified criteria. There are many detailed regulations included in the bill to support more affordable housing in the region.

Council members are concerned about the “jobs-rich” and the “transit-rich” housing requirements in the legislation. The only properties that may fulfill that requirement right now are located in Los Altos along El Camino Real and side streets where there are multiple transit sites with access to tech corporations. Other City Council members felt that it is too early to take a position and that all cities like Los Altos are looking at zoning to make sure that jobs, housing, and transportation balance. The council did not make any decisions pro or con on SB 50. (See the Legislative Counsel’s Digest for more detail on SB 50.)

January 22, 2019

Because State law requires a report, the City Council received and approved the Traffic Impact Fees (TIF), and included the new Park in-Lieu Fees, in the Annual Report. Both fees are called Development Impact Fees (DIF) and are charged by local agencies, like Los Altos, in connection with development projects – TIF for transportation improvements and Park in-Lieu for parkland.

The City Council introduced and waived further reading of changes to the city ordinance to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), the tax on any property that rents rooms by the day for less than a month. Measure D passed on the November 2018 ballot to allow the increase up to 14%. Discussion involved allowing the 14% increase to take effect in July 1, 2019, which may require city hotels to compete with hotels in other cities nearby which have lower TOT. Staff introduced Option 2 which allows TOT to increase from 12% to 14% by 1% each year over three years which may be less challenging to city hotels. Vote by city council of 5/0 favored Option 2, increasing TOT in a phased approach. There will be a second reading and decision tentatively February 12, 2019, to adopt the increase which would begin July 1, 2019

–Claire Noonan, Observer

Our Voice, Our Vote Campaign October 16th – on KABC

Our local League of Women Voters joined a pilot initiative led by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and the Santa Clara County Office of Education to register high school students to vote.   100 volunteers visited 13 high schools across the San Jose area to register students and eligible pre-registration voters too.

Our local LWV Los Altos Mountain View members, Julie Cates, Carol Kuiper, Xiaoyan Zhao and Natalie Elefant  visited Yerba Buena High School in east side San Jose.  KABC sent a news crew to cover the event and you can watch their news segment, Pilot Registration Drive for High School Students in San Jose.

Foothill Community College Political Awareness Day October 10th

Our League of Women Voters Los Altos Mountain View members partnered with Foothill College’s President and student leaders to hold multiple election information sessions and a noon time “rally” to encourage students to register to vote.  Pete Stahl (a League member) spoke to two classes about the “Why, How, and What” of voting. The students were engaged during the talks, asked questions and, at the end, several students commented that they found the information very useful.

Julie Cates helped organize the event with Foothill College and Ellen Wheeler, Karin Bricker, Lisa McLain and Carol Kuiper staffed tables on the plaza helping students to learn how to complete voter registration forms.  They also encouraged students to help other students register to vote.