Los Altos City Council Meetings May 2018

May 8, 2018

If adopted, an Affordable Housing Impact Fee would generate funds for the city to stimulate production of or enhancement of affordable housing. Keyser Marston Associates, a joint jurisdictional study by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, supports adoption. Such fees are established by the City Council, based on gross square footage, and paid before a building permit is issued. A draft ordinance presented at the meeting applies fees to residential ownership projects with an increase of 2 or more units, residential rental developments with increase of two or more units, and to non-residential developments with increase of 500 plus square footage. If the properties are for affordable housing, the fees are waived. A public hearing will occur before the council considers adoption of the ordinance, probably at the May 22, 2018, meeting.

Los Altos City prohibits short-term rentals (STR) in any zoning district. However, STRs are not expressly prohibited, rather by omission of name in the ordinances. The draft ordinance presented to City Council will expressly prohibit lodging for compensation for fewer than 30 days (28 if in February). The issue is to help preserve the low-density single family residential neighborhoods of the city. There was talk of establishing a Transient Occupancy Tax which would cover the cost to the city of STRs and allow some residents to get income and stay in their long-time residence. The ordinance will tentatively be adopted May 22, 2018.

Since the interim urgency ordinance to temporarily prohibit any cannabis production, distribution, or retail in Los Altos, the city is looking into the regulations and ordinances to authorize one or more medical or adult-use commercial cannabis retailers. There are detailed regulations by the new Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) that preserves local control over the establishment of any kind of cannabis license. The council considered types of retail suitable to the community, where businesses might be located, a limit to the total number of businesses, appropriate regulatory and permit structures, and most important, whether or not the City wants to tax any type of cannabis production, distribution, or retail. The City Council directed the staff to conduct community outreach and prepare necessary documents for a tax on cannabis revenue.

May 22, 2018

The City Council adopted the ordinance for Express Short-Term Rental Prohibition within the City of Los Altos. See minutes of May 8, 2018 for details.

The City Council introduced and waived further readings for the ordinance to establish Affordable Housing Impact Fees for residential and non-residential development. See minutes of May 8, 2018 for details.

The City Council received a Sufficiency of Initiative signatures on a petition to put an amendment measure to the city’s general plan on an election ballot. The initiative measure asks for a vote by Los Altos registered voter residents before significant changes (sale or lease or rezoning to different land us) for city-owned parks, open space, and public/institutional properties. Public comment proponents want to preserve parks and open space within city boundaries from development. Opponents say the amendment will tangle up organizations’ leasing agreements at any kind of open space areas in the city and place extensive glitches in implementation of the Downtown Vision Plan. Four options for this proposed initiative are to adopt the plan immediately, set the initiative on the November 2018 ballot, set a special election date in August 2018, or have staff write up a report for June 21 council meeting analyzing the issues the City Council has brought up and then authorize one of the first three options. Questions raised by the council members include: church leases on public property, other leasing concerns, more detail on which properties are affected, risks of litigation over leases. Mayor Jean Mordo also asked staff to provide an alternative measure that addresses council questions, similar perhaps to one that Los Altos Hills approved. A final decision will be made at June 21, 2018, council meeting.

The City Council received the Los Altos Downtown Vision Plan (LADVP) developed by RRM Design, Land Econ Group, and Plan 2 Place Group. A downtown vision plan has been discussed at four previous city council meetings beginning in September 2016. The goal of the LADVP is to serve as the community’s long-range vision, and while not regulatory, will provide a roadmap for future public projects and private development. The plan provides the community and decision-makers with short (1-5 year), mid (5-10 year), and long-term (10-20 year) actions to implement the project. Ten chapters describe community preferences including a plan for public spaces, parking and circulation, and implementation suggestions. The plan divides downtown Los Altos into four districts: First Street properties, Edith Avenue, Main and State Streets, and San Antonio Road. When City Council asked how to move forward to implement LADVP, the design group presenters suggested focus on revision of parking standards; fiscal opportunities, like adding another hotel; and adding a live theatre to the central gathering place. The council requested a 3-D model and more financial analysis which will be presented before adoption of a final plan.

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Mayor Lenny Siegel on the housing crisis in Mountain View

Mayor Lenny Siegel spoke at the Technology and Society Committee luncheon on May 8th on the affordable housing crisis, pointing out the steps the City of Mountain View has been taking the last few years to help solve the housing crisis. He showed a chart which vividly pointed out how the City’s current plans could lead to an increase in housing stock of 77% over the number of units in 2010.

He stressed that North Bayshore (NBS) will be “car light” and will include complete neighborhoods with housing and parks, as well as retail and housing.  He pointed out that even though most of the new housing being built in the City is high end, increasing the supply of housing does help. Also, since the City is requiring 15% below market rate units in all its new rental developments, this will lead to significantly more affordable units.  When/if the goal of 9,850 new units in NBS is reached, with 20% of these units-or 1,970-being affordable, this will be more than the current number of affordable units in Mountain View.

He also touched on why he and other councilmembers opposed Sen. Wiener’s bill, SB 827, which died in committee.  He stated that this bill did not require proper transitions to existing neighborhoods, it focused on housing near transit centers rather than near job centers such as NBS, and it wouldn’t have allowed the bonus FAR system the City has in place now; this bonus FAR program requires developers who want to build higher to provide community benefits such as affordable housing, parks, land for schools, etc.  He hopes Wiener will visit Mountain View to see why SB 827 would have been a bad idea.

He hopes the State will provide transportation money to cities that build housing, as transportation is a serious problem.  Most of our local transportation money goes to San Jose.  The first and last mile situation is still the major issue. We need to recognize that ridership will not cover the cost of transit and come up with other ways to pay for it.  He’s hopeful that more ridesharing pools to get folks to transit centers will help with the first mile.

The City is moving towards building a fast link between the train station and NBS, looking at an elevated system.  The City is also working on preparing an employee head count tax to go on the November ballot; this money could be spent by Mountain View on its preferred transit needs.

Finally, he’s talking with neighboring cities, sharing what Mountain View has been doing to create more housing to encourage them to do more.

— Report submitted by Sue Russell, Housing Committee Co-chair

Mountain View Whisman School District Meetings April 2018

MVWSD Board Meetings, April 5th and 19th, 2018

In April the Mountain View Whisman School District Trustees reviewed the first and second trimester benchmark assessment results and took an in depth look at the 2017-2018 English Learner Board Goal.

Benchmark Assessment Report

The Benchmark Assessments are created by the district’s Assessment Task Force, a group of over twenty elementary and middle school teachers.  In kindergarten through second grade, math and English Language Arts (ELA) benchmarks are given each trimester and assess the standards covered during the trimester only. In third through eighth grade, the math and ELA benchmarks are given in the second and third trimesters and include content from the entire school year.  There is also a writing benchmark and an additional literacy benchmark called Literably.  The benchmarks help teachers track student learning during the school year in a less formal setting than the annual state testing.

The benchmark assessments were revised for this year, therefore it is not possible to compare this year’s data to last year’s results.  For kindergarten through second grade, the first trimester and second trimester results are not comparable because they test different content.  For the third through fifth grade benchmarks, the first and second trimester tests cover the same content and track growth over the course of the year.  The benchmark data can be found here.

2017-2018 English Learner Board Goal Update

In January 2017, the board created a goal to address the achievement gap between English Learners (ELs) and their peers.  The 2015 District Quality Review found that “The provision for English Language Learners across the District is ineffective, inconsistent, and, in many cases, counterproductive.”  The District Quality Review and Schools Reviews laid the groundwork for the Strategic Plan 2021 and the board’s EL goal for the 2017-2018 school year.

Research on English language acquisition, “indicates academic English language proficiency at 6-8 years,” according to the presentation. The board’s goal is to “Revise the English Learner program to ensure a minimum of 80% of students who are enrolled in the program will reach competency in the English language on par with their peers within a six year period.” This goal focuses on English Learner students who are  Long Term English Learners (LTELs) or at risk of becoming LTELs.  LTELs are middle school students classified as ELs for more than six years.  Students at risk of becoming LTELs are fifth grade students classified as ELs for six years (discussed in more depth in the November-December observer report).  Across the district, Long Term English Learners and students at risk of being LTELs total 177 students or 15% of the English Learner population.

In October, the board discussed how to achieve their goal by adopting English language development programs for students in upper and lower grades (included in the October observer report). For the current school year, the district chose separate approaches for the upper and lower grades. For the upper grades, the district adopted the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP), an instructional model to support ELs.  For the lower grades, the district originally planned to implement an evidence-based early learning language acquisition program for kindergarten through third grade. Heidi Smith, the district’s Director of Federal, State, and Strategic Programs, recommended the district create its own program drawing from different models reviewed, and the board agreed.

In April, the in-house K-3 Early Language Learning Safety Net for English Learners was unveiled. Rather than implementing a program across the elementary schools, the district will have a nineteen-day summer school for K-6, with a total of eleven classes.  Using curriculum developed by the district, the summer school will foster language development through science content.

For the 2017-2018 school year, the district also changed the English Learner goal for individual schools’ Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA).  The SPSA are plans developed by principals and staff at each school using goals driven by the board and student achievement data from the previous year.  This year, schools were directed to focus on LTELs and students at risk of becoming LTELs.  The previous year, schools had focused on increasing the performance of all ELs in English Language Arts and mathematics.

The April 5th board discussion focused on how to track English Learner student progress in light of the board goal.  Dr. Rudolph asked trustees what data they want the district to gather to measure the board’s success.  Each of the data tracking options focused on students who enrolled in the district for six years, meaning that if an EL student arrived after second grade they would not be included in the data used to measure the board’s success.  There are challenges with the quality of data management software used to monitor student progress.

Trustees decided the district should track students by cohort, separating students new to the district each year into subgroups.  Each year, the district loses and gains students at different grade levels. Only students enrolled in the district for at least six years will be used to measure the board goal.

— Devon Conley, Observer

Los Altos City Council Meetings April 2018

April 10, 2018

The City Council directed the staff to negotiate an exclusive lease agreement with Children’s Corner, the non-profit drop-in daycare and pre-school in the current Hillview Community Center. A revised Letter of Intent presented to the City Council asks that the renewal agreement extend the current lease until March 2019 before construction on the new community center begins in June 2019. Children’s Corner organization agrees to increase their financial commitment/deposit from $600,000 to $1million to provide funding for constructing the expanded square footage in the new facility. Children’s Corner will provide up to $200,000 for purchase and installation of new playground equipment. The City Council directed staff to reduce the lease to 10 years instead of 20 years. Children’s Corner support helps the current budget for the new building which needs $5-10 million above the $35 million already allocated for renovation of the facility.

Since 1981 Children’s Corner has leased rooms and outdoor space in the Hillview Community Center to assist families within the Los Altos city boundaries, families of city employees who work in Los Altos, and, regardless of residence or employment, low-income and/or military families and special education needs children. Despite criticism both written and expressed during the public comment period that dedicating public land for non-profit organizations is bad policy, the City Council agreed that the benefits to the city outweigh the objections.

April 24, 2018

City Council received a third professional services agreement with an architect to provide design services to renovate the Grant Park Center Commercial Kitchen. Design services costs have increased substantially over the budget limit for the renovation. After discussion of other ways to upgrade the cabinets and equipment, Jeannie Bruins, council member, moved to eliminate the commercial kitchen renovation. It was approved 4 to 1.

City Council heard from Myra Orta, 50 year Los Altos resident, who advocated for gun safety and control actions to council members. The suggestions to alter existing municipal code laws were:

  • Prohibit sale of fire arms for any reason in downtown Los Altos.
  • Motivate ‘gun buy back’ by Los Altos Police Department.
  • Define what vendors may sell at city festivals, by, for example, prohibiting sale of toy weapons.

Council member Mary Prochnow suggested the attorney, Chris Diaz, examine the possibility of prohibition within the entire city limits and the regulations for prohibiting sales of toy weapons at city-sponsored festivals. Council member, Jeannie Bruins, outlined the ‘gun buy back’ policy of Santa Clara County (SCC). She suggested promoting ‘buy back’ police department policies in Los Altos Town Crier and city newsletters and noted that SCC offers gift cards in exchange for the weapons returned. Police chief, Andy Galea, said that Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Sunnyvale are examining the funding issues to promote ‘buy back’ – not to purchase, but staffing etc. Mayor Jean Mordo asked the city attorney to look into laws about prohibiting sale over the internet of weapons parts and equipment to Los Altos residents.

Los Altos Municipal Code requires permits to own a gun, prohibits weapons on public streets, requires a seller to post and give a copy of city gun regulations to purchaser, and allows for police confiscation of weapons, if necessary.

California has an A rating for the six key gun safety policies on the Gun Law Scorecard kept by the Law Trend Watch of the Giffords Gun Safety Foundation.

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Mountain View City Council Meetings March & April 2018

Update on Initiatives to Assist Homeless and Consideration of Parking Enforcement Options

On March 6, the City Council received an update on many initiatives previously approved to assist homeless people in Mountain View. A biannual count conducted Countywide revealed that the homeless population increased from 276 in 2015 to 416 in 2017. The Council voted to continue a number of programs with some minor refinements based on experience gained over the past 10 months. These programs include: rapid rehousing (short term financial assistance); biohazard waste cleanup and waste dump pilot (for RV dwellers); safe parking program pilot for vehicle dwellers; RV/vehicle repair assistance; Dignity on Wheels (mobile shower and washer/dryer services for hygiene support); and rental assistance.

The Council also provided direction on parking enforcement policy options to address concerns about RV and vehicle dwellers on public right-of-way. A December 2017 count by the Mountain View Police Department identified 291 inhabited vehicles in the City. After considerable deliberation, the Council voted 4-3 to “use current tools with enhancements to parking and towing enforcement in order to enhance the management of City streets.” Under this direction, the Police Department would continue to enforce existing parking regulations, and additional traffic measures and parking signage could be installed to enhance safety.

Short-Term Rental Regulations

Short-term rentals (like Airbnb) are currently prohibited under the municipal code – that is, hotel and motel uses are not permitted in residential areas. On March 20, the Council directed staff to study allowing and regulating short-term rentals. Short-term rental operators would pay the transient occupancy tax (TOT), which is paid by hotel and motel operators. Additionally, the Council directed staff to explore placing a limit on the number of days homes can be rented out unhosted (that is, without the homeowner occupying the home).

Amendments to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance

The Council approved modifications to the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance on March 6 to conform to the voter-approved Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), also known as Measure V. This included increasing the eligibility threshold for relocation assistance from 80% area median income to 120% area median income. (As a baseline, the median income in Santa Clara County is $113,300 for a four-person household.)

The other key decision was related to the “First Right of Return” provision in the CSFRA. This pertains to the Ellis Act, a law passed by the state legislature in the 1980s that allows landlords to legally withdraw their rental units from the housing market. The Council on a 5-2 vote approved the staff recommendation, which was to be consistent with provisions previously approved by the Rental Housing Committee. Under this direction, tenants who are displaced when their landlord withdraws their unit from the rental market have certain rights and protections. If that landlord returns that unit to the rental market and re-rents it to a new tenant (or fails to provide the former tenant with a First Right of Return) within two years of the withdrawal, then the former tenant has a right to collect actual and exemplary damages. For up to five years after the withdrawal, the former tenant has a right to renew their tenancy under the same monthly rental amount as when the tenancy was terminated. For up to ten years after the withdrawal, the former tenant has a First Right of Return, but no longer at the original rental amount as at the time of the termination of the tenancy.

Gatekeeper Process Update

On March 27, the Council approved modifications to the gatekeeper process. Development proposals that require discretionary actions by the Council (such as General Plan Amendments or re-zonings) must first receive Council permission before they can be processed by City staff. This preliminary “approval” is referred to as the “gatekeeper process” – in other words, for development proposals that do not comply with existing zoning or General Plan regulations, the Council needs to explicitly allow the project to move forward to the entitlements process. This ensures that City planners do not spend a lot of time on a project that the Council will definitely not support.

Previously, gatekeeper proposals did not require public noticing beyond what is required for regular meeting agendas. The Council voted to require that notifications be mailed to property owners near gatekeeper sites and to any tenants living in units that would be demolished or affected by the gatekeeper project. Additionally, gatekeeper proposal applicants would need to provide more information about their proposal to the Council, and approved gatekeepers would require Council reauthorization if significant changes are made to the proposal. (In other words, if the Council allows a gatekeeper proposal to move forward, and the developer makes substantial changes to the proposal, then the proposal would need to go through the gatekeeper process again.)

Public Comment Regarding Newly Proposed Charter Amendment

On April 17th, nearly 20 members of the public used the portion of the meeting reserved for comment on items not on the agenda to speak about the effort to place a charter amendment on the November 2018 ballot that would significantly modify the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent Act (CSFRA), also known as Measure V. Six speakers expressed concerns about the impact of the CSFRA on their rental property and supported the effort. The remaining speakers urged residents to not sign the petitions circulating to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

The most significant provision in the charter amendment would reduce the vacancy threshold at which the CSFRA would be suspended entirely. The CSFRA grants the Rental Housing Committee the authority to suspend the law (terminating the rent stabilization program and the just cause eviction protections) if vacancy rates exceed 5%. If approved by voters, the proposed charter amendment would reduce that threshold from 5% to 3% and make the suspension mandatory. The current vacancy rate is approximately 4.4%.

Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

Despite strong support from the Council for environmental sustainability efforts and programs, the updated Community Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory revealed that 2015 emissions were significantly higher than the baseline 2005 levels. The inventory is a regular measurement of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions being generated citywide.

On April 24, City staff alerted the Council that, even with the 100% carbon-free electricity being procured by the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority, 2020 emissions are projected to be significantly higher than the goal for that year. Transportation and energy together comprise more than 90% of all emissions, and while emissions from energy are down from 2012, transportation emissions have increased significantly. This means that, despite very positive progress on reducing emissions from electricity, increased emissions from transportation not only wipe out the progress made with cleaner energy, but in fact is making things much worse than projected.

The Council approved the staff recommendations to increase the frequency of developing greenhouse gas inventories, conduct a transportation greenhouse gas analysis, and begin working on the next Environmental Sustainability Action Plan (ESAP-4), which includes a number of programs and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Human Rights Analysis Pilot

In December 2016, the Council approved a resolution designating Mountain View a “Human Rights City” and adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as guiding principles. On April 3rd, 2018, the Council approved a pilot program based on a recommendation from the Human Relations Commission to “implement a human rights policy analytical framework to analyze policy decisions through a human rights lens.” The pilot program would assess the impacts of policy proposals on four priority concerns: housing displacement, housing affordability, social equity (disparate impacts on racial, ethnic and economic groups in Mountain View), and economic prosperity (fiscal impacts on small businesses and specific demographic groups in Mountain View).

The Council approved the staff recommendation to apply the pilot to three upcoming policy issues: Short-Term Rental Regulations, the East Whisman Precise Plan, and Vision Zero, which is a goal to eliminate all bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries caused by collisions with cars. During the pilot, the Council will evaluate the usefulness of the additional analysis and the impact on staff time and resources.

VTA North Bayshore Transportation Access Study

On April 17, the Council provided input on a study conducted by VTA in partnership with Google regarding transportation access to the North Bayshore area. Originally a feasibility study on a Light Rail extension project from the Bayshore/NASA Station, the study scope expanded to evaluate several transportation technologies. Based on a number of factors including capital and operational costs, the study recommends a “hybrid option of buses and autonomous vehicles (AVs)” in the near term, and further analysis of AVs and possible light rail in the long term. The Council generally agreed with the analysis and directed staff to work with VTA to identify funding partners and integrate this work with the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) study, which is investigating alignments and transportation technologies that will connect North Bayshore with the Downtown Transit Center.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View-Los Altos High School District Board Meeting April 2018

This meeting was notable because it showcased two methods the MVLA School District uses to try to improve student achievement. As always, it was demonstrated that while MVHS and LAHS work together, each school has its own specific approach to topics and these approaches are often dependent on the teachers leading the way. Both of these items were for information and discussion only. No action by the board was requested.

DELAC Update

Every district in the state with a substantial number of students whose first language is not English has a DELAC (District English Language Advisory Committee) that works to help those students (called English Learners, or ELs) and their families. At tonight’s meeting the board heard a detailed presentation on their work by Associate Superintendent Margarita Navarro. (Dr. Navarro was hired for the curriculum post after the retirement of Brigitte Saraff, whom experienced Leaguers remember as MVLA’s prior long-time respected curriculum guru.) This observer report covers some highlights of this detailed report. As always, interested readers may learn more by going to the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District website http://www.mvla.net/

There are three main goals of their DELAC: [1] To have communication between the District Office, schools, parents, and families to support their EL students AND for ELs to be as successful as possible; [2] To advise the district’s trustees on programs and services for ELs; and [3] To provide leadership training for parents so that they can provide meaningful feedback.

DELAC members advise on five items: [A] the Master Plan for ELs; [B] the District-wide needs assessment; [C] Goals and objectives for programs and services for ELs; [D] the Annual Language Census; and [E] Reclassification procedures and written parent notifications. (“Reclassification” refers to the process whereby an EL student is considered to be sufficiently proficient in their English language and their academic work that they no longer need extra help with their academics. Students are reclassified every year from grade one through twelve.) Tonight the focus was on items B. and C.

While Dr. Navarro noted that she was “reclassified” in 1st grade, she and all other reclassified EL students are considered “Ever ELs.” School districts work with three main profiles of ELs: Newcomers (those in the U.S. for 0-5 years), LTELs (Long-term ELs who have been in the U.S. for 5+ years and have yet to be reclassified), and RFEPs (Reclassified to Fluent English Proficient.) (The mark of a thorough reclassification process is that RFEPs do as well or better than non-ELs.)

There are 269 total ELs in MVLA – 164 at MVHS, 79 at LAHS, and 26 at Alta Vista HS. As you can surmise, MVHS is structured to have more support systems for less proficient EL students. The primary languages spoken by MVLA ELs is Spanish (by 78% students), Mandarin (by 5.5% students), Russian (by 2.3% students), and a variety of other languages (by 12.1% students). A fairly large number of LTELs are also special education students.

Trustees heard about the extensive professional development provided for MVLA teachers and staff for ELs. Additionally, related to DELAC, trustees heard of multiple activities done with and for parents. They also were told of the 2017/18 DELAC meeting topics for parent training and community building. For example, DELAC members spent one meeting learning how to analyze their child’s test score data.

After that extensive background information five DELAC members came up to the podium, one by one, to offer five recommendations to the board from their committee work. Those recommendations are: [1] Offer an academic support class for students in English Language Development (ELD); [2] Create an adult to student mentor program, especially for LTEL students; [3] Offer parent education workshops to learn about curriculum and ways to support students at home; [4] Offer field trips to universities for all EL students; and [5] Monitor the progress of EL students through “EL Learning Plan” meetings with staff, students, and parents.

Goals for 2018/19 are [A] To update the EL Master Plan; [B] Examine reclassification criteria (noting that the state of California will be publishing this; does MVLA want to adopt the state’s plan?); [C] Explore the “English Learner Road Map” (a new state policy); [D] Expand opportunities for parent training; and [E] Examine RFEP data.

Science program update

In preparation for the statewide implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), trustees heard from enthusiastic MV and LAHS teachers about how they are already implementing the “hands on” and research-based NGSS model. In addition to what we consider to be the “traditional” 3-course model of science courses (biology, chemistry, and physics), our high schools offer many more options for students. Advanced Placement courses are available in Physics (AB and C), chemistry, biology, environmental science, as well as honors courses in these subjects. And, multiple science class electives are offered at each school (with different offerings at each school depending on the availability of having a teacher for them). Examples of electives are forensics, biotechnology, and robotics. Students at both of these high schools are very excited about taking lots of science classes, so much so that there is a need for more classroom space.

— Ellen Wheeler, Substitute Observer

SB 827 a bill that attempts to encourage housing along transit corridorsĀ 

A meeting was held last month on State Senator Scott Wiener’s bill, SB 827, that attempts to encourage housing along transit corridors throughout the state. The meeting was organized by Bay Area Forward, and Maya Perkins, the group’s executive director, was the host and moderator. (Maya Perkins is our Annual Meeting speaker)

Chris Lepe with Transform described the background, and the bill. One-third of California’s renters pay more than half of their wages to rent. To avoid that, many are now mega-commuters, spending more than one or two hours on the road each working day.  The carbon emissions from that commuting off-set all of the gains we have made with our energy efficiency efforts. We need more housing but there are many reasons why this has not happened, and a major one is local reaction that kills projects. SB 827 attempts to change that. Take a look at transitrichhousing.org for some details and a very helpful map.

SB 827 calls for higher density, for example for areas within 1/4 mile of major transit stops, building height limits are raised to 55 ft. on narrow streets and 85 ft. on wide streets. There are also changes to parking minimums, density maximums and arbitrary design requirements.

The bill applies to residential and mixed-use zones, but not commercial or industrial zones.

Lewis M with California Yimby, https://cayimby.org/ made the point that this is only one step, and many more will be needed to solve the crisis. He made the case for State regulation of what has always been considered a local matter – the State sets standards for education, transportation, energy use, and heath care, all areas that touch everyone. Housing should be treated similarly, in his opinion.

Pilar L with [email protected], told of her personal story, she used to rent in Mountain View, but after several rent hikes and several moves, she now lives in the East Bay. 

Fernando M with a SF Housing group expressed concerns about SB 827. The bill requires coverage of relocation expenses, including higher rents and offers the right to return for tenants displaced while project is built, for up to 3 1/2 years, but the point was made that comparable housing may not be locally available, so the impact on tenants is huge. There is the fairness question too, as these tenants often are lower income residents of color. 

Lenny Siegel, Mayor of Mountain View, is not in support of the bill. He does not want to see old Mountain View destroyed simply because it is next to a CalTrain stop. He says Mountain View is now providing housing, far more than neighboring cities, and does not want to lose local control.

Lewis made an interesting point – by failing to supply housing, our kids have been forced to move elsewhere, contributing, for example, to the high rents and gentrification of San Francisco.

The meeting was informative, contentious at times, and I think it is safe to say, SB 827 will need some significant amendments if it is ever to become law.

Gary Hedden

Note: Wiener’s bill failed in a Sacramento committee on Tuesday, April 17.

For more see: https://slate.com/business/2018/04/why-sb-827-californias-radical-affordable-housing-bill-was-so-unpopular.html

Mountain View-Los Altos High School District March 2018

March 12, 2018

The board passed the Resolution on Student Safety, which states (in part):

MVLA district holds regular drills, works with local agencies to take any threats of violence seriously, and fosters a positive school climate, free from harassment and violence.  The district urges the state of California and the U.S. Congress to invest in wraparound services to prevent bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence in schools and to provide funding for programs to support students’ mental, physical, and emotional health.  The district urges the U.S. Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence on school campuses and to repeal the prohibition against data collection and research on gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control.

The board passed the Resolution in Celebration of the Right to Vote, declaring 2/23/18, the 47th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, as the Day of Student Registration to Vote.

Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen presented the Second Interim Budget Report, reporting revenues of $87.4M, Expenses of $86.0M, and Transfers out of $1.0M, with no significant differences from the First Interim.

The board approved adjustments of Developer Impact Fees on residential development from $1.16 to $1.26 per square foot and on commercial development from $0.19 to $0.20 per square foot.  A Public Hearing on the fees was held, but there were no speakers.

The Adult Education Annual Review was held, highlighting the Job and Career Fair in October 2017.  Job placement for Adult School students has been very successful.

The board voted for the incumbents in the CSBA Delegate Assembly Election: Joe Mitchner, Frank Biehl, Cynthia Chang, and Jodi Muirhead. 

— Sally Ahnger, Observer

March 26 Meeting

   March 26: Recognizing that success at school is connected to the feelings of mental health and safety, MVLA puts time and money into student wellness. Tonight the board heard about the clinical services that are provided at MVHS, LAHS, and Alta Vista High School. Some context for this need: most high school students were born after 9/11 and have grown up with the tragic norm of school shootings. Added to these unsettling sociological factors is the fact that students feel more pressure to perform academically and get into colleges that are increasingly harder to get into. According to a California Healthy Kids survey, the percentages of students who report “chronically sad or hopeless feelings” has gone up for the past three years, with 20% of MVLA 9th graders feeling anxious or depressed and one third of 11th graders feeling this way. MVLA hired Dr. Susan Flatmo to be their clinical services coordinator to help these students, with Huang Vo as student services coordinator at MVHS and Kristin Castillo as student services coordinator for LAHS. A grant from El Camino Hospital helps pay for these positions. They work with a team of mental health counselors through CHAC (the local Community Health Awareness Council) who help students at both schools plus Alta Vista. What are the top five student issues via referrals? They are (in descending order) academic difficulties, depression, anxiety, family issues, and frustration tolerance. These counselors utilize three tiers of support for students: Tier One (for all students via school-wide mental health awareness events, teacher training, and more); Tier Two (early intervention for some students using individual counseling, services and support groups, and more); and Tier Three (intensive intervention for a small number of students including acute crisis intervention and support, referrals to outside services, clinical groups, and case management).  Looking forward, goals of this extensive and evolving work are to help students have an increased capacity to self-regulate and problem solve via student wellness centers and school-wide awareness work. Additionally they strive to help reduce mental health stigma (including that for parents who feel alone and stigmatized if their child has mental health issues).

     The other major agenda item at this meeting was a discussion about the increasing difficulty in finding qualified substitute teachers. According to a recent survey done by MVLA, over a two-week period there was only one day where they had enough substitute teachers. On all the other days other teachers had to fill in for that absent teacher during their prep period (and sometimes even the principal had to fill in). One way MVLA hopes to be able to attract more substitute teachers to work for their district is to raise their pay. Currently MVLA pays a daily rate of $152. Several surrounding districts (including Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman) offer these substitute teachers $160 per day. In order to remain competitive with these surrounding school districts MVLA is recommending to the board that they raise their daily substitute teacher pay to $180. The board heard this recommendation and made a few comments. This recommendation will come back as an action item (in the consent agenda) at a future board meeting.

— Ellen Wheeler, Substitute Observer

Los Altos City Council Meeting March 2018

March 13, 2018

The City Council adopted the Historic Preservation Amendment and the Zoning Code amendments pertaining to accessory structures in residential districts, both discussed at previous meetings. The ordinance to amend accessory dwelling units (ADU) regulations discussed at a previous meeting was remanded again to the staff and Planning Comission for further study and was not amended or adopted.

The City Council received and discussed the Hillview Community Center Schematic Design by Noll & Tam Architects. Seven public speakers commented on the schematic. Two were in favor of the project as is, commenting on the walkability of the design, appreciation for the open meetings of the Hillview Task Force which took into account community desires, and approval of the open space that provides a buffer to residents and possibility for future uses.

The speakers and council members also had questions about the ‘whistle stop’ too near to the soccer goal and too far from other areas where people might want to wait. The option for solar panels instead of immediate placement in the design was debated. The issue is to find additional money for panels now  or later when more about finances for the final project are certain. Resident Gary Hedden commented on the green aspects of the project, asking Noll & Tam architects to make sure the structure used electricity and not natural gas and aimed for health and efficiency of the project. He then advocated for a possible community garden in the open space and agreed that solar panels are not to be placed over parking lots.

The schematic design fit the budget goal of $34.7 million, increased size to 24,500 square feet, had an interesting walkway connection to other buildings at the location, and had the main entry facing San Antonio. After hearing that the design fit the budget and space increase, there were still concerns about triangular shape of design, the courtyard, solar panels, and various small structural details. The City Council directed Noll & Tam to proceed with the design but to provide feedback on the elements of concern to the council.

March 27, 2018

It was of concern to council member Jan Pepper that the Minutes of March 13 did not reflect the concerns about design elements in the schematic for the Hillview Community Center. After debate, Chris Jordan, City Manager, assured the Council that the concerns (mentioned in the final paragraph of the March 13 notes above) were to be addressed by Noll & Tam as the design proceeded.

Further restrictions to smoking in Los Altos with certain exceptions was adopted. A public speaker raised concern that excessive barbecue pollution was not addressed in the new ordinance.

The city council adopted re-establishment of the Los Altos Disaster Council and Emergency Preparedness Program. They agreed to abide by California Disaster and Civil Defense Master Mutual Aid Agreement and adopt Workers’ Compensation Benefits for registered Disaster Service Worker volunteers.

A Public Comment of interest addressed the work of the Los Altos Historical Commission’s sub-committee to find funds to begin work on the Halsey House restoration. The project was last discussed at city council meeting on January 23, 2018. The most promising grant application will be to the Certified Local Government (CLG). They grant $40,000 if the city can match the funds. The commission has raised $25,000, some of which is currently used for cleaning vegetation and pest control. One commission member has found pro bono workers for grading. Some mini grants from the Water District may be found.

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Mountain View Whisman Board Meetings Feb & Mar 2018

MVWSD Board Meetings 2018: February 1st and 15th, March 1st and 15th

The Mountain View Whisman Board of Trustees met on February 1st and 15th, and March 1st and 15th. Trustees reviewed curriculum, construction, budget assumptions for the 2017-2018 school year, and voted to pilot a full day preschool program next school year. The board also released and/or reassigned administrators, voted to close the independent study program, and heard two draft recommendations from the Enrollment Priorities Task Force. Due to the volume of items taken up in February and March, this report focuses on the latter.

Principal Release and Reassignment

During closed session on March 1st, board members voted unanimously to release three principals at the end of the 2017-2018 school year: Steve Chesley of Landels Elementary School, Marcela Simões de Carvalho of Mistral Elementary School, and Kim Thompson of Graham Middle School. For the 2018-2019 school year, Assistant Principal Heidi Galassi of Graham was reassigned to be the new principal of Landels, and Principal Ryan Santiago of Theuerkauf Elementary School was reassigned to be an assistant principal at Graham.

At the March 15th board meeting, community members filled all of the seats in the Graham multi-use room, and dozens more stood in the back. Speakers questioned the principal evaluation process, the quality of the school climate results that may have been used in the evaluations, and what they felt was a lack of transparency in the principal release and reassignment process. The meeting was also attended by Telemundo, and the Mountain View Voice has written articles about the original release decision and the parent response. At the April 5th meeting,

Superintendent Dr. Rudolph gave a presentation on the evaluation process for district leaders.

Independent Study Program

After a presentation on the Independent Study Program (ISP) by Assistant Superintendent Carmen Ghysels on February 1st, the board voted on February 15th to end the program in June 2020. Four parents of students who attended or graduated from the program and the program’s teacher addressed the board at the second meeting, asking board members not to end the ISP.

Assistant Superintendent Ghysels presentation included background on the ISP. The program is about seventeen years old and currently has twelve students enrolled. A credentialed teacher works on an hourly basis to support students using a classroom at Monta Loma. The district also funds field trips and curriculum for students. MVWSD is the only district in the area that still has an ISP – other local districts have discontinued similar programs. Newer home schooling options for families include the California HomeSchool Network, the California Virtual Academy, and The Home School Association of California.

The Mountain View Voice published an article about the program closure, the parent response, and an opinion piece calling on the board to rescind the decision to close the program.

Enrollment Priorities Task Force

At the March 15th meeting, the board reviewed two draft recommendations from the Enrollment Priorities Task Force (EPTF) and gave direction for the continued work of the task force.  The EPTF is tasked with revising the enrollment priorities for the district and deciding whether to grandfather students slated to change schools when the new school boundaries go into effect in 2019-2020. There are currently 26 enrollment priorities, and the district has an open enrollment policy that allows families to apply for an intradistrict transfer to any school in the district if there is space available. When the new school boundaries go into effect with the opening of Slater School in 2019-2020, some students will be rezoned to new schools.

Recommendation A from the EPTF is to reduce the existing twenty-six enrollment priorities to nine, continue to allow intradistrict transfers between schools, keep a similar lottery process for the two choice programs with weight given to siblings, and not grandfather students when the new school boundaries go into effect. Recommendation B is to require students to attend the the school they are zoned for, grandfathers fifth graders who are impacted by the new school boundaries, and calls for measures to increase the diversity of the district’s choice schools.

The superintendent, Dr. Rudolph, shared the process to date undertaken by the district and the task force. The district has solicited feedback from a range of parent groups and stakeholders, all of whom called for grandfathering at least fifth graders. Seven community members addressed the board, with several parents asking for the board to allow students to finish school at their current location.  

Trustees gave direction that fifth graders should be grandfathered and possibly fourth or third graders. Younger siblings of grandfathered students should be allowed to attend the same school until the grandfathered sibling finished fifth grade, then would be required to transfer to their neighborhood school under the new zoning. The board had mixed feelings about allowing intradistrict transfers.

— Devon Conley, Observer