Los Altos City Council April 2020

April 14, 2020

At a virtual meeting the City Council listened to the request for an additional waiver to reduce the size of 75% of the 108 parking spaces from 9’ wide to 8.6’ wide for the project at 4846-4856 El Camino Real. The project would still install outlets for 27 EV charging stations. Plans from both the developers and the city staff were presented to the council. The city staff recommended that the project remain as is by a 3/2 vote. Council members Jeannie Bruins and Neysa Fligor dissented as they saw the proposal to provide an outdoor ‘tot lot’ as a positive for the development.

April 28, 2020

At a virtual meeting the City Council heard and saw several Power Point presentations prepared by the city staff on aspects of the fiscal impact of Covid-19 on the city’s revenues and the financial relief programs to be pursued by the city.

The city’s largest revenue sources of property and utility taxes will not be immediately affected. There will be a decrease in other funding streams like sales tax, transient occupancy tax, and recreation fees for an estimated total of $3 million.

As of April 28, essential services (police, fire) are on site, city staff works from home, and some essential businesses remain open such as restaurants for take-out and delivery. No city business travel allowed and no vacant city positions are being filled. YMCA, including Mountain View, provide childcare centers for essential workers. The Los Altos Farmer’s Market (an essential service) is scheduled to open on May 7, 2020 under specified conditions.

Loans are forthcoming from FEMA’s Community Disaster Loans plus the Public Assistance Program. In addition, the Federal Reserve Municipal Liquidity Facility Program will provide funds.

WomenSV will receive a grant of $40,000, CHAC will receive $20,000. CSA will receive $75,000 to provide services for needy residents. A Small Business Relief Program will be created to provide $250,000, given on a first come, first served basis to provide for payroll and lease expenses. City Council also directed staff to work with the Los Altos Community Foundation to create a community relief fund to solicit contributions for the benefit of Los Altos businesses and residents most in need during the COVID-19 emergency.

Los Altos City Council March 2020

 

March 10, 2020

The City Council mayor, Jan Pepper, and vice-mayor, Neysa Fligor, read a proclamation commemorating the year of the 100th anniversary of the passage of U.S. constitutional Amendment 19 which delivered to women in this country the right to vote. California, as the sixth state to provide women voting rights in October 1911, was the eighteenth state to approve the 19th amendment. As SCC Public Health allows, the city will celebrate with events every month in 2020.

The City Council approved unanimously the 444-450 First Street project application (continued from 1/14/2020 and 2/11/2020). Council evaluated the project and heard from ten public comment speakers as well as addressing issues from nine written comments. The determination depended on whether the proposal complies with the Los Altos Municipal Code requirements.

After multiple City Council suggestions and much revision by Dutchints LLC since the proposal was originally presented, the project will replace an underdeveloped commercial property with a high-quality multiple-family development that helps the City meet its goals for producing new housing units, both affordable and market rate, and is supportive of the goals of the Downtown Vision Plan.

Of public comments six wanted the design approved because more affordable housing would be acquired. Four commented against the proposal, mainly because residents across Foothill Expressway didn’t approve of the height of the building.

March 24, 2020

At a virtual meeting, the City Council adopted Resolution #2020-07 for April 2020 to be “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”

City Council adopted Resolution No. 2020-06: Cities Keep It Clean. The resolution declares May 2020 to be “Keep It Clean Santa Clara County” month.

City Council took no action prohibiting or discouraging commercial and/or residential evictions in the city until the Covid-19 ‘shelter in place’ order is lifted. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors set the policy to prohibit eviction in the county.

City Council received a staff update on emergency measures taken so far by city services to avoid the spread of Covid-19. Included in the presentation are plans to follow Santa Clara County Public Health orders. All Parks and Recreation facilities are closed. City police are maintaining staff to address problems. The city is working with Community Services Agency to ensure local needs are met. A plan for on-site childcare for city workers is being developed.

   
   

Los Altos City Council February 2020

February 11, 2020

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

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

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

February 25, 2020

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

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

Los Altos City Council January 2020

Los Altos City Council – January 2020

January 14, 2020

By consent, the City Council approved unanimously the R3-4.5 zoning amendments that established site development standards for the Los Altos multi-family district where none existed, establishing a design review process for renovations to properties and updating other provisions for a multiple-family district to be consistent with other similar residential districts. The upgrades in zoning were initiated from designs submitted to renovate properties in the Marshall Meadows area of Los Altos.

In addition, the council funded by consent the North County Gun Buyback Program for 2020. However, the proposal for development at 444-450 First Street was continued to allow more time to pursue the council’s concern over a development design being suitable for the First Street area.

To settle litigation from a lawsuit in 2015 over property in the Loyola Corners district the City Council approved purchase of the property at 999 Fremont Ave., currently location of the Coffee Drive-Up. The interim City Attorney prepared the agreement and the City Manager was authorized to execute the purchase agreement for $2.8 million. The 2015 lawsuit was filed when the City Council denied all proposals for a mixed-use building on the site. New possible ideas for the property are a roundabout to smooth the traffic where several streets meet or a plaza. Public comment suggested that before a decision the city consider the Loyola Corners Specific Plan developed in 1990 and revised in 2017.

January 28, 2020

The City Council unanimously approved application for an SB2 grant by the state of $160,000 which would streamline review for the city’s residential projects. With the grant the city would fund a consultant to present criteria and code amendments to make the application eligible. It must include these factors:

  • Rezone to permit housing by-right
  • Objective design and development standards
  • Specific plans or form-based codes coupled with CEQA streamlining
  • Accessory dwelling units (ADU) or other low-cost building strategies
  • Expedited processing
  • Housing related infrastructure financing and fee reduction strategies

The 2018 Atkins Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB2) is legislation to support production of affordable housing.

City Council unanimously authorized a lease to allow the Friends of the Library of Los Altos to use the current temporary space for FOL work units and storage. Altogether the Ad Hoc Friends of the Library committee found six off-site locations and five Government Center locations to consider. Of those locations, four meet most, but not all, the needs of FOL for short term use until the Community Center is completed and long term use until the main library is renovated. After twenty-five public comments and considering that Friends of the Library provides approximately $150,000 per year to the library, the Council finally determined that the city would pay the utilities fees and FOL would pay any capital costs, like upgrades and repair. The lease would extend until one or the other party chooses to conclude the agreement, assuming appropriate termination provisions.

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.

Los Altos City Council September 2019

Los Altos City Council – September 2019

September 10, 2019

City Council adopted an ordinance of the Los Altos Municipal Code to revise Density Bonus regulations regarding incentive standards for properties to be developed in Los Altos. Discussions about the ordinance took place during the July and August 2019 meetings. The city uses a menu of incentives from the state list of Density Bonus Regulations to entice developers to address options in their plans that will meet the affordable housing needs of the city. Developers may request waivers for up to three modifications of incentive standards. The ordinance revision limits a single incentive to be used only once per project. If an incentive is used more than once it is treated as an Off-Menu request. The ordinance revision goes into effect 31 days after adoption.

City Council authorized Vice Mayor Jan Pepper to draft a response after they reviewed staff recommended statements about the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report concerning governance of the VTA. The Grand Jury report’s findings state that the VTA Board of Directors lack experience and time to administer well. The report recommends that the chair of the VTA board be elected for a two-year term and show improvement in their duties within six months. The California penal code requires public agencies’ governing bodies to comment within 90 days of the June 16, 2019 report distribution. Los Altos agrees with the recommendations by the Civil Jury but suggests that a county-wide organization such as the Cities Association of Santa Clara County take the lead in making final response.

September 24, 2019

City Council received information about the current projects in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), prioritized the projects, and provided direction to the City Manager for follow-through. The review was initiated by the City Council’s staff because of high-level fiscal impact for six CIP current priorities (2012-2019). Priorities must be established for the next ten years, especially infrastructure improvements. The staff will develop or refine cost estimates, budget impact, and schedules for priorities identified including the Community Center, traffic safety, and city assets improvement. Of these the Community Center renovation and Police Emergency Operations Center/Heating, Ventilation, Air-conditioning renovation have already had funds set aside. Among other city asset projects made priority are Los Altos Parks Plan, LAYC, City Hall, Garden House, and History House/Museum improvements.

In addition, City Council received a status report on the City Asset Strategic Priorities as of 2019 in order to provide direction to the City Manager for next steps. The council addressed the status of strategic priorities in April and July 2019. Most important, as of September 2019, the council committed to the library redevelopment which will mostly use funds from non-city sources. The police EOC/HVAC renovation is 50% completed with 12/31/20 to be completion date.

Los Altos City Council August 2019

Los Altos City Council – August 2019

August 27, 2019

The City Council approved sending a letter to California representatives supporting their bills in Congress regarding the implementation of FCC rulemaking to accelerate deployment for wireless infrastructure by removing barriers to investment. The bills by Senator Dianne Feinstein (S2012) and Representative Anna Eshoo (HR530) are in response to the removal of opportunities in the FCC rules for local public agencies to regulate deployment of wireless infrastructure within the city.

After public comment and review of plans to amend the city’s zoning code for R3-4-5 Multiple Family District housing, the City Council directed revision to the code. The issue came to the council’s attention after the Planning Commission met twice to study an application to remodel property in the Marshall Meadows development in south Los Altos. These homes are mostly duplexes, and the zoning district doesn’t have site standards for renovation that maintain the character of the district and limit the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. The proposed ordinance amendments offered by the Planning Commission will establish standards for the Design Review Commission where none now exist for this multiple family district; establish a design review process for additions and exterior modifications; and update other provisions to bring consistency with other similar residential zoning districts.

Los Altos City Council July 2019

July 9, 2019

The City Council authorized the staff to execute an agreement to NOVA Partners, Inc. to oversee the construction management of the community center project which includes demolition as well as construction of the new facility. Staff researched projects managed by the consulting firm, and found it highly ranked with demonstrated competence and professional qualifications.

The Ad Hoc Committee for the Friends of the Library received the recommendation for placement of a temporary portable building between the soccer field and the library, and City Council directed staff to enter an agreement for use until community center is finished.

The City Council adopted a resolution to allocate funds for a Complete Streets Study to update the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Plan, Route to Schools map, transit transportation plan, and concept plans for the ‘hot spots’ in corridors and intersections in the city. Besides using the city’s two year’s worth of allotments for specific projects from the county VTA-TDA, the city will use Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds to raise the $150,000 needed for the study.

Council members Anita Enander and Jan Pepper from the Ad Hoc Committee to provide ideas for City Council Community Engagement suggested a pilot study with five neighborhood meetings in the fall to get ideas for community engagement activities. The council directed staff to provide guidelines.

The City Council introduced and waived further reading of the city ordinance to amend a section of the Los Altos Municipal Code about incentive standards of Density Bonus Regulations. The city uses a menu of incentives from the state list of Density Bonus Regulations to entice developers to address needs in their plans that will meet the affordable housing needs of the city. Developers may request waivers for up to three modifications of incentive standards. The Council will limit a single incentive to be used only once per project. In other words, a plan cannot use one incentive modification twice in a single project and still count only three modifications to incentives. The plan can be denied in general for specific adverse impacts on public health and safety and ‘double-dipping’ of an incentive to get a project approved is one way Los Altos will use to deny a project.

No meeting July 23, 2019

Addendum: Tuesday, July 30, 2019, at City Council special meeting, the council approved (3 yea, 2 nay) Gonsalves & Stronck Construction Company to provide demolition and construction for the new community center.

-Claire Noonan, Observer

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