Los Altos City Council March 2021

March 9, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

March 23, 2021

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

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

Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos City Council – February 2021

February 9, 2021

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

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

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

February 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Submitted by Claire Noonan

Los Altos City Council January 2021

January 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

January 26, 2021

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

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

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

Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos City Council November 2020

November 10, 2020

The City Council adopted four ordinances to amend the Los Altos Municipal Energy Code relating to REACH state amendments to the 2019 California Energy Code for All-Electric Buildings discussed in October council meetings. In addition, the Council adopted the ordinance amending a section of the Green Building Standards Code for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure.

The City Council will draft a letter to submit to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) providing the Council’s views on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) from the update of the allocation process presented at the meeting. The detailed presentation from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCMD) determined that the nine Bay Area counties forming the regional RHNA that includes Los Altos would have to plan for 441,176 total units across the very low, low, below moderate, and moderate income level housing by 2050. The public comments offered opinion from outrage to agreement that communities must relent in their opposition to housing needs. The ABAG presentation from the HCMD explained the factors that apply so that Los Altos’ allocation will go from 477 to 2,267 units, and the City would be required to meet 20% (580 ‘very low’ and 333 ‘low’income) of the housing goal by 2031.

Los Altos Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor, the City’s representative to ABAG, supports the methodology for arriving at the numbers but asked that the process be delayed. She feels there is no way to reach the benchmark for even the next two years, given the trouble to reach the current required units for 2023. A major problem for Los Altos is its zoning ordinances which limit building height. The letter will be written and submitted before November 27, 2020, the end of the committee’s public comment period for the proposed methodology to determine housing requirements.

November 24, 2020

City Council received the final recommendations from the Citizens’ Police Task Force. The report discusses, in detail, steps to address the needs of the stakeholders and the Los Altos community concerning police services. After comments and analysis of the job description of the position of School Resource Officer (SRO), it was decided to discontinue the SRO services at Los Altos High School. If, on occasion, police resources are needed the Police department will be called.

After fifty public comments and discussion by the council members, decisions were passed to enact measures for the process to file complaints against police officers. There are two detailed ways to submit complaints – either directly to the Police Department or to an independent third- party auditor. There also is a long list of factors to use to track complaints with the police and resolve them. In addition, an annual report of complaints and resolutions will be completed and available to the community. There will be a cost for the services of a third-party independent auditor.

A letter has been drafted to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) from The City of Los Altos, in agreement with the Cities Association of Santa Clara County, that  explains objections to the methodology that allocates the largest share of housing unit needs to Santa Clara County and unreasonable shares to the City of Los Altos. The letter states that the City agrees with the Cities Association that the RHNA process should be delayed until the State has a better understanding of the impact of COVID. See the notes explained at the November 10 meeting for details of the problems perceived by Los Altos and the Cities Association.

Los Altos City Council October 2020

October 13, 2020

Nine Los Altos residents were appointed to the Citizen’s Police Task force. A report will be delivered to the City Council at the November 24 meeting about school resource officers’ role at the MVLA Union High School District.

City Council considered the repeal and replacement of the Los Altos Municipal Code regulations for Accessory and Junior Dwelling Units by adopting a zoning amendment. In addition, the Council reduced permit fees for ADU dwellings for twelve months after the final adoption of new regulations. The Council also directed the staff to prepare an annual ADU rental income survey for the city which can be sent to the state to meet Los Altos’ Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) housing element figures. Final decision will be made on the zoning amendment at the October 27, 2020 meeting.

To continue financing for the Community Center construction the City Council authorized the City Manager and Council to pursue an agreement for a $10 million loan on behalf of the City with Sterling National Bank. The staff will return to the Council with the final agreement and resolution for approval at the council meeting on November 10, 2020.

October 27, 2020

City Council confirmed the repeal and replacement of the Los Altos Municipal Code regulations for Accessory and Junior Dwelling Units by adopting zoning amendments that provide details on the ADU and Junior ADU requirements. The main purpose of the proposed amendments is to ensure compliance with new state laws affecting the development of accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units in the residential zone districts of the City.

Every three years, the State of California adopts new building standards that are organized in Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, referred to as the California Building Standards Code. The Los Altos Environmental Commission recommended the City Council adopt building electrification and electric vehicle REACH codes, which amend the 2019 California Building Standards Code that had been adopted and became effective on January 1, 2020. The ordinances would put into effect requirements for newly constructed buildings.

New development would be all-electric with exceptions and include the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure for new construction. The adoption of the new regulations would reduce carbon emissions associated with new construction, reduce costs of new construction, improve indoor air quality and building safety, support affordable housing, and increase adoption of electric vehicles, all qualities to improve the quality of living in Los Altos. The Council discussed possible exceptions. A second reading and discussion of adoption is scheduled for the November 10, 2020, council meeting.

The City Council authorized the City Manager to enter a Memorandum of Understanding between Los Altos and Santa Clara County to agree to the purchase by the county of property for developing a 90 unit affordable housing site at Distel Court in Los Altos. In addition, the council agreed to waive park-in-lieu fees and traffic impact fees for the development. Three-quarters of the site units would be low-income level units which improves the Regional Housing Needs Allocation of affordable housing for the city.

Los Altos City Council September 2020

September 8, 2020

The City Council adopted a zoning text amendment to the Municipal Code to ensure compliance with new state laws affecting the development of accessory dwelling units, junior accessory dwelling units, and multi-family accessory dwelling units in the residential zone districts of the City.

The City Council directed staff to start processing an amendment to the zoning for the General Plan Land Use designation for Civic Center lands. The amendment would limit the City’s ability to sell, transfer fee ownership, or re-designate lands of the Los Altos Civic Center. The goal is to preserve park and open space areas within the Civic Center Complex.

On July 28, 2020 a virtual Police Town Hall Meeting took place with Los Altos residents, Mayor Jan Pepper, Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor, City Manager Chris Jordan, and Los Altos Police Chief, Andy Galea. The City Council offered support for a Citizen’s Task Force that would provide recommendations on the School Resource Officer (SRO) program at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools, however, the decision to approve the formation of such a task force was postponed to the September 22 meeting. If the proposed task force resolves the SRO issue, the group might address other concerns brought forth from reflections in America about systemic racism that affects all communities big and small.  The task force would include citizens of varied age groups and races.

Also, the city manager and police chief were instructed to expedite the collection of ‘police stop’ data under the Racial Identity and Profiling Act to provide more information since current data is not complete enough to draw significant conclusions.

September 22, 2020

The City Council approved the formation of a Citizen’s Task Force to review and make recommendations on the services of a School Resource Officer (SRO) and for a method to receive complaints about an SRO. The Task Force will serve for six weeks, ending on November 24, 2020. The services of the group are limited to recommendations on the role of an SRO at the high schools. A Task Force is a first attempt to resolve questions raised at the July 2020 Town Hall.

The City Council approved new amendments to the City municipal code which conformed in 2019 to the California Building Standards Code. Called Building Electrification and Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (Reach Code), it mandates newly constructed buildings to be all-electric with certain possible exceptions and electric vehicle charging infrastructure installed. According to the City Environmental Commission which has studied research since early 2019, these new regulations to the building codes are aimed to reduce carbon emissions which are part of the City’s Climate Action Plan. In addition, the changes will improve indoor air quality, support affordable housing, and place Los Altos City in sync with construction changes in other communities. Of thirty public comments, most were positive to the amendment. There were three top reasons for opposing the changes. One, Reach Code is governmental overreach. Two, greenhouse emissions reduction may be limited (not supported by the Environmental Commission research). Three, residential and consumer choice is rejected. In the end, adoption of the regulations mean that new building construction will be all-electric with the exemption of cooking appliances and fireplaces. Infrastructure for electric vehicles is part of the adoption. The amendment pertains to new residential, commercial, multi-family, ADU, and mixed-use buildings.

Los Altos City Council June, 2020

June 9, 2020

City Council resolved that the next general municipal election will be November 3, 2020 to consolidate with Santa Clara County, state, and national elections. Candidates will campaign for three City Council seats.

City Council authorized the closure to car traffic on Main and State Streets from Thursday to Sunday beginning Thursday, June 11, 2020. More businesses can reopen downtown while customers maintain social distance when walking and dining. If deemed successful, downtown streets will be closed to car traffic on certain days until the end of September.

June 23, 2020

City Council authorized a conditional use permit with modifications to the Los Altos Municipal Code to the design for a new pre-school at the site of St. Simon’s Catholic Church at the intersection of Grant Road and the Foothill Expressway, 1860 Grant Road. The project, approved by the Los Altos Planning Commission, includes a one-story pre-school plus two shade structures for outdoor play and a covered walkway to a new multi-use building at the St. Simons school. The main problem, now resolved, is possible traffic backup during drop-off and pick-up hours. The exit driveway will only allow right turns to avoid holding up traffic movement at the intersection.

Despite current events across the nation, City Council delayed a vote to set up a sub-committee of the mayor and vice mayor plus a Citizen Task Force to review and make recommendations regarding Los Altos Police Department policies and procedures.  

Instead of a Citizen’s Task force, a town hall meeting will convene in the middle of July 2020. It is probable that an expert consultant will be hired to facilitate the study. The city staff is to provide administrative assistance and the city attorney is to provide legal assistance. It is expected that four-six meetings are required to produce a report by the end of November 2020.

Los Altos City Council, May 2020

May 12, 2020

Initiated by Vice-Mayor Neysa Fligor, the City Council resolved to denounce xenophobia and especially anti-Asian sentiment brought on by Covid-19 news. The Council joined other cities, counties, and states to confirm its commitment to the well-being and safety of the Asian-Pacific American community. Actions against Asian-Pacific Americans and all groups are considered a hate crime.

The state and county have given out conflicting guidelines as to how small businesses can continue or re-open. To ease the situation the City Council provided the process and eligibility criteria for accessing $250,000 allocated at the April 18 meeting for the Small Business Relief Assistance Program (SBRAP). City Council staff with the assistance of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce and the Los Altos Community Foundation developed the model for the approximately 800 Los Altos businesses with 1-25 employees. Eligibility requirements include ability to demonstrate loss of revenue, that the business has a physical commercial storefront, that it is not a chain business, and that the business has no financial or legal issues. Because of the possible closure of Downtown streets further discussion was moved to the June 9 City Council meeting. Over the next two weeks, City staff will hold several webinars to understand community businesses’ perspectives more thoroughly on the possible street closures. City staff can then craft a more effective SBRAP that benefits residents and businesses.

The City Council authorized the City Manager to execute an agreement with Alta Planning + Design in an amount not to exceed $165,340 for the development of a Complete Streets Master Plan. The focus will be to update the 2012 Bicycle Transportation Plan, the 2015 Pedestrian Master Plan, the Routes to Schools maps with infrastructure recommendations for the thirteen schools, and Pedestrian and Bicycle Corridor improvements. These elements of the Complete Streets Master Plan will be developed with community engagement.

May 28, 2020 – no meeting scheduled

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.