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.

   
   

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.