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

Los Altos City Council February 2019

February 12, 2019

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

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

February 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Los Altos City Council January 2019

January 8, 2019

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

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

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

January 22, 2019

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

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

–Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos City Council July/August 2018

July 10, 2018

After consideration of a Public Art Commission plan on May 8, 2018, City Council approved on July 10, 2018, an ordinance for a Public Art Development Fee of 1% to be added to a Public Art Fund.

Council approved two ordinances on July 10, 2018, to amend the Municipal Zoning Code, first regarding Accessory Structures at 800 square feet size, including a basement if applicable, and a five-foot setback from the property line.

Second, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) have been brought into compliance with state law, increasing the number of housing units possible, and addressing affordable housing in Los Altos.

The City Council received the Los Altos Civic Center Development update from Noll & Tam Architects and Planners and provided direction for further action. In addition, the city council amended the contract to Noll & Tam for added services to the Civic Center project for $482,781.

The City Council did not adopt a resolution to be placed on the ballot for the November 6, 2018, general election, to oppose the resident-petitioned initiative to be on the ballot.

The main controversy concerned submitting a simple, clear measure. The council members opposed to the resolution measure as written did not like the wording about leases. In addition, some members felt the city-owned properties should be listed so voters know exactly which properties are included in the measure. At the meeting seven speakers made public comments, five supporting the council’s measure and two still supporting the public citizen’s measure. The city attorney, Chris Diaz, was asked to revise wording about leases, and another version with wording suggested by council member, Mary Prochnow, to make it clear that developers would not see futility in making a complete development proposal that must be voted yes or no by residents.

At a special meeting, the City Council did not adopt a measure to oppose the resident developed initiative now called Measure C. They will spend effort until November 6 to make sure Measure C does not pass.

August 28, 2018

The City Council appropriated $5000 to Los Altos Police Department that with five other North County police departments and an additional $25000 from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office provides for a North County Gun Buyback program. It is an opportunity for safe disposal of firearms, reduce availability of guns in the county, and raise awareness of the risks of firearms.

The City Council approved the staff’s response to the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report: Affordable Housing Crisis – Density is Our Destiny. Responses are required by fifteen cities and the County to adequately address the findings and recommendations of the report. Difficulties in addressing the need for affordable housing are due to resident resistance, lack of funding, and the high cost of land in many cities in the county. On the other hand, the lack of housing is a major cause of traffic congestion in the county. One recommendation already addressed by Los Altos is the change in ordinances for Accessory Structures and Accessory Dwelling Units. Another is the ordinance for impact fees to developers and employers to help in the development of housing for workers in the city.

The City Council approved a use permit for Children’s Corner Preschool to operate a facility at the Foothill Covenant Church on Oak Avenue in anticipation of needing a location while the Hillview Civic Center is being rebuilt. The Mountain View Parent Nursery School already at the location suggests that Children’s Corner will do well. The opposition states that traffic congestion in the morning will increase because students going to Mountain View High School and Oak Elementary School use the same streets. Although more than one traffic survey and analysis has stated that traffic would not increase, the motion passed 4/1 with one member not satisfied about the traffic. It is suggested that Public Works look at the problem and make plans to alleviate the traffic.

Jon Biggs, Community Development Director, shared the completed Los Altos Downtown Vision Plan. The plan was designed so downtown becomes a community destination and retains its roots as a nostalgic village at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains. To a question from the City Council about adoption vs. acceptance of the plan, acceptance suggests that the council will continue to refine and revise. Adoption means the council will begin to address Phase I issues to make the vision a reality.

Biggs reminded members and the audience that the plan to be adopted is a guide, not regulatory. At points in the future decisions will have to be made regarding economics, finance, and public/private costs. Of public comments, ten were enthusiastic and five were troubled about parking that may result on the narrow streets surrounding downtown and parking structures vs. parking lots.

-Claire Noonan

Los Altos City Council Meetings June 2018

June 12, 2018

The City Council adopted the ordinance establishing Affordable Housing Impact Fees for residential and non-residential development. The fees would generate money for the city to use toward Affordable Housing initiatives. 

The City Council adopted a measure that may provide additional revenue for the city by placing on the November general election ballot an increase in Transient Occupancy Tax from 11% to 14%. In the meantime, the city will take no further action regarding a cannabis tax.

The City Council received the staff report about the effects of the proposed initiative delivered by petition from Los Altos City residents to identify public properties, parks, open space, and public and institutional land which can’t be sold, re-designated, or transferred without a vote by city residents. There are also lease prohibitions in the initiative. After comment by three residents, the council in accord with state law, decided not to immediately adopt the proposal, but voted 5/0 to put the measure on the November ballot. 

The city staff report found many difficulties in the initiative described above, especially in the details about leases of city-owned property. After six public comments, the council members directed the staff to prepare an ordinance to be submitted for the November election with elements identified by the council. The elements will include language to preserve from sale all city-owned land and properties; address provisions for long term leases; changes in use of city-owned land (except parks); and municipal services (eg, fire stations) parcels to exclude from the need for a vote. The measure must be prepared by the July 10 meeting, leaving time for community discussion, to bring forth a measure that will succeed on the November ballot, instead of the petition-delivered initiative.

June 26, 2018

The City Council authorized an agreement with Grass-Roots Ecology (formerly Acterra) as steward to manage and restore the Redwood Grove Nature Preserve. Previous action by the council for the 5.7 acre preserve was October 12, 2009. Staff assured the council that the selected steward has previously provided responsible service and is knowledgeable about open space needs.

After consideration of a Public Art Commission plan on May 8, 2018, an ordinance for a Public Art Development Fee is scheduled for a second reading and tentative approval on July 10, 2018. It will apply to non-single-family resident, private commercial, office, and public facility (eg, theater) development. Developers will install public art or pay a 1% fee on construction costs that exceed $1 million. The funds will be used for acquisition, maintenance, and promotion of art in the community. A second reading and tentative approval is scheduled for July 10, 2018.

Council considered two ordinances to amend the Municipal Zoning Code, first regarding Accessory Structures at 800 square feet size, including a basement if applicable, and a five-foot setback from the property line.

Second, to bring Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) into compliance with state law, increase the number of housing units, and address affordable housing in Los Altos, the ordinance will apply to conversion of existing space (eg. garage); new detached ADUs; and addition to existing accessory structures. Both ordinances are scheduled for a second reading and tentative approval on July 10, 2018.

For a ballot measure to compete with the effect of the proposed initiative by Los Altos City residents to identify public properties, parks, open space, and public and institutional land which can’t be sold, re-designated, or transferred without a vote by city residents, the City Council received and directed staff to revise the measure to include elements discussed at the meeting.

After public pro and con comment by six residents, council members discussed three parts for the measure. Voter approval is required for any sale, re-designation, or transfer of city-owned land parcels, such as parks, open spaces, public properties, and/or public institutional land. Voter approval for any re-designation of city-owned land defined as park, open space, public property, and/or public institutional land to a different land use.

Voter approval for lease of any portion of city-owned land, including new leases for new use, for non-municipal use, to private entity, or to private for-profit entity generated debate. Mayor Jean Mordo reminded council members and audience that the proposed initiative must benefit the city and increase vibrancy as part of the Downtown Vision. In addition, questions came up about a minimum length of a lease to trigger voter approval. The staff will draw up a revised measure for the meeting on July 10, 2018 that includes the lease elements agreed by members. At that meeting a decision must be made to include lease requirements in a simple, clean initiative or delete the lease section from the initiative and write an ordinance saying leases for the designated city-owned properties require 4 out of 5 votes by the City Council (a super majority).

— Claire Noonan, Observer

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

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

Los Altos City Council Meetings January 2018

January 9, 2018

The City Council extended the existing interim urgency moratorium, determined on 11/28/2017, for 10 months and 15 more days on any establishment, creation, or expansion of commercial cannabis activity in all zoning districts for the City of Los Altos. City Council directed the staff to explore allowing commercial cannabis activity along El Camino Real and delivery within city limits. A public hearing will be held.

The PFM Group (asset managers and financial professionals) provided an update on the 10-Year Financial Forecast Model for Los Altos, first presented in June 2016. The question was whether to increase the allocation for Hillview Community Center renovation above the current apportioned $25 million or not. The update includes the funds for 5 years of Capital Improvement Projects, including the $25 million for Hillview, and an estimated significant revenue growth in property taxes at 6% annually. Anticipated expense increase includes estimates for CalPERS Unfunded Liability Payments, likely an optimistic outlook, but payments may increase.

There are three options regarding the Hillview Community Center allocation:

First, maintain the allocation of $25 million for Hillview Community Center and adjust the scope of the project which is preferred by the city financial commission, but is less than recommended by the Community Center Task force (CCTF) and means delay in design for the project.

Second, increase the allocation to $34.7 million which finances the project as presented in December 2017 and preferred by CCTF. The disadvantage is the city will take on debt to complete the construction and is unlikely to have funds for other Capital Improvement Projects in the foreseeable future unless private funding is found.

Third, the city may allocate $30 million for the renovation, eliminate only some enhancements to the concept, and accrue a small debt. The staff recommends Option 3 which is fiscally prudent.

After five public comments, councilmember Jan Pepper moved and member Mary Prochnow seconded to set the total project budget limit for a new Hillview Community Center at $34.7 million. Council member Jeannie Bruins offered an amendment to include a bond measure to avoid debt, but it was not accepted. Members Lynette Eng and Bruins support funding but had concerns about committing $34.7 million without reviewing other facility needs or funding options. The original motion passed 3 yes, 2 no.

January 23, 2018

The City Council authorized the city manager to execute a professional services agreement with Mountain View, Los Altos, and CSDA Design Group to provide information on airplane noise from the South Flow Arrivals to San Jose International Airport. The cities are to split the contract cost.

The City Council asked the staff to take temporary measures to protect Halsey House, a city historical resource site, which has considerable environmental and preservation needs. Theodore and Emma Halsey built the home in 1923 and planted the redwood seedlings which form the Redwood Grove Nature Center Preserve. The property and grove were given to the city, and until 2008 when the property was closed because of safety issues, was used for educational and recreational activities planned by the Los Altos Parks and Recreation Department. In 2015 the city council heard proposals to restore Halsey House at $3.5 million or demolish and rebuild at $4.4 million. The council directed the City Historical Commission to work with the community, and then the staff to submit a grant application to the Santa Clara County Heritage Commission to preserve Halsey House.

— Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos City Council Meeting December 2017

Notes on Los Altos City Council meetings – December 2017

December 12, 2017

City Council authorized the Public Works director to record a notice of completion of University Avenue crosswalk improvements. This project began in June 2017 and finished in November 2017.

City Council received an update from Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) of the El Camino Real Bus Rapid Transit project with no further recommendations by the council. The project has been presented four times since 2011, the last in June 2016.

City Council received the concluding report for the Conceptual Design for the new Hillview Community Center Project. After presenting Concept I, Site 4 design, the Council directed Noll and Tam Architects to move forward with the Design Development phase based on a budget of $34.7 million to be completed by February 2018. It is understood that the budget may be adjusted depending on the 10-Year Financial Forecast to be presented in January 2018.

The design team, Noll and Tam Architects, accounted for elements gleaned from meetings with the Hillview Community Center Task Force (appointed city residents) and 400 community responses to surveys: to increase building quality, functionality, square footage, and outdoor program space; to provide pedestrian connectivity to downtown; and to refinish the existing parking lot. Provision for Children’s Corner access is not part of the design. Eight public speakers commented on design parts they did and didn’t like, gave alternative ideas for the location of Children’s Corner, and requested assurances of senior friendly design development, eg. few stairs. Council members were concerned about square footage, enhancements to buildings, and accommodations for the community’s growth in service needs – all related to a future rise in costs.

No meeting December 26, 2017.

— Claire Noonan, Observer