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.

Mountain View City Council January 2019

January 8

Council Chambers was packed for this primarily ceremonial session as outgoing Councilmembers Ken Rosenberg, Pat Showalter, and Lenny Siegel stepped down; newly elected Councilmembers Ellen Kamei, Lucas Ramirez, and Alison Hicks took their seats; and Vice Mayor Lisa Matichak and Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga were elected Mayor and Vice Mayor, following the standard progression.

Most of the council members made brief remarks regarding their priorities. First, Kamei spoke of her goals of working on creating more housing (and offering rental and ownership opportunities particularly for those with a middle income), housing the unhoused, transportation, climate change, and diversity.

Ramirez, noting “I was conditioned by the candidate forums to speak briefly”, simply listed three requests:

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me.
  2. Please be respectful in your speech and in your deeds
  3. Hold me accountable when I fail you.

Hicks spoke about affordable housing, homelessness, climate change, and making sure to speak to every city in and out of the county for regional solutions. She thanked Progressive Action and Livable Mountain View (which she noted she founded but was no longer a part of).

Matichak, upon her election to Mayor, listed three personal areas of emphasis for 2019:

  1. Being very proactive to push back on federal and state attempts to reduce local control.
  2. Working towards greater regional consistency and collaboration
  3. Most importantly, addressing what residents have been asking Council for regarding quality of life issues (including tree canopies and traffic).

January 15

Council first held a study session interviewing the candidates for the Rental Housing Commission for two positions and one alternate. After a brief discussion after the interviews, they decided in a unanimous straw vote to promote the current alternate (Julian Pardo de Zela) to a full member, citing his experience on the board during a time of transition; then appointed Susyn Almond as the second full member and Nicole Haines-Livesay as the alternate.

Later that evening, Council held a second study session regarding whether Mountain View should adopt a formal Vision Zero program. Vision Zero, first pioneered in Sweden and primarily adopted by larger cities than Mountain View, (quoting the staff report) is a set of policies, plans, programs and approaches based on the philosophy that loss of life from traffic collisions is unacceptable and preventable. Council was supportive of adopting a Vision Zero policy, primarily to add measurable goals to the project and work already underway to decrease traffic collisions.

January 22

In this session, Council discussed the policy they would use to establish their two-year Major Goals and Work Plan. This year, they agreed to submit project ideas during the initial brainstorming workshop (on February 28) in addition to discussing the goals. Ramirez proposed that councilmembers could optionally submit their list of potential programs early so it could be included in the agenda.

Also during this session were two transportation items. The first was on the Downtown Valet Parking Pilot Program (as explained, valet parking increases parking lot capacity by enabling cars to be parked in the aisles, blocking others, since the valet could move cars as needed), and the second was on approving appropriating funds to implement a redesign of the intersection of State Route 237 and Middlefield Road.

Council also discussed their priorities for their visit to Washington DC as part of the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in March; deciding that the most fruitful meetings to schedule were with NASA, the Department of Transportation, the Pentagon, and Anna Eshoo.

January 29

This was a special Council team-building session, held in the Library. Your observer was late due to unexpected work on-call duties and arrived at the tail end of the session; where Councilmembers compared and contrasted the “Brown Act” style of San Jose (where groups of councilmembers release proposals before meetings) and Mountain View (which as Vice Mayor Abe-Koga stated, where councilmembers come with an open mind, listen to public input, and then make a decision). They closed with a discussion on staff and council relations, agreeing that Council’s job was policy and Staff’s job was implementation and day-to-day decisions.

—Max Beckman-Harned, observer

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

Mountain View City Council Meetings May 2018

Fiscal Year 2018-19 Narrative Budget Report and 10-Year Financial Forecast

On May 1st, the Council provided initial direction on recommendations for the FY 2018-19 budget. Staff indicated that the City continues to benefit from significant property tax growth resulting from new development and changes in property ownership. With a recommendation to add a net 14.5 new positions to address heavy workloads and increase staff capacity, the City is approaching the 2001-02 peak of approximately 650 positions. If the new positions are approved, there will be a total of 632.25 positions (ongoing and limited-period). Much of the increase will support the Community Development and Public Works departments, which are experiencing the heaviest workload due to significant demand for development in the City.

In the 10-year financial forecast, staff projects that the next recession will begin in Fiscal Year 2020-21, later than the previously projected 2018-19 timeframe. If the project is accurate, it would mark the longest economic expansion in recent history. Staff also forecasts modest deficits beginning from the projected recession through Fiscal Year 2027-28, the end of the forecast period.

The City projects $137.4 million in revenue and $124.8 million in expenditures in FY 2018-19. Using the surplus, Council approved staff recommendations, including funding a new Transportation Reserve and paying down employee pension unfunded liabilities. Additionally, responding to significant public support for new positions to focus on environmental sustainability, Council directed the City Manager to prepare for additional staffing to implement the anticipated recommendations from the Environmental Sustainability Task Force (ESTF-2). Finally, Council approved a number of other minor expenditures, including membership in an organization lobbying to address airplane noise, employee appreciation (potentially a one-time cash bonus), and new furniture in a council committee room.

Development of Commercial Cannabis Regulations

Council provided additional direction on the development of commercial cannabis regulations during a study session held on May 8th. A majority of the Council supported maintaining a 600-foot buffer from schools, but decreasing the buffer from child-care centers and day-care facilities. The Council also directed staff to study allowing storefront cannabis retail businesses in large retail centers (like the San Antonio Shopping Center and El Camino areas), Downtown, and Retail and Neighborhood Service areas (like North Bayshore and the East Whisman area). Finally, the Council supported limiting the total number of cannabis businesses permitted and establishing a permitting process.

2017 State of Mountain View Seniors Report & Age-Friendly City Update

The May 8th Council meeting included two consent items related to Mountain View’s senior population. (Consent items are usually non-controversial and approved without any discussion from the Council.)

The first was an update regarding the City’s World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly City designation. This designation reflects a city’s efforts to support senior residents in eight “domains:” housing, transportation, communication and information, community support and health services, outdoor spaces and buildings, social participation, respect and social inclusion, and civic participation and employment. The WHO accepted the City of Mountain View as a new member of the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities in February 2017. Subsequently, the City established an Age-Friendly Task Force that prioritized two domains: Community and Information, and Respect and Social Inclusion. The Task Force will create a resource guide for seniors and develop a community survey to gather more information about the needs of seniors in Mountain View.

The second item was “The State of Mountain View Seniors” annual report, prepared by the Senior Advisory Committee. The report includes an analysis of the demographics of the senior population in Mountain View as well as an assessment of the needs of and the existing services available to seniors. The report highlights the rapidly aging population as residents live longer, and it identifies housing affordability as a key issue affecting seniors in Mountain View.

North Bayshore Precise Plan and Master Plans

“Master Plans” show how an area is proposed to be developed over time. To implement the North Bayshore Precise Plan, Council previous approved the use of Master Plans to ensure the creation of three complete neighborhoods: Joaquin, Shorebird, and Pear. The Plans would include land uses, project size(s) and location(s), open space locations, new blocks, traffic circulation, conceptual architecture and infrastructure, and construction phasing. Each of the proposed new neighborhoods have unique considerations, most notably differences in the number of land owners and the amount of land owned in each of the areas.

On May 22nd, the Council reiterated its support for this conceptual planning process. Master Plans could be proposed by property owners or, particularly if there is not agreement between property owners, developed with City assistance.

— Lucas Ramirez, Observer

Mountain View-Los Altos High School District Meetings June 2018

At a marathon meeting on 6/11, the board discussed the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), the budget, collective bargaining agreements, and several items related to Measure E, the bond measure on the June 5th ballot.  Public hearings were held on the LCAP, the budget, and both collective bargaining agreements, but there were no public comments on any of them.  The LCAP and the budget were approved at the 6/18 meeting.

Margarita Navarro, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, presented the LCAP for 2018-19, which lists goals and actions for the next 3 years.  The process included reviewing the 2016-17 end of year data, looking at special populations: English Learners (EL), Socio-economically Disadvantaged (SED), and Special Education (SPED).  The LCAP template requires listing things that the district wants to maintain, things to increase, and things to decrease. On the “maintain” list are high quality professional development,  overall performance on standardized tests, and the performance of AVID students.  On the “increase” list are A-G eligibility through greater Algebra II success, some groups’ performance on the SBAC, and Tier 1 Intervention Services that promote social/emotional wellbeing.  On the “decrease” list are the number of D/Fs in 9th grade, the achievement gap between White/Asian/High Socio-economic status students and Latino/SPED/SED students, school avoidance rates, and the suspension rates among high need populations (EL, SED, SPED, and Latino).  

Mike Mathiesen, Associate Superintendent of Business Services and Technology, presented the budget for 2018-19, which is driven by the goals in the LCAP.  Total Revenue is $93.3M (5.2% more than last year), Expenditures are $89.2M, and transfers out are $590,000 (including cafeteria and post employment benefits other than state pension funds).  A full 83% of expenditures is personnel, before the salary increases which are under negotiation and expected to be $2.64M.

The measure E Bond Planning update was presented by Quattrocchi Kwok Architects and Kramer Project Development, including a proposed budget, construction schedule, and expenditure plan showing 4 bond sales in Q3 of 2018, Q2 of 2020, Q1 of 2022, and Q1 of 2024 (if needed).  The plan spans 7 years and $265M of construction, plus a possible $30M for 20 more classrooms if needed.  Construction is expected to start in winter of 2019, and the new classroom buildings are expected to be finished in the summer of 2020.  The board took actions necessary to initiate the bond sales and collect the taxes to pay for them.

— Sally Ahnger, Observer

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

Mountain View Whisman School District Meetings May & June 2018

Enrollment Priorities

Trustees approved the recommended enrollment priorities drafted by the Enrollment Priorities Task Force.  The new Administrative Regulation No. 5115 will go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year and give first priority for enrollment to students who reside in a neighborhood’s school boundaries.  Second priority will be given to students who are the children of staff working as .5 FTE or higher if space is available at a school site.  Voluntary transfers are allowed to under-enrolled schools – those with 25% or greater under-enrollment – on a year by year basis and not including siblings.  Special circumstances will be reviewed on a case by case basis for exemptions through a formalized process via the district office.  For the choice schools, Mistral and Stevenson, a parent is required to attend an information session before applying.

Boundary Exemptions

The board also voted to adopt one exemption for the roll-out of new school boundaries in the 2019-2020 school year.  When the new enrollment boundaries take effect, students entering fifth grade and their younger siblings will be grandfathered for one year.  All other students will move to their new school if they are in a different enrollment boundary.  After that first year, the younger siblings of the grandfathered fifth graders will transfer to their new school if they are in a different enrollment boundary.  If a student has special hardship circumstances in light of the transfer, they can apply on a case by case basis for an exemption through the district office.

School Naming

Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary School won support from the board as the name of the new school planned to open in the 2019-2020 school year.  Articles detailing the decision can be found in the Mountain View Voice and the San Francisco Chronicle.  Based on the list of names suggested during the community input process, trustees also voted to give the district’s two preschool locations the joint name of Barack and Michelle Obama Preschool and to rename the boardroom the Gail Urban Moore Leadership Center in honor of Trustee Gail Urban Moore who served on the Mountain View Elementary School Board for 29 years.  

Solar Power Planning

Over the summer the district will send out a request for proposals (RFP) for solar power installation across district school sites.  Sage Renewables presented the board with a projected cost benefit analysis of installing solar panels across all school sites or at three school sites with the most space and highest return available.  Board members also discussed funding sources, including the possibility of a new bond measure.

2018-2019 Budget Adoption (5/31)

The board adopted the final budget for the 2018-2019 school year after staff corrected an error that led to a miscalculation in the projected budget over several years.  In an accounting mistake, the district underestimated revenues and overestimated costs leading to a savings this year of  $1.6 million.  The savings this year mean the district will also be within budget for the next three years.  

LCAP

A public hearing was held and the final Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) was adopted by the board.  

— Devon Conley, Observer

Bullis Charter School Meeting June 2018

June 18, 2018: The Bullis board accomplished its four agendized tasks for this meeting: [1] On a third reading, the board unanimously approved its Local Control Accountability Plan. [2] At its second reading, the board unanimously approved its 2018-19 school budget; [3] It had a lengthy and thoughtful discussion about board officers. Noting that their governance structure is that of a corporation, should they continue with having one chairperson or have co-chairs? One chair is simpler for communications, but is a lot of work. The board tentatively agreed to perhaps have co-vice chairs in order to share that work. Current co-vice chair Ann Waterman Roy was appointed the new chair of BCS for its tentative July meeting. (Board chairperson John Phelps is stepping down from this position.) [4] The board discussed possible extra July and August meeting dates before their normal “start of the school year” board meeting the Monday before the start of school. That firm date is August 20th.

     Re item #1, LCAP, the State of California utilizes a template for school districts to fill in and submit to their county offices of education. BCS describes itself this way: “BCS has a diverse student population with over 25 languages spoken, including Farsi, Vietnamese, Hindi, Finnish, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Greek, and Cantonese… Student demographics are as follows: Asian 49%, White 29%, Two or more Races 19%, Hispanic 4%, and African American 1%… All BCS students are expected to master or surpass rigorous, explicit Content and Performance Standards, and our staff has been trained to assess effectively each student’s academic and social emotional needs in order to provide programs enabling every child to maximize his/her individual abilities.” (Since LCAPs are long, complex documents, I am not going to include more detail. If people want to see the board-approved BCS LCAP in full, they may get it from BCS or from me.) 

     Re item #2, 2018/19 board budget report, their “ending fund balance” (including depreciation) for this school year is $1,139,525, with a reserve of 9.7%. School districts are required to submit three year budget plans to their county offices, so their 2018/19 preliminary budget is $1,157,606, with a reserve of 9.1%. Their 2019/20 projected budget is $1,181,642, with an 8.2% reserve, and their 2020/21 projected budget is $1,234,613, with a 7.9% reserve. (School districts are generally required to have at least a 3% reserve and commonly post a smaller reserve in the “out years.”) Their enrollment assumptions for staffing include one additional 8th grade class in 2018/19 and one additional fulltime employee. Their assumed enrollment goes up from 898 students in 2017/18, to 912 in 2018/19, to 1066 in 2019/20, and 1134 in 2020/21.

     Bullis Charter School board meetings are held in Classroom 35 on its north campus next to Egan Jr. High. Two people called in to attend this meeting: board member Clara Roa (which was listed on the posted agenda) and Superintendent Principal Wanny Hersey. Two board members were absent from tonight’s meeting (Rich Tang and Francis La Poll) while the other six members were in attendance in the meeting room.

— Ellen Wheeler, Observer