League News

Los Altos City Council April 2021

April 13

The City Council received the Housing Element Annual Progress Report (APR) with amended and now complete data for calendar year 2020. Council authorized staff to submit the report to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Housing Element provides an analysis of a community’s housing needs for all income levels, and strategies to provide for those housing needs. The annual APR report also demonstrates housing permit progress toward the City’s part of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). In 2020 the 444-450 First Street development provided three moderate-income and one low-income unit of the 26 total units. In addition, 53 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) are approved by the Planning Commission and 25 ADUs are at final stages by the Building Division. The current numbers are concerning to reach the number of affordable housing units needed by completion of the 8-year Housing Element cycle in 2023 and are fewer than the number of affordable housing units needed by the city for RHNA, due in Summer 2021. Public comments on the APR that signaled ‘no’ came from those who remain attached to single-family housing with spacious yards, oppose increased traffic and infrastructure, want to retain parks and open space, and think that ‘local control’ is being taken over by the State. Those signaling ‘yes’ for the need for more housing density promote affordable housing models like those being developed at 330 Distel Court.

The City Council received and provided feedback on the Los Altos Community Center Phased Opening Plan. The project is scheduled to be finished June 10, 2021, but completion is still affected by Covid restrictions. The phased opening for summer and fall parks and recreation and community use are projected to be limited. Move in and operational training will begin mid-summer 2021. Facility rentals will open in August 2021. A Grand Opening is scheduled for Fall 2021. In-person special events will be permitted in October 2021.

April 27

EAH Housing and its team, the proposed developer of the 330 Distel Circle affordable housing project, were introduced to the City Council. EAH provided the City Council and the community with information about the other affordable housing projects they have developed and shared their concept for the 330 Distel Circle site to meet both the current as well as the emerging housing needs and demands of Los Altos and Santa Clara County’s lower-income and workforce residents. The City has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Santa Clara and the City Council will continue its financial support for this project.

City Council authorized the Interim City Manager to execute contract Amendment No. 3 on behalf of the City with NOVA Partners for additional construction management services on the Los Altos Community Center project through June 30, 2021. This amendment includes essential construction management services needed to complete the construction of the Los Altos Community Center due to the project schedule being extended owing to delays caused by COVID-19 and other unforeseen circumstances. The amendment includes twenty-two items to justify costs. The amount of $120,884 is still underbudget to complete the project.

In addition, City Council authorized the Interim City Manager to execute contract Amendment No. 5 on behalf of the City with Noll & Tam Architects for the Los Altos Community Center Project. The amendment includes unforeseen design updates and consulting services that occurred since October 2020 and an extension to match the current construction schedule. Although originally the project was to be completed by November 2020, the cost of Amendment No.5 at $117,581 is still underbudget to complete the project by June 2021.

Council member Jonathan Weinberg initiated a request for City Council to produce a Safe Firearms Storage Ordinance. In the California Penal Code 25100 “a person commits the crime of ‘criminal storage of a firearm’…unless reasonable action is taken by the person to secure the firearm against access by the child.” The issue is identifying “safe storage”. Of public comments, one was against an ordinance and ten others strongly supported the measure. Council voted 4/1 to direct staff to draft an ordinance to be modelled on the Santa Clara County ordinance that specifies any safely stored firearm in the home be kept unloaded or with a trigger-lock in a locked container.

Claire Noonan, Observer

Los Altos School District April 2021

April 25, 2021

Mr. Baier and Mrs. McGonagle shared that students in grades TK – 6 are now attending classes in-person 5 days a week (effective April 20, 2021). Junior High students are continuing with the hybrid schedule (2 days a week in-person for each cohort) but now have extended hours on campus as well an additional opportunity to meet with teachers virtually on Wednesdays. Summer school will be in-person at Santa Rita Elementary School and the first round of invitations will be going out this week.

For next school year (2021-2022), plans are being made to have all LASD students back on campus 5 days a week. It’s not yet clear whether virtual school will be an option. Under normal circumstances, the education code does not count virtual attendance as true attendance, and the district does not know when Governor Newsom’s special order for virtual instruction will be rescinded.

Sarah Stern-Benoit (LASD Director of Communications) presented the results from the parent survey conducted in March of 2021. Over 1100 LASD families responded, and of those over 93% are prepared to send their children back to campus 5 days a week. A little over one quarter of respondents (26%) agreed with this statement: “I am working regularly with my child every day on school work and I am overwhelmed.” 21% of respondents have “hired a tutor for the first time due to distance learning.” (5% of respondents had already hired tutors pre-pandemic.) A commentor asked to see some of the answers broken down by grade, as it could be the case that younger students need significantly more support. Another takeaway from the survey is that students need more social connection and community experiences, so that will be an area of focus for the district moving forward. There will be another survey going out to parents over the summer regarding enrollment.

Mrs. McGonagle presented information about upcoming academic assessments in math and language arts for students. Board member Mr. Ivanovic wanted to inform parents that they can opt-out of these assessments by notifying their school principal in writing.

The Board voted to approve the 2019-2020 audited financial report which showed the reserves at a healthy level (11.2%) and significantly increased revenue generated by the sale of development rights on excess land around the 10th site (purchased to build a new school).

Stella Kam, Observer

2021 LWV Legislative Interview with Assemblymember Marc Berman

Each year Leagues across California conduct interviews with their local state Assemblymember and Senator.   These Local League legislative interviews are an opportunity for us to connect with our district representatives, expand our League’s presence, and heighten our collective impact. They are also an excellent chance to cultivate new leaders and build new relationships.

Our interview with Assemblymember Berman addressed land use and climate change; housing, homelessness, zoning, and affordability; and an equitable recovery from COVID-19.

Overall comments:  

The Assembly District 24 includes most of San Mateo County and the northern section of Santa Clara County.  As such, it includes urban, suburban, and rural/coastal areas.  Its population is diverse economically and ethnically.  The area within this district has the highest cost of living in the state.   

Assemblymember Berman’s legislative agenda is well aligned with League priorities:  Fair elections, voter protections, inequity caused by housing shortage and the impacts of COVID on low-income workers.  He was the Assembly’s lead for the 2020 Census and for the state to mail ballots to all registered voters in 2020. 

At the end of the interview, the Assemblymember commented that the issues raised during the call are interrelated.  They all must be addressed to accomplish overall goals of mitigating climate change, housing supply and inequities in our communities.    We need solutions to reduce carbon emissions, expand local denser housing, improve regional transportation while addressing inequities in our communities.  

Question 1:   Land Use and Climate Change. 

What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach net drawdown from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities?

Summary of Assemblymember Berman’s response: The efforts to convert natural and working lands to lands that remove and sequester CO2 from the atmosphere is an area that the Assemblymember has not focused on.  He is supportive of the developments underway to sequester CO2.  These efforts could be implemented on San Mateo County coastal working farm lands.

Encouraging infill affordable housing in urban areas would preserve carbon sinks in the edges of urban growth.  He sponsored a law a few years ago which allowed infill development in unincorporated county land to be exempt from CEQA to achieve this purpose (AB 1804.)

Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and Affordability.

What can be done to reform exclusionary single-family zoning in California? What reforms do you support to legalize and incentivize more affordable housing (both naturally occurring, and deed restricted) in high opportunity neighborhoods?

Summary Assemblymember Berman’s response: Housing, homelessness and the relationship and impact of zoning regulations is a topic that we need to address.   Much can be done to increase California’s overall housing supply.   He is following the work of cities such as Sacramento, Minneapolis, Los Angeles that have changed policies to allow denser housing.  The changes needed include changing single family residence zoning laws, encouraging accessory dwelling units, and allowing lot splits in R1 zoning areas.  

For his district, AD24, more housing is needed for homeless, low income and moderate-income residents. This year’s state budget is able to provide more funding for building affordable housing and homeless shelters, but that is not enough. 

To increase the housing supply takes multiple approaches.  The state has passed several laws to address bottlenecks in the development and permitting process for denser housing. Tax credits can incentivize affordable housing development.  We need to ensure that local governments approve denser housing.  We need to look for underused properties that can support temporary housing or even RVs and cars.  He continues to look for more ideas and approaches. 

Berman is interested to learn more about alternative financing approaches to expand housing.  He commented that “we aren’t going to publicly fund our way to affordable housing by building subsidized housing alone, but we need to encourage the market to build housing and encourage partnerships of public funding, private funding, philanthropic funding.”  All methods should be explored to determine how to locally expand affordable housing.  

Question 3: Equitable COVID-19 Recovery.

What can be done to ensure that California’s COVID-19 economic recovery is equitable and focuses on the needs of those most impacted?

Summary of Assemblymember Berman’s response: “Everything we do needs to be done with an equity lens.”  

Our region with its high cost of living driven by a housing shortage that has long suffered from inequities, which have been exacerbated by COVID.   The Legislature is working on the multiple areas to address equitable relief to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on our communities.   

  • Extend eviction moratorium from end of January to at least the end of June
  • Expanding and prioritizing access to COVID 19 vaccine:  
  • Expand child-care resources:  
  • Address food insecurity:  
  • Ensure that basic needs are met for community college students
  • House homeless college students and priced-out faculty

Question 4: Personal Priorities for Assemblymember Berman

    • Election reforms to expand voter participation.
    • increasing voter participation by under-represented groups by promoting voter education, awareness,  and support for multiple languages.  More state funding is needed to support these efforts.  
    • Housing:  
    • Transportation
    • Ban on sales of gas-powered small appliances
    • Additional Local Issue discussed:   Wildfire prevention and mitigation.  Need for affordable fire insurance.   

    2021 LWV Legislative Interview with Sen. Josh Becker

    Each year Leagues across California conduct interviews of their local state Assemblymember and Senator.   These Local League legislative interviews are an opportunity for us to connect with our district representatives, expand our League’s presence, and heighten our collective impact. They are also an excellent chance to cultivate new leaders and build new relationships.

    Our interview with Senator Josh Becker addressed land use and climate change; housing, homelessness, zoning, and affordability; and an equitable recovery from COVID-19.

    Question 1: Climate change and land use 

    What do you see as the most important considerations and priorities in the effort to reach net drawdown from natural and working lands? How do we balance the many considerations? What are the funding priorities? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
    Climate change is a big priority for Sen Becker and he has put forward several bills focused on clean energy. SB 67 would accelerate the state’s goal of having 100% of electricity provided by renewables or other zero-carbon sources 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Another bill is designed to speed the transition to electric powered buildings. He is in favor of the “30 by 30” initiative which Assembly Member Kalra proposed last session and which Governor Newsom took executive action on last October. Sen. Becker supports efforts in regenerative agriculture though he is not as familiar with California’s Healthy Soils initiative and invites the League to share information and resources with him. 

    Question 2: Housing and Homelessness, Zoning and Affordability 

    What can be done to reform exclusionary single-family zoning in California? What reforms do you support to legalize and incentivize more affordable housing (both naturally occurring and deed restricted) in high opportunity neighborhoods? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply: 

    Housing: The housing crisis has worsened during the pandemic and California needs a housing strategy. Sen. Becker will work to address strategy and to streamline affordable housing approval processes. He plans to address the crisis with bills this session to support additional rental housing, assist first-time home buyers and allow duplexes. While the state does this work, the local governments have to take the lead with the state supporting through funding, such as bonuses to cities that increase density

    Homelessness: The state is working to prevent evictions during the pandemic and provide more affordable housing. Mental health issues are important and we must look deeply at how to help with more supportive services for mentally ill people. 

    Question 3: COVID-19 recovery 

    As we look toward recovery, what can be done to move California to be a more equitable place for all of us? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply: 

    The pandemic has exacerbated the inequality in California, and it has exceptionally affected people of color and low income people. We must look deeply at how to make the state more equitable, especially for the vulnerable. A pathway to economic mobility is early childhood education and child care, and we have to help those workers, who are mostly minority, with vaccination priority and economic support. Early childhood education needs more funding. California’s education system is decimated by the crisis. There is learning loss, and problems with digital equity and inclusion. Education must prepare children for the jobs in this economy and mentor networks are necessary to help build skills too. This year it will be hard to make these issues a priority but there is a budget surplus and we are working on it. 

    Question 4: Personal Priorities of Legislator 

    What other major issues do you think the legislature must deal within 2021? What are your personal priorities? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
    The first priority is COVID recovery, including eviction protection, helping small businesses, and supporting family child care providers. Next is economic opportunity, including education and equality of education, especially early childhood education, including expanding access to higher education and criminal justice reform. Also climate and the environment, including pushing S.B. 67 and the potential for 24×7 clean energy. 

    Question 5: Trust in Government 

    These days there is a lack of trust in government. Democracy requires trust in facts and in government. How do you think we should combat misinformation while balancing freedom of speech? How do we build unity and engagement across the political spectrum? 

    Summary of Sen. Becker reply:
    Misinformation: Sen. Becker says this is in his priorities document, and he looks at the European social media policies as useful examples for his staff to analyze. In our area we have Facebook and Google and YouTube so we have a responsibility to look at radicalization and misinformation.


    Bipartisanship: Sen. Becker was surprised when joining the California Legislature that there are so many friendships in Sacramento and in Congress between Democrats and Republicans as well as bipartisan bills.  There needs to be more publicizing that legislators do work together. 

    Los Altos City Council March 2021

    March 9, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

    March 23, 2021

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

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

    Claire Noonan, Observer

    Los Altos School District March 2021

    LASD Special Meeting March 1, 2021

    Superintendent Jeff Baier announced that 7th and 8th graders will start returning to campuses this month using the blended model. (The blended model is designed such that half of the students are in-person Mon & Tues and the other half of students are in-person Thurs & Fri. When they are not in-person, students continue with virtual learning.) Other grades have already been using the blended model (see chart below for dates), with a portion of students electing to continue with virtual-only rather than spending 2 days a week in-person.

    Blended Start Dates:

    Special Day Classes: Sep 28

    TK & 1st grade: Oct 12

    Grades 2-3: Nov 9

    Grades 4-5: Dec 7

    Grade 6: Jan 21

    Grade 7: Mar 8

    Grade 8: Mar 15

    Sandra McGonagle presented preliminary student performance data (reading, writing, math) for grades K-5 and emphasized that there does not appear to be learning loss in the form of regression or missed opportunities for learning.  It is too soon to tell whether there is less growth than in previous years, and there seem to be more students struggling with writing and in Kindergarten and 1st grade. She also shared that academic support is available to students that need it in the form of extra hours and subject-based interventions. Over half a dozen parents spoke during public comments to share their personal experiences and to ask for more opportunities to provide parental feedback (e.g. by conducting a parent survey). Many parents have either hired private tutors in multiple subjects or even quit their jobs to be more involved. Commentors pointed out that these factors may be compensating for academic losses that would otherwise be observed. Several parents expressed that they want more time in-person for the students, and board member Jessica Speiser replied that they are working toward that very goal. Board member Bryan Johnson stated that though the data may not show it, based on parent feedback it sounds like many students are struggling behind the scenes.

    The board also gave some guidance regarding summer school offerings (which will be in-person). The board suggested casting a wider net and offering longer hours in order to boost attendance.

    LASD Board Meeting March 8, 2021

    Superintendent Jeff Baier shared some good news regarding school re-opening. The majority of LASD employees should be vaccinated by Spring Break, and cases continue to be very low among LASD families. (Case data can be found here: https://www.lasdschools.org/District/Portal/coronavirus-information) Grades K-12 are now subject to state health orders rather than those formerly issued by Santa Clara County. In light of these changes, the Board would like to see the school district prepare to offer in-person instruction 5 days a week. The expectation is that all students will be back on campus 5 days a week by the fall of 2021, with the possibility of doing so even sooner (especially for grades TK-3). The board would like the district to prepare to make this happen as quickly as possible and to figure out what it will cost to meet state guidelines.

    Randy Kenyon presented the 2nd Interim Financial Report with updates to the budget. Funding from the Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) is now expected to be $2.4 million (down from $2.7 million). COVID related spending has cost the district $2.9 million so far. $1.8 million in funding for this purpose has already been received with another $3.8 million on the way from State and National sources. The additional funds can be used retroactively to cover what has already been spent.

    In December 2019, LASD purchased over 11 acres of land at the corner of California St and Showers Dr, some of which will be used to build a new school. (The property is commonly referred to as the 10th site, because there are 9 existing campuses within LASD.) The school will not occupy all the land that was purchased, so the board approved a transfer of development rights to Merlone Geier for 150,000 sq ft. This agreement will bring in $19.5 million to help pay for the construction of the new school.

    LASD Board Meeting March 22, 2021

    Superintendent Jeff Baier shared a recent change (effective March 20, 2021) in the CDC and California Department of Public Health guidelines stating that a 3 ft distance between students in the same cohort is now sufficient (6 ft was formerly required). In order to accommodate more students in each classroom, the school district has ordered additional single-student desks which will take a couple of weeks to arrive.

    For grades TK-6, board members directed Mr. Baier and Mrs. McGonagle to prepare for the switch to 5-days of in-person instruction to occur the week after Spring Break (April 12-16). (Families may also continue with 100% virtual learning if they so choose.) Shorter school days or a minimum day on Wednesdays will be considered as a response to teacher requests for adequate prep and collaboration time. The board also instructed the district to look into longer in-person school days for 7th and 8th graders rather than switching to 5-days of in-person instruction due to the overwhelming burden of making that change.

    Greg Drummond and Bhavna Narula gave a presentation on behalf of the Equity Task Force and asked the board to adopt a new framework to serve as a guide for anti-bias instruction. The board unanimously approved the new framework, which can be found here: https://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=1285264&IsArchive=0. The board also unanimously approved a resolution “Denouncing Hate Crimes and Bigotry Targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

    Stella Kam, League Observer

    Los Altos City Council – February 2021

    February 9, 2021

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

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

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

    February 23, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

    Submitted by Claire Noonan

    Los Altos School District February 2021

    February 8, 2021

    Superintendent Jeff Baier provided an update on school re-opening plans. The 7 elementary schools are fully open using a hybrid model. (Half the class in-person for 2 days, then the other half. Virtual learning when not attending in-person.) New state guidelines mean that the 2 Junior Highs cannot re-open until the county has been in the red tier for at least 5 days. There have been low COVID-19 case counts at all 9 schools, with only 26 cases since resuming in-person instruction on Sept 28, 2020. A total of 5 cohorts have been required to quarantine. CARES (Coronavirus Relief) Act funding has paid for modifications (e.g. ventilation) and supplies necessary to operate in person. PPE (including N95 masks) are available to teachers and staff who want them.

    Based on the results of a mental health survey conducted in October 2020, board members would like to see better dissemination of information regarding where to go for help. LASD is working with the Community Health Awareness Council and has dedicated additional resources to better support the mental health of both staff and students (e.g. district wide training on suicide warning signs).

    Randy Kenyon presented the preliminary budget and emphasized that it is still very early in the process and the numbers are subject to change. Governor Newsom is introducing a cost-of-living adjustment to the Local Control Funding Formula. Since Bullis Charter Schools receives funding from LASD based on this formula, an additional $350,000 will be owed to BCS next year. The $2.7 million grant from the Los Altos Educational Foundation is now considered to be at-risk, and the grant for next year is estimated to be $2.5 million (significantly less than in previous years). Board member Bryan Johnson commented that he feels comfortable tapping into the reserves as long as it continues to meet its target range of 8-10% in order to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic and stated that this is not the time to cut programs. The Budget Review Committee will take that into consideration when they begin meeting.

    Fred Gallagher presented the mid-year report from the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance and focused on the impact of the pandemic. Whether required to or not, LASD is considering a significant upgrade in the HVAC system, which could cost around $1 million. A member of the public commented in support of this upgrade and inquired about the use of HEPA filters. LASD experienced an unprecedented decline in enrollment this year of 11%, so the committee is preparing for a possible post-pandemic spike in enrollment next school year. The committee would also like to allocate resources to address learning loss caused by the pandemic. Governor Newsom’s proposed budget calls for one-time funds to address learning loss. LASD may be eligible for around $2.4 million in funding.

    Stella Kam, Observer

    Los Altos City Council January 2021

    January 12, 2021

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

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

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

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

    January 26, 2021

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

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

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

    Claire Noonan, Observer