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