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