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