Unbridled growth from adjacent cities is affecting our main thoroughfares and neighborhoods. I participated in the County-led discussion to redo intersections along Foothill Expressway with Measure B funds. We need strong leadership to protect resident interests and prevent our residential streets from becoming major collectors. We need to keep bypass traffic out of our neighborhoods for safety and quality of life.
Safe Routes To School
One of the most important jobs of the City is to provide safe streets – especially for children, but also for those who enjoy walking and biking in our city. I attended a presentation in early 2018 about “Safe Routes to School” efforts in the area where Los Altos joins Cupertino; I was appalled that so much remains to be done. This is a city problem, not a schools problem. Completing all projects on SRTS, and identifying and addressing other safety issues, will be a top priority.
We have incredibly smart and informed residents. But too often, residents feel that their comments are just pro forma, and that Council has already decided what to do. At least twice recently residents have had to hire their own attorneys to get the City to act correctly (on Village Court zoning and the content of the Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance). Residents rightly suspect that Council sometimes takes a seemingly innocuous step that is actually only the first on the way to some hidden goal. This is not how the city’s business should be done.
Those who volunteer for Commissions offer their incredibly valuable time, knowledge, and insights. They should feel that their work matters and is always considered and respected.
Parks and Recreation/Measure C
We have the smallest amount of parkland per resident of any city in the area. Council is now spending the entire reserve accumulated for park acquisition on the new community center. This makes preservation and maintenance of our existing parks urgent. Similarly, the other land we use for recreation, such as Hillview, must be retained for ALL our citizens to share. Many people assume that Hillview is a “park”, but it is not. It is classified as “public/institutional” land. That is one reason I am supporting Measure C, which would require a city-wide vote to sell or lease park or public/institutional land for private interests. Anything less is an inadequate protection for our precious recreational and other city-owned lands.
The people who bought homes here when the city was formed, or in the 1970’s or even 2000, could not afford them now. There are no quick fixes to the housing/jobs imbalance that is driving housing prices. Sacramento mandates won’t work. The solution is complex and requires thoughtful policies and cooperation among cities. For example, we need clear, predictable processes for developers that minimizes costs and uncertainty, while protecting residents from traffic and other effects of increased density. Because Los Altos is fully built out, any new increase in density on a parcel has the associated effect of increasing surrounding land value, making future development even more expensive. Market forces will eventually prevail. One approach is to partner with cities that have available land to develop the greater amount of workforce and below market rate housing needed but that is unlikely to be developed in our built-out city.
Largely because of housing concerns, the state legislature continues to take away local control. I advocated for the privacy rights of residents when considering how to implement state requirements on accessory structures and on approving higher density for the inclusion of low-income housing in new developments. We need to get our zoning right – for our residents and to meet our fair share of housing. I will fight to resist Sacramento mandates and to retain local control so we can always provide the best possible quality of life for our residents.
Robust Commercial Centers/Downtown “Vision”
A unique and wonderful feature of Los Altos is that our seven commercial centers provide most goods and services that we need. The City Council has responsibility to make sure our zoning and commercial codes are clear and are applied fairly to allow businesses to grow and prosper, even as market forces change the mix of retail/service/office that fits our city. That is in the interest of business property owners, business owners, and residents. The recently developed “Vision” plan would require a huge investment of funds that we don’t have. The economic consultant says the only way to fully implement the plan is to allow commercial development on most of our parking plazas AND our civic center. We need a broader community discussion of whether this is what we want.