Downtown Family Fun

Posted on July 4, 2011 by  
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How would you like to have some fun this coming weekend?  Do you like strolling along a pedestrian promenade, while looking for that new painting, or high quality photograph, for your home?  Do your kids, or grandchildren, enjoy fun rides and face painting?

Well then, downtown Los Altos is the place to be over the July 9th & 10th weekend. Over those two days, 125,000 people are expected to participate in the 32nd Annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival.  It is one of the largest festivals in the bay area and has something for everyone.

The outstanding works of artists and craftspeople from over a dozen states will be showcased.  The festival will also features varietals, by the glass, from local wineries.  More importantly, at least for our two teenagers, there will be a wide variety of foods including Thai, Chinese, Mexican, hot links and roasted corn, and plenty of soft freeze ice cream.  Be sure and come hungry to the Festival.

The “Family Fun Zone” will have a stage, just for kids, with entertainment all day long.  Actually, there is an entire weekend of great music lined up with performances from Black Pearl, The Cocktail Monkeys, Soul Intention, Groove Kings, The House Rockers, Blue House, along with many others.

Clearly, if last year was any indication, everyone will have a good time.  So, come on down and see yet another great part of what makes Los Altos such a wonderful community!  Carol & I hope to see you there.


Los Altos Property Values Up Yr/Yr

Posted on July 3, 2011 by  
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Once again, just like the last economic recovery, Los Altos leads the County in real estate assessed values going up year over year.  The latest data, complied by the County Assessor office, highlights the strength of the local market.  While other nearby communities have seen a continued loss in property values.  Los Altos was up 3.6%.

The modest increase in value for the Los Altos community, continues the upward trained we wrote about in a earlier post.  The good news, is that we have strong demand for homes that come to market for sale.  The bad news, is that the current inventory of available homes for sale, in Los Altos, is 50% below last year.

Basically, well priced homes are being snapped up within days after the traditional broker tour.  While homes priced just above market are seeing good foot traffic of interested buyer, just not a similarly quick sale.  Buyers are still looking for value.

A variety of papers have been highlighting the recent uptick in both real estate activity, as well as sale prices.  One reporter, Diana Samuels (Daily Post) wrote an recent article about local property values rebounding.  Below, is an slightly edited version.  Enjoy …

Santa Clara County’s assessor says property values are starting to rebound, and it’s mostly thanks to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Assessor Larry Stone announced Thursday that the county’s 2011-12 assessment roll, which provides a snapshot of the value of all properties in the county as of Jan. 1, 2011, grew from $296 billion last year to $299 billion, or an increase of 0.88 percent.

“We’re seeing some movement in a positive direction,” Stone said. “Even though it’s a modest increase in property assessments, the trend is encouraging. I think I can say without hesitation that we’ve finally hit bottom.”

Los Altos and Los Altos Hills were the two cities in the county that saw the highest growth. Los Altos’ property values grew by 3.59 percent, and Los Altos Hills’ by 3.81 percent.

Stone said the northern part of the county tends to recover first in a bad economy.

“The higher-end areas … were not hit as hard by the collapse of the residential market,” Stone said. “The bloodbath was in South County — Gilroy, Morgan Hill, East San Jose and Milpitas for the most part.”

In addition to a more stable residential market, the northern part of the county continues to attract major technology companies and new startups, which are expanding as the economy recovers, Stone said.

Los Altos remains a desirable community to both buy a home, and raise a family.


To Be, Or Not To Be …

Posted on July 2, 2011 by  
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One of the defining social characteristics of any community, is the quality of its local library.  Generally, the library is the center of a community seeking, and sharing, knowledge.

In Los Altos, our libraries are a an example of excellence.  The circulation of materials is one of the highest in the State.  The local library system also has a strong support network in the “Friends of the Library.”  More importantly, whenever there is an election to strengthen the local libraries (financially, operationally, etc.), the measure passes with 80% of the vote.

Unfortunately, the local library system is anchored together with other communities who must also vote on the same county library measures.  Those communities have a much lower desire on improving the overall county library system, with less than 55% voting in favor of ballot measures in some communities … when 66.7% is needed to pass.

Recently, Diana Samuels (Daily News) wrote an article about a recent vote by the Los Altos City Council, regarding evaluating alternatives to the existing structure.  Below, is an slightly edited version.  Enjoy …

Los Altos and Los Altos Hills may split with the county to form their own library system in an effort to save money and gain more control over their book-lending institutions.

City councils in both cities recently voted to begin studying the ramifications of withdrawing from the Santa Clara County library system, which currently operates both the Los Altos Library and Woodland branch in Los Altos.

The North County Library Authority, the agency that manages a parcel tax that provides extra money for libraries in Los Altos, will fund and conduct the $120,000 study, Los Altos Hills Council Member Jean Mordo said.

Taxpayers in both cities provide about 22 percent of the property tax revenues that go into the county library system. But because of a complicated funding formula that takes into account population, property tax revenue and other factors, Mordo said, Los Altos libraries only get about 17 percent of those property taxes back. He calculates the shortfall at about $1.5 million, which goes to county libraries in South County cities such as Morgan Hill and Milpitas.

“I think it’s reasonable to let the county know that we’re concerned,” Los Altos Council Member David Casas said at a meeting Tuesday where the council voted 3-2 to support the study. “We’re subsidizing other communities, for services that our residents do not have access to.”

In addition, Mayor Ron Packard wrote in a report, Los Altos’ libraries are staffed by county employees who have “far more generous,” county-negotiated salaries and benefits, compared with city employees. The libraries could also save money with help from volunteers or part-time employees, but union contracts frequently prohibit them from working at the libraries, Packard said.

Mordo said he also disagrees with the county’s decision to begin charging an $80 annual library card fee today to patrons who live in cities outside the system. He called the fee “unneighborly”.

Whether Los Altos separates from the County Library system, is yet to be determined.  Having a clear articulated set options available to the decision makers is critical on determining the right course of action.  One thing is certain, if Los Altos does create its own system, it will be the envy of Silicon Valley.