Sculptures Shape Los Altos’ Image

Posted on September 26, 2013 by  
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Public SculptureWhile driving or strolling through Los Altos, visitors will inevitably catch sight of a few sculptures. From the multicolored “ZooScapes” creatures outside the main library to the life-size “Olympic Wannabes” at Village Park, public art weaves its way through downtown, the civic center area and local parks.

Los Altos’ first sculpture appeared in 1986 when the Public Arts Commission inaugurated the sculpture project. The city selected Mircea Paul Goreniuc’s “Space Dance for Peace” as its first piece of public art. Nearly three decades after its installation, the sculpture still calls Lincoln Park home.

Although some artwork is on loan from the artists, the city now owns more than half of the 30 pieces in its collection, thanks to donations from local residents.

“We’re bringing art to the city in the least costly way,” said Faye Chapman, chairwoman of the Public Arts Commission. “Art really adds a lot and shows that the city really cares.”

Members of the Public Arts Commission handpick and review the sculptures. When selecting works for display, members take into consideration the artistic talent invested, visual appeal and compatibility with the environment.

Artists often loan their pieces to the city for two years at a time and in return gain media exposure, public recognition and the opportunity to sell their work to local art lovers. When the two-year period expires, the artist may choose to donate the piece, take it back or renew the contract.

To find new sculptures, the commission releases a call for art and contacts more than 300 artists to find suitable additions to the growing collection. After selecting a sculpture, it takes approximately a year before it reaches public display. Commission members compare their search for the right sculptures to finding a needle in a haystack.

“We need something that won’t be a safety hazard and fits in with its surroundings,” said Chapman of the commission’s criteria. “I see some sculptures and I can just imagine someone climbing all over it, or kids getting their fingers stuck in the cracks.”

Chapman noted that sculptures may only be placed on land owned by the city, the primary reason so many are located at Lincoln and Shoup parks. Narrow sidewalks and limited public space downtown constrict the number of sculptures the city can display.

A number of sculptures await installation, including “The Guardian,” a life-size bronze work in the shape of a fairy by New Orleans artist Karen Cauvin Eustis. “The Guardian” will stand watch in the open space near the Costume Bank at the corner of State and Third streets.

Santa Rosa artist Riis Burwell’s “Bird” – an 11-foot-tall bronze and stainless-steel abstract tribute to the late jazz musician Charlie Parker – is slated to land in Lincoln Park soon.

Once construction on First Street is completed, Chapman said an additional three sculptures will decorate the landscape.

In addition to the city’s sculpture collection, the Public Arts Commission plans to introduce other forms of public art – bike racks, murals and more – with support from the city council.

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Ocean View Mountain Home

Posted on September 25, 2013 by  
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7405 Alpine Road, La Honda, CA 94020
Listed at $1,776,000 / Sold at $1,725,000
4 Bed / 2.5 Baths / Home: 3,160 sqft / Lot Size: 268,112 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached
Represented: Buyer

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Los Altos’ Annual Fall Festival

Posted on September 25, 2013 by  
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The Los Altos Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd annual Fall Festival is scheduled 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5 and 6 in the North Parking Plaza in downtown Los Altos.

The Little Explorers’ Petting Zoo returns to the Children’s Alley, providing the opportunity for a hands-on experience with animals including goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, a potbelly pig, an alpaca and giant tortoises. Children can enjoy a train ride and a variety of amusement rides, slides and bounce houses.

The event will feature activities and games sponsored by local schools and organizations, including pumpkin painting, penguin bowl, a fishing booth, toss games, crafts and more.

Festivalgoers interested in home-improvement projects can visit a number of exhibitors. Participating vendors will include Bath Simple, On Site Gutters, Landsystems Landscapes, Renewal by Andersen, Complete Solar Solution, onelawn, Byers’ LeafGuard Gutter Systems, MG Constructors & Engineers Inc. and the Bay Area Regional Energy Network.

Local musicians will perform on the KFC Main Stage. Acts include the Mary Ellen Duo, playing a variety of standards; Steve Kritzer, Celtic, bluegrass, folk, country and rock; Michael Barrett & Friends, rock ’n’ roll dance music; Deb Thacker, acoustic guitar; Blue House, pop music; and the Drive Band, classic danceable rock.

More than 150 arts and crafts booths will offer a variety of handmade items available for purchase, many of them showcasing fall and holiday themes.

The festival will include a visit from the Los Altos Library Bookmobile Oct. 6.

Chef Chu’s restaurant in Los Altos will serve Chinese food, and other vendors will offer a variety of items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, tamales, crepes, smoothies, kettle corn, frozen yogurt, gyros and dolmas.

Soft drinks, select wines and Gordon Biersch beers will be available.

The Classic Car Show will showcase more than 100 vintage cars, from a 1922 Stutz to a 1970 Meyers Manx Dune Buggy. Cars from the “Fabulous Fifties” will be featured Oct. 6.

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Covington Teacher Honored by 49ers

Posted on September 20, 2013 by  
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Covington School special-needs instructor Samantha Kephart earned recognition as a “Symetra Hero in the Classroom” at a school staff meeting.

“Sam Kephart makes a big difference in the lives of her students every day,” said Susie Warner, a parent of one of Kephart’s students. “Each student in her classroom is unique, with moderate to severe disabilities, and can be very challenging to work with. Sam does an amazing job keeping her classroom positive, treating all students equally and encouraging them to believe that there is nothing they cannot do.”

Warner and fellow parent Louanne Gonzalez nominated Kephart for the award.

“Sam does an excellent job making parents feel we are part of a team that is working together to help her students reach new heights and tackle challenges while having a great time,” Gonzalez said. “Sam stands out for her warm heart, patience and supportive personality. The smiles on her students’ faces speak volumes about the impact she has on their lives.”

Kephart is one of 16 K-12 teachers in the Bay Area selected for recognition in educational excellence by the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom program during the 2013 NFL season.

The “Hero” teachers are celebrated in front of their students and peers at surprise in-school presentations and receive a $1,000 donation for classroom books and supplies. They also receive tickets to a San Francisco 49ers home game and are acknowledged during an on-field halftime presentation at Candlestick Park. Kephart was recognized when the 49ers played the Green Bay Packers.

Principals, district staff, students and parents may nominate teachers. The winners are selected based on their ability to make a difference in their students’ lives, go above and beyond in their day-to-day responsibilities and help students build life skills.

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Parking Space Becomes Park Space

Posted on September 18, 2013 by  
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Parking Day 2013Downtown Los Altos is scheduled to participate in its second PARK(ing) Day celebration, an annual worldwide event wherein local artists, designers and residents transform parking spots into temporary public parks.

Los Altos will play host to a pop-up installation that is free and open to the public from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the three parking spaces outside 367, 363 and 359 State St. (Peet’s Coffee & Tea, The Botanist and Gallery Outer Space).

“Everyone is invited to stop by, take a seat and enjoy the park while it is in downtown Los Altos for the day,” said Brooke Ray Smith, community development director at event sponsor Passerelle Investment Co.

The minipark will feature a green theme and include seating on synthetic grass, potted plants, a moveable chalkboard, magnetic wall barriers, bike racks and a free bike fix-it station. Creativity is encouraged on the chalkboard and magnetic walls, where children of all ages are invited to volunteer their own drawings to add to the installation.

Smith said local businesses donated many of the materials for the installation, including the Furuichi Brothers Inc., Pete Moffat Construction Inc. and Passerelle. The Bay Area’s Base Landscape Architects designed the installation, as well as a number of other regional parklets.

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Sunny Home In Woodland Setting

Posted on September 12, 2013 by  
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210 Wayside Road, Portola Valley, CA 94028
Listed at $1,945,000 / Pending Show
4 Bed / 3.5 Baths / Home: 3,597 sqft / Lot Size: 42,690 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached
Represented: Buyer

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Local Fine Dining: Ambience

Posted on September 9, 2013 by  
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Fine diningThe newly opened Ambience restaurant in downtown Los Altos is certainly full of intrigue. Passersby on State Street can’t help but peer in the tinted windows of the first-class fine-dining establishment to survey the chef’s 11-course sampler menu at $135 per person.

Chef Morgan Song’s new creation is a far cry from the former Lucky Chinese Restaurant that occupied the same space at 132 State St. a few years ago. Song, who has been in the restaurant business 37 years, has been anointed one of San Francisco’s top five chefs (and therefore, one of the nation’s best). He operated a top-tier restaurant in Carmichael, outside Sacramento, before coming to Los Altos.

If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat before dashing off to the theater, don’t make a reservation at Ambience. The dining experience is likely to take from two to four hours – our visit on the restaurant’s Aug. 15 opening night lasted nearly four hours.

The restaurant and its cuisine are the evening’s highlights, period. And the food is not mere sustenance, it’s high art – culinary art, that is. The courses are designed to wow the eyeballs, stimulate the imagination and satisfy the palate.

The system is much different from your standard dinner out. Instead of a few courses with a lot a food, Ambience paces the diner through small portions of each course. Select wines complement each dish. Note: The wine pairings are an additional $85 per person.

The goal of the dining experience, according to Song’s wife, Unni, is to leave the diner feeling neither hungry nor heavy, but perfectly satisfied.

At other establishments, the interaction between diners is the chief experience, and the food, no matter how good, is often an aside to the table conversation. At Ambience, the chef, his cuisine and his staff are at the center of everything. Song doesn’t appear to be interested in volume – a known perfectionist, he wants to serve his best to a handful of diners. During our opening-night stay, the number of customers totaled 15 or fewer.

I’m confident, however, that most Ambience diners will enjoy virtually everything the chef offers. He’s a true pro with an already stellar reputation, and his new restaurant should prove a destination for culinary art aficionados all over the Bay Area. Imagine diners from San Francisco making the trek down to Los Altos for a change. If any fine-dining restaurant is going to make that happen, it’s Ambience.

For reservations and more information, call 917-9030 or visit ambiencefinedininglosaltos.com.

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Wonderful Willow Glen Home

Posted on September 9, 2013 by  
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1750 Marina Way, San Jose, CA 95125
Listed at $1,199,000 / Sold at $1,225,000
3 Bed / 2.5 Baths / Home: 1,900 sqft / Lot Size: 6,500 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached
Represented: Buyer

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Panoramic & Breathtaking Views

Posted on September 7, 2013 by  
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21617 Villa Maria Court, Cupertino, CA 95014
Listed at $3,599,000 / Sold at $3,430,000
5 Bed / 4.5 Baths / Home: 4,424 sqft / Lot Size: 104,108 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached
Represented: Seller

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Local Schools Keep Top Rankings

Posted on September 4, 2013 by  
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While the 2013 Academic Performance Index results reported that many local schools scored lower than in the previous year, Los Altos public schools are still among the state’s top performers.

The Los Altos School District placed fourth in the state, and Bullis Charter School ranked as the 14th highest-scoring elementary school on the 2013 API, released last week.

The mandated tests measure a school’s composite academic achievement based on a variety of statewide assessments. API calculations encompass the content areas of English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and History based on Standardized Testing and Reporting results.

The schools and the districts receive an annual API score between 200 and 1,000. The state’s goal is for all its schools to score higher than 800.

The downward trend in scores is countywide. After a majority of county schools demonstrated increases between their Base API and their Growth API the previous three years (79 percent in 2010, 69 percent in 2011 and 67 percent in 2012), that figure dropped significantly in 2013, with only 37 percent of schools experiencing an increase from their 2012 Base API and their Growth API. LASD results The Los Altos School District earned an overall score of 960, a nine-point dip from 2012, and reported the second-best showing among county districts.

The API scores of eight of the Los Altos School District’s nine schools declined from the previous year. Almond earned 953 (-1); Covington, 973 (-8); Gardner Bullis, 946 (-12); Loyola, 952 (-13); Santa Rita, 940 (-16); Springer, 953 (-7); Egan Junior High, 976 (-5); and Blach Intermediate, 957 (-14). Only Oak Avenue saw a slight uptick – to 984 (+1). Oak ranked 10th among county elementary schools and 24th in the state. Covington ranked 16th in the county and 44th in the state. Egan ranked fourth among county junior highs and ninth statewide. Blach ranked seventh in the county and 23rd in the state.

Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier said it was unclear why scores dropped at so many district schools, but he noted that the trend was similar among high-performing districts statewide. Despite the dip, Baier said the district is pleased with the results.

“We are surely proud of our performance,” he said. “Our kids are performing exceedingly well, and we are among the top-performing districts in the state, as we have been since the beginning of these tests.”

Bullis Charter School was the top-scoring school in Los Altos, fifth in Santa Clara County and 14th in the state with a score of 989, a five-point decline from last year. In addition to earning the highest-ranking API score in Los Altos, the school is the top-performing charter school in the state. MVLA results The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District recorded a 2013 API score of 870, the same as in the previous year. Mountain View High scored 861, a six-point decline, while Los Altos High scored 895, a six-point gain. Alta Vista High, the district’s alternative high school, scored 613, an 85-point drop. According to an MVLA district report, Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged students at Los Altos High registered an annual improvement of 22 points and 37 points, respectively. Over an 11-year period, API scores for Latino students in the district have increased 187 points.

“Our growth, especially among Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups, is a testament to LAHS’ commitment to challenging and supporting students,” said Joanne Miyahara, coordinator of Los Altos High’s Advancement Via Individual Determination program. “Staff development efforts … have helped create a culture where students are encouraged to take on challenging tasks and learn much more effectively through explicit coaching and metacognition.” Miyahara added that the school’s investment in academic support programs and the staff’s commitment to what is best for all students have been instrumental in the success.

Neighboring districts Montclaire Elementary School, located in Los Altos but part of the Cupertino Union School District, scored 968 on this year’s API – a six-point gain. Homestead High School, which serves areas of Los Altos, scored 873 (-1). Cupertino Middle School, which serves Los Altos families, scored 934 (-1). Gunn High School, which includes part of Los Altos Hills, scored 917 (-1).

For a comprehensive report on California’s 2013 API, visit cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap.

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