Country Club’s $14 Million Facelift

Posted on March 29, 2014 by  
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LAG&CCProving the adage that some things improve with age, Los Altos Golf & Country Club recently completed a $14.1 million addition and renovation on the heels of its 90th birthday.

Although the 155-acre facility has undergone numerous remodels since its establishment off Loyola Drive in the unincorporated area near Los Altos in 1923, the latest additions expand facilities and upgrade amenities for the club’s 425 proprietary members, social members and special-event guests.

According to Randall Bertao, Los Altos Golf & Country Club general manager, member requests for facility enhancements triggered the revamp.

After updating the swimming, golf and clubhouse facilities over the past several decades, the newest features at the club offer even more to members and guests. Although membership is at capacity, many nonmembers schedule private events at the facility.

“Although we don’t advertise, we want the community to know about us,” Bertao said.

In addition to adding kitchen space with grills that enable the club to increase its offering of California cuisine, a new event space – the Sequoia Room – with a capacity up to 120 people, was included in the new wing of the facility’s clubhouse. Framed by large wood beams, the room features a fireplace, built-in seating along the windows and a bar. Bertao added that the new kitchen and event room enable the club to host additional weddings, fund-raisers and other business and social gatherings.

The construction of a new building to house fitness facilities, women’s and men’s changing rooms and small meeting rooms for groups of 40 or fewer expanded the club’s footprint.

Spacious lounges in each of the new locker rooms overlook the golf course.

The club is equipped with weights, cardiovascular exercise gear, a Jacuzzi and a sauna. A 3,500-square-foot fitness room with rows of stationary equipment, weights and exercise mats greets members in the second-floor space of the new building. A yoga studio boasts bamboo wood flooring and floor-to-ceiling mirrors that reflect the scenic backdrop of the foothills, viewed through the large windows.

For more information, visit


Affordable Housing Comes To Market

Posted on March 26, 2014 by  
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Sherwood GatewayEvery few years, the local real estate market lets daydreams root in reality, at least for one family.

A one-bedroom apartment in the Los Altos Gardens complex recently came on the market for $981 a month. Part of a city-sponsored affordable housing program, the “below market rate” (BMR) unit is reserved for low-income candidates.

Based on Santa Clara County income averages, an eligible single person could make no more than $37,150, with the income limit rising with family size. Qualified buyers are entered into a lottery for BMR units, with candidates such as local teachers, police officers, firefighters and city employees given preference.

Los Altos established the BMR homeownership program in 1995 to provide housing options for a select few of the people who otherwise can’t afford to live in the city. The homes are deed restricted for 30 years, meaning that they can’t be resold at market rates or rented out. The program aims to provide more homes, not investments, in Los Altos. The city determines an affordable sales price for each unit, and Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley administers the program.

The city requires that developers of multifamily housing projects set aside units for low-income applicants in exchange for incentives such as eased requirements for parking or development area.

Four townhouses at Sherwood Gateway went on the market for $461,913 last month, drawing 31 applicants. They’re part of a 38-unit development by Lennar Homes just off El Camino Real. Those houses had an $85,235 income cut-off for a single applicant. Two one-bedroom and one two-bedroom units in the 100 First St. development are expected to open for application soon, and 17 more rental units may hit the market later this year. The rental deadline for the Los Altos Gardens apartment is 4 p.m. Friday.

Applicants must apply through a BMR program with multiple eligibility requirements. For more information, visit


Fabulous North Los Altos Location

Posted on March 19, 2014 by  
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600 Milverton Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022
4 Bed / 3 Baths / Home: 3,000 sqft / Lot Size: 16,800 sqft +/-
Single Family Detached – Leased


Forest On First: Good Food

Posted on March 19, 2014 by  
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Forest on FirstFor all those not entirely monopolized by the elaborate wooden play structure ringing its walls, the new downtown eatery Forest on First offers plant-heavy breakfast, lunch and snacks in the mode of upscale home-cooking. The H&H Co.’s latest offering, at 129 First St., boasts a menu of fresh-pressed juices and smoothies and offers take-home “Family Fare” dinners of locally raised roast chicken, potatoes, salad and seasonal vegetables on the side.

“We’re taking stuff we like to eat – old classics – and twisting them a little bit,” chef Tyler Morrish explained, describing an olive-oil-poached Tuna Conserva inspired by the familiar tuna melt.

Watch for his house-made sauces, sodas, cheeses and sweets on the menu.  “My whole philosophy is, there’s no reason to order stuff when you can make it,” Morrish said.

He uses himself as a test subject for new projects like a bespoke protein powder of hemp, flax and chia seeds added to smoothies like the Green Kiwi (kale, banana, kiwi, coconut milk). Slimming down for an upcoming wedding, Morrish wanted to find a cure for daytime “munchiness” and found that a subtle dose of the ground seeds was a “simple little addition that you’re not going to taste, but it will help fill that void.”

When not practicing restraint, diners can dig into pastries like the olive oil, polenta and pistachio muffin Morrish bakes using a refigured cake recipe, and griddled English muffins in the plump, crumpetlike style of the U.K. The sticky buns derive from the doughnut-like Italian “zeppole” pastry, spread with powdered sugar, butter and cinnamon, rolled up and baked topped with pecans.

The sweets case caters to all ages, with a special featuring triflelike layers of pretzels mounded with whipped cream and mascarpone cheese, topped with red strawberry Jell-O. Morrish’s grandma is to thank for the “Strawberry Surprise” that joins macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly empanadas and spaghetti on the children’s menu.

Spring vegetables like asparagus are already crossing the counter at Forest, and Morrish noted that the season will be quick this year, due to the warm winter. He visited a farm last week to discuss a partnership in which Forest buys its vegetables and then returns juicing compost for the next season’s soil.

Forest on First is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  For more information, visit


Main Street Coffee Bar Emerges

Posted on March 15, 2014 by  
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Red BerryFor Jeff and Lisa Hampton, more than 18 months of anticipation finally came to an end last week.

The couple opened the doors to Red Berry Coffee Bar March 5 at the former home of Andiamo Salon at 145 Main St. The coffee bar’s debut comes after the couple – originally profiled in the June 2012 issue of the Town Crier – endured contractor problems and other delays as they worked to complete the 1,500-square-foot business. Lisa noted that she and her husband are pleased to know that those obstacles are now a thing of the past.

“It has been a long road. It’s been one of those things where everything that could go wrong did,” said Lisa, adding that she’s anxious to introduce Red Berry’s offerings to customers, including fair-trade coffee from the likes of Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz) and Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (Redwood City).

“We’re just really excited,” she added later. “Jeff is just so happy to be back working on his espresso machine again.”

The Hamptons’ establishment – which they first opened in downtown San Jose in 2009 before opting to relocate to Los Altos nearly two years ago – is still in some ways a work in progress.

Jeff said Red Berry is currently offering a limited menu of espressos and other coffee drinks, as well as scones and croissants from local bakeries. In the next few weeks, however, the coffee bar plans to offer breakfast and lunch fare, including gluten-free options, homemade pastries and soft-serve ice cream.

The couple recently hired a culinary consultant to help refine the coffee bar’s final menu – a step Jeff conceded that he’s anxious to begin. Above all, Jeff added that he’s simply looking forward to introducing local residents to his selection of high-quality coffees, which he plans to rotate to keep the drink menu fresh and exciting.

“I’m happy with the response we’ve had so far and I just love this community,” he said. “It’s a place where people are really cognizant of small mom-and-pop shops. They seem to appreciate them, and we enjoy having them come around.”

For more information, visit Red Berry Coffee Bar’s Facebook page at


“Project Los Altos” Moves On

Posted on March 12, 2014 by  
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Project Los Altos - InsideAs blossoms emerge from buds, a colorful street painting at State and Fourth streets remains nearly unaltered by the change of seasons. The first project unveiled for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos,” Jessica Stockholder’s vibrant street painting will soon disappear as the community’s rendezvous with modern art comes to an end.

“The exhibit was another thing that brought the town together,” said Los Altos Hills resident Julia Leighton. “It took guts for SFMOMA to leap to little Los Altos to do this.”

After 114 days and more than 20,000 visitors, “Project Los Altos” bid farewell March 2. Just one day after closing, the giant inflatable question mark at Village Park was packed up and hauled away. By Thursday, SFMOMA representatives said the playful doors installed at Lincoln Park and the photo and video installations at four State Street storefronts would be disassembled and other sites returned to their original states.

“At a time when SFMOMA is undergoing a transformation, it was exciting to take a nontraditional exhibition approach by siting contemporary art within the fabric of Los Altos’ downtown, treasure-hunt style, where the works could either be sought out or just discovered,” said Janet Bishop, SFMOMA’s curator of painting and sculpture, who helped coordinate “Project Los Altos” and other installations for “SFMOMA on the Go,” the temporary exhibits traveling while the museum undergoes renovation.

When the city of Los Altos, Passerelle Investment Co. and SFMOMA joined forces to produce the collaboration last year, Los Altos not only became the canvas for a giant creative experiment by SFMOMA, but also the palette from which commissioned artists derived inspiration for their work. Exemplifying one of the reasons modern art is difficult to define, the creative interpretations that materialized were as diverse in content as each of the six participating artists.

Some artists created work that reflected the technology and science that thrives in the region: Spencer Finch took inspiration from scientific innovators to create a colorful grid that showcased the range of human perception; Christian Jankowski highlighted tech-speak in a series of talks by community members; and Mike Mills merged Los Altos’ history and predictions for the future in his mixed-media installation.

Taking the prompt more literally, Stockholder translated the triangular shape of downtown streets into an abstract pavement painting, “Cross Hatch,” that protruded into the sidewalk. SFMOMA’s visitor supervisor Travis Warren, who was onsite for most of the exhibit, said the piece provoked a healthy mix of responses from guests, as well as a fair number of questions.

“It started dialogue on what is art, what is public art,” said Warren, adding that nine out of 10 people reacted positively to the piece. “This was a perfect example of why we are doing outreach.”

Other artists turned the tables, reflecting the culture of Los Altos. Katerina Sedá’s “Everything Is Perfect” project accentuated the competitive spirit she observed in Los Altos. In a bit of a juxtaposition, she invited visitors to submit “ordinary” records for the “Los Altos World Record Book.”

Project Los Altos - Outside

While early efforts to solicit community participation were challenging for Sedá, who advertised in the Town Crier, posted flyers to telephone poles and reached out to local schools, she recorded more than 250 entries by the deadline. A May 5 ceremony is scheduled to award certificates and copies of the “Los Altos World Record Book” to participants.

“Even as some have expressed that they may not fully understand or appreciate some of the works, in the same breath they have noted that contemporary art, while often challenging, is nevertheless a welcome new experience that stimulates dialogue and a new way of looking at downtown Los Altos,” said Brooke Ray Smith, Passerelle’s community development director.

Los Altos experienced its 15 minutes of fame. From mentions in The Wall Street Journal and on the online Daily Beast to feature pieces by KTVU TV 2 and the San Francisco Chronicle, buzz abounded. “Project Los Altos” videos on the museum’s website generated more than 32,000 views.

“The positive community response and engagement have been the biggest benefits as far as the city of Los Altos is concerned,” said Erica Ray, the city’s public information coordinator. “The project also brought a lot of new visitors to town that would likely not have visited otherwise.”

As streams of visitors trekked downtown for the exhibit, some businesses benefited. The Assistance League of Los Altos’ Costume Bank at 169 State St. experienced a notable uptick in visitors during the show. Designer and filmmaker Mills intentionally selected the Costume Bank to host his “Project Los Altos” creation in homage to the area’s historical transition.

“As a nonprofit business, it was huge … You could have never paid for this amount of publicity,” said Catherine Taylor, head of marketing for the Assistance League.

The community supplemented the exhibit with a variety of creative initiatives. The Los Altos History Museum sponsored a juried exhibition, Linden Tree Books opened its doors to youth art programming, the Los Altos Library hosted lectures by SFMOMA docents and local businesses welcomed new visitors to town during First Fridays. The Town Crier got in on the act by collaborating with SFMOMA and encouraging readers’ creativity via a series of do-it-yourself prompts, “Let’s Do This!”

Passerelle invites local residents to weigh in on “Project Los Altos” by completing the Los Altos Visitors Survey at Local businesses can complete a survey at


LAHS Named to 2013 Honor Roll

Posted on March 10, 2014 by  
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The California Business for Education Excellence 2013 Honor Roll included Los Altos High School on its list of high-performing public schools.

After analyzing student achievement data for every public school in California, the organization recognized Los Altos High for demonstrating consistently high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement over time and reduction in achievement gaps. For high schools, Honor Roll recognition includes measures of college readiness.

“Having high standards, effective school leadership and staying focused on student academic achievement has paid off for these Honor Roll schools,” said Lee Blitch, chairman of California Business for Education Excellence and past CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “These schools are an inspiration.”

The organization has identified a common set of success factors in higher-performing Honor Roll schools and districts, including high expectations for all students, ongoing collaboration among teachers to improve practices, targeted use of data to pinpoint challenges and monitor progress, continual intervention for struggling students and mastery of content knowledge and pedagogical practices.

“Our teachers, staff, students and diverse community work together every day to ensure that our students achieve at the highest level possible,” said Principal Wynne Satterwhite. “We are proud of their accomplishments in a rigorous academic program as well as in the arts, athletics and community service. We appreciate the recognition from the California Business for Education Excellence that they have earned through this hard work and dedication to continuous improvement.”

For more information, visit


Wants & Needs For New Community Center

Posted on March 8, 2014 by  
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Commissions Discuss CenterA handful of Los Altos city commissions met last week for one specific purpose – to create a preliminary wish list of programming for a new community center.

Members of the city’s Senior, Parks and Recreation, Youth and Public Arts commissions met Feb. 26 for more than two hours at Hillview Community Center, part of the ongoing 10-month effort to update plans to replace Hillview with a new community facility as outlined in the 2009 Civic Center Master Plan. Participants split into groups and prioritized programming needs for the various constituencies the new facility would serve, such as seniors, teens and children.

Several commission members suggested the need for large indoor and outdoor spaces for social activities, with dinners, middle-school dances, public art and fitness classes as priorities.  If you’d like to participate in the discussion, the city is slated to host user-group-focused meetings March 15 and 20. Both meetings are open to the public.


National Blue Ribbon Nominations

Posted on March 5, 2014 by  
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National Blue Ribbon NominationsThe California Department of Education nominated two Los Altos School District schools – Blach Intermediate and Egan Junior High schools – for the National Blue Ribbon award from the U.S. Department of Education.

Only 35 of the more than 12,000 public, charter and private schools in California received nominations for the award, which recognizes sustained exemplary achievement of students and school communities.

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private schools that are either high performing or have significantly improved student achievement. The program is part of a larger Department of Education effort to identify and disseminate knowledge on best practices in school leadership and teaching. Since 1982, the department annually selects schools whose students attain and maintain high academic goals.

Blach and Egan have maintained high state test scores over a sustained period of time and regularly rank among the top-scoring schools in the state. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson nominated Blach and Egan for the federal award.

“Blach and Egan are shining examples of excellence, thanks to the tireless efforts of the teachers, staff members and administration and the strong support from our community,” said Jeff Baier, Los Altos School District superintendent. “Just like every LASD school, these two are focused on the academic, social and emotional needs of each and every student and work diligently to ensure their success. Both schools have cultures of total commitment, strong parent involvement, collaboration among teachers, high expectations and, ultimately, success for the students.”

Following the validation process through the Department of Education, representatives from Blach, Egan and the Los Altos School District are scheduled to attend a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in the fall.


Los Altos Hardware Celebrates 30yrs

Posted on March 1, 2014 by  
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Los Altos HardwareFor Sue and Henry Nesmith, the seeds that led to the founding of Los Altos True Value Hardware can be found in a fixer-upper Menlo Park house, of all things.

The Los Altos Hills residents last week celebrated the 30-year anniversary of their store at 441 First St. and pointed specifically to the purchase of their first home as college students in Menlo Park as the eventual motivation behind their hardware store. They purchased the home, Sue recalled, for $30,000 – but it needed some renovations. Lo and behold, the young couple set their sights on doing all of the work themselves. Not long after, they began flipping houses locally.

“We just got familiar with how to fix things and, I don’t know, we just decided we wanted to start a business,” Sue said. “We were sitting around the table with my folks one night and my dad said, ‘I think you should start a hardware store in Los Altos. There’s no hardware in Los Altos.’ We just looked at each other and thought, ‘Hmmm, OK.’”

Soon after, Henry said, the couple placed their hopes and future in a “sleepy” downtown area and established what is now known as Los Altos True Value Hardware. The property was attractive at the time because it offered plenty of parking and a building large enough to suit their needs.

“What it’s come down to is that we made a really good guess,” he said with a chuckle. “We’re really happy to be here. The town has really grown up.”

“You do kind of take a leap of faith when you’re starting something new like that,” Sue added.

A Los Altos IconStill, the Nesmiths conceded that it has taken more than just luck to remain in business for 30 years. Henry said the key to earning the trust of customers is offering knowledgeable and dependable service – or what he described simply as an “awful lot of just getting up and doing the same thing day after day.”

“Everybody who walks into our store pretty much has a problem – and they don’t want to relive that problem,” he said. “They just want to get something, get home and get it done with. They don’t want to go through a whole lot of change to fix that problem.”

Henry credited his employees – some who have remained with the Nesmiths for more than 10 years – with being familiar and trusted faces for Los Altos customers looking for advice on anything from fixing a water leak to which rake they should purchase.

“People are very loyal in this town. It takes a long time, but once you reach whatever threshold that is, then you’re here to stay,” said Henry, who added that the store saw a boost in customers when the Rancho Hardware and Garden Shop closed in 2007.

And staying is exactly what the Nesmiths plan to do when it comes to their business. Henry, 59, said that retirement on his terms is far from its conventional definition – it’s simply reducing his workload from five or six days per week to three or maybe four days.

“People have offered to buy the business and the building, but that’s not really our interest,” he said. “Our life would not change because of that. We want to stick around. I want a small business in town.”

The Nesmiths agreed that they also feel a sense of duty to maintain the status quo as the neighborhood hardware store for all Los Altos residents.

“We have an obligation, not only to our offspring, to stick around, but also an obligation to the community,” Henry said. “I know that sounds corny, but every morning people walk into my store expecting me to be here with stuff. You can’t push that aside.”

For more information, visit