‘Granny Units’ Could Aid Housing

Posted on October 26, 2016 by  
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number-0fIn a joint study session, the Los Altos City Council and the Planning and Transportation Commission last week reviewed how secondary living units might allow for new housing in Los Altos.

City officials concluded that secondary living units, small outbuildings often called “granny” or “in-law” units because of their customary inhabitants, could help alleviate Silicon Valley’s housing crisis.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs asked the council if Los Altos should lower the minimum lot size allowed for secondary units from 15,000 square feet. Out of the city’s 9,439 total parcels, only 1,501 are more than 15,000 square feet.

David Kornfield, the city’s planning services manager, said the meeting provided enough information to move forward.

“There are more eyes on the streets in places with second living units, and there’s different patterns of living,” he said. “When we come back (to the council), we will provide a much more comprehensive report on what the benefits are to the community and what the requirements are from the state.”

After the study session focused on secondary units, the conversation shifted to affordable housing. Los Altos has been without an affordable housing administrator since a 2015 request for proposal proved unsuccessful.  That’s at least partly due to the fact that no one seems to know the scale of affordability in Los Altos.

The city has partnered with Palo Alto Housing to administer affordable units in downtown Los Altos. According to Los Altos Mayor Jeannie Bruins, no one knows if units designated affordable are occupied by families that need the assistance, because the city has a complaint-driven compliance system.

Citing his experience living in Los Angeles, Alex Samek – another member of the Planning and Transportation Commission – suggested annual registration of below-market-rate units, including secondary housing.

City staff indicated that they would take Samek’s suggestion into account as they form an affordable housing strategy, which will not yet require a housing administrator.


Stevens Creek Trail Alternatives

Posted on June 26, 2015 by  
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Stevens Creek Trail OptionsStevens Creek Trail Joint Cities Feasibility Study, just closed the public input phase for the review. More than 900 residents submitted written feedback, according to city of Sunnyvale representative Jennifer Garnett, and at least 300 people attended the three public input meetings held in May and early June.

Residents’ input will be incorporated in a final report for the study’s cooperating cities – Los Altos, Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale.

The study sought to identify feasible routes to connect the multiuse Stevens Creek Trail from Mountain View to Cupertino. Various workable options coursed through three segments: Dale Avenue/Heatherstone Way in Mountain View to Fremont Avenue in Los Altos/Sunnyvale, Fremont Avenue to Homestead Road in Los Altos/Sunnyvale and Homestead Road to Stevens Creek Boulevard in Cupertino.

In 2008, Los Altos embarked on its own feasibility study, which resulted in a recommendation for a preferred alignment that extended through the creek corridor parallel to Fremont Avenue and Grant Road. The Los Altos City Council accepted the report but did not adopt a preferred alternative, instead pursuing a regional study that would include representation from the four collaborating jurisdictions.

With residents’ feedback in hand, the Joint Cities Working Team will craft a set of recommendations for the four city councils. Bruins said the suggestions would include ranked alternatives for the trail’s various segments.

Residents interested in tracking the process can sign up for email updates by visiting sunnyvale.ca.gov, searching “Stevens Creek Trail Joint Cities Feasibility Study” and clicking the “Subscribe by Email” link on the far right.


EV Charging Stations Coming Soon

Posted on February 22, 2013 by  
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The Los Altos City Council Feb. 12 gave the green light for installation of three electric-vehicle charging stations in the city.

A U.S. Department of Energy grant to ChargePoint Inc., a Campbell-based manufacturer of charging stations, made the three 240-volt units available to the city at no expense. Although the units, which retail for $6,800 each, are free, the city will incur installation expenses of approximately $30,000.

“I’m so excited that we are going to get these EV chargers and that the city has jumped on the chance to get these free stations,” said Los Altos resident and electric-vehicle owner Maddy McBirney during public comment.

When fully operational, the devices charge two cars per unit. With a $1 per hour charging fee, the city expects to cover all electrical costs, maintenance and annual fees.

To minimize expenses and maximize user convenience, the city selected strategic locations for the chargers based on electrical line accessibility and parking demand. Two of the chargers will be located in Plaza 3 between San Antonio Road and Third Street, with the third installed adjacent to Bus Barn Theater in the civic center.

If there are no delays, the charger installations could be complete by the end of March.


Going For International Recognition

Posted on October 11, 2011 by  
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Based on the 2010 census, 20 percent of the residents in Los Altos were over the age of 65.  When compared to Santa Clara County, at 10 percent, Los Altos has twice the senior population on a percentage basis.

Does this mean Los Altos is getting “old”?  Of course not.  It simply means that we have more residents retiring, and remaining, in their homes than the average Silicon Valley community.

Hopefully, this blog has helped convey what living in Los Altos is really about.  As I have previously mentioned, this is a destination community.   To begin, we have some of the best educational choices in the nation, from pre-schools to top tier universities.  Many of our seniors volunteer in helping future generations realize their potential, as tutors, mentors and advisors.

In addition, quality of life in Los Altos is superb … from access to health care, to outdoor recreational activities, to the supportive volunteer social structure found in the community.  Our senior residents have compelling options at their disposal.

Recently, Kristen Marschall (Daily News) wrote about the City Council applying to be designated “age-friendly”.  Below, is a slightly edited version of her article.  Enjoy …

With the highest concentration of seniors in Santa Clara County, Los Altos thought it was time to make it official.

After receiving the OK from the city council, Los Altos has submitted an application to Geneva, Switzerland, to be recognized as “age-friendly” by the World Health Organization.

The title doesn’t come easily. Since the program began in 2005, New York City and Portland are among the few cities in the nation dubbed “age-friendly.” Los Altos would be the first in California.

For Karen Jenney, chair of the Los Altos Senior Commission, it was an easy decision to go for it.

As first, the relatively new commission mailed out questionnaires to about 4,500 residents older than 55 in both cities, asking what concerns them as they age.

The commission received more than 1,000 responses and compiled a list of comments that totaled 100 pages.

If the two cities are deemed by the World Health Organization to be “age-friendly,” the commission will be expected to go to work right away on projects that benefit seniors. Jenney said some changes must be implemented within five years.

Possible projects include improving street lighting and adjusting traffic lights to allow more time for crossing the road, Jenney said. The commission estimated about $8,000 would be needed, and at the Los Altos City Council’s request it will prioritize improvements based on costs and community impact.

Among the many Los Altos residents who chose to stay in the community as they age is 94-year-old Muriel Perkins, who with her husband moved to the area in 1941 when homes were cheaper and schools abounded. When it came time to choose a retirement community, she said her husband had a carton box of options from San Jose to San Mateo, but they opted to move to The Terraces at Los Altos.

Established in 1949 as Pilgrim Haven, the retirement community is home to 73 people in independent living, 14 in assisted living and about 50 in skilled nursing, executive director Rae Holt said.

The community is about to build additional units and a memory support center to accommodate those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which Holt said will make The Terraces the only retirement community in the area to have such a facility.

Residents must be at least 62 but most are around 85, Holt said, noting than many come from the Los Altos and Palo Alto area.

Arvid Hamer, 90, is a second-generation resident, following in the footsteps of his mother, who lived there in 1963. There was no question about where he and his wife would go when the time came, in 2003, Hamer said.

“I’d been here a couple of weeks and I said, ‘What am I doing with all these old people?’ And then I realized I’m one of them,” Hamer said.


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.


Changes for Downtown – zoning & more

Posted on February 12, 2010 by  
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Over the past six years, we have seen at least three cycles run through our core Downtown business. However, one thing has remained rather stagnant: the look and feel of Downtown. It appears that changes are afoot.

During the last couple of years, the City has been striving towards a common goal of incentivizing investments in Downtown. Yes, there were some constraints inhibiting progress. However, the City has been working towards identifying opportunities, and is ready to invest in a number of projects itself.

Below are highlights from a recent article, which covered the changes …

Downtown zoning underwent significant changes following a Feb. 9 Los Altos City Council action. The changes will pave the way for taller buildings with mixed uses along the downtown perimeter.

The bulk of the rezoning changes, unanimously approved after a lengthy public hearing, apply to First Street. Although the Safeway and Draeger’s Market properties and the city-owned plot at First and Main streets will retain a Commercial Retail Sales (CRS) zoning, most of the street is rezoned to permit office and residential uses. CRS zoning, with its two-story, 30-foot maximum, remains prevalent throughout the retail core of Main and State streets.

Coupled with last week’s approval of streetscape plans for First Street and San Antonio Road, the changes have the clear intent to attract more development – and people – to downtown.

The streetscape project, which addresses improvements to sidewalks and landscaping, also includes undergrounding utilities through a partnership with PG&E. The utility is scheduled to work on First between Edith and Main this summer.

The changes, a combination of recommendations from the Downtown Development Committee and the city’s planning commission, become effective 30 days after the second reading of the zoning amendment.

The committee’s recommendations for First included extending the commercial/retail zone along First between Safeway and Draeger’s, allowing residential units on first floors from Main to San Antonio and raising the building height limit to 45 feet.

Approximately 30 people, including downtown property and business owners, members of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, members of the Los Altos Village Association and residents, attended the hearing, primarily offering their support for the zoning changes.


Volunteering – A Los Altos Theme

Posted on December 3, 2009 by  
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David & Carol during his swearing in as MayorOver the past week, since I was appointed Los Altos Mayor by my fellow Council Members, I’ve been asked at least once a day about the many opportunities to volunteer in the community. For background, Carol & I have always enjoyed giving back to the Los Altos community. It has become a part our lives, just like so many others in town.

The great thing about the conversations I have had is hearing about the depth and breadth of volunteering these individuals have done themselves. As residents, they’re collectively, and individually thankful to live in such a great community and volunteering was their way of giving back. This is a common theme in town.

Los Altos represents many things: strong schools; a great place to raise a family; a close-knit community; wonderful residents. Additionally, Los Altos has many venues, organizations and activities which provide multiple opportunities to get involved. Clearly, there is something for everyone to channel their energies on giving back to the community.

Lending A HandSome residents jump right in when they move into town, while others may defer to a later date when they have time to volunteer. The great thing about Los Altos residents is that they have so much to offer, and the organizations they engage with are always grateful to have their help.

While there are many unsung heroes, who are a part of the tapestry we call Los Altos, there are various recognition events that highlight individuals who stepped forth to volunteer.

One such event is this coming Friday, where Los Altos and Los Altos Hills will honor a select group of residents who selflessly give of themselves to make the world a better place. I go each year to this event, and walk away with a sense of awe at the level of contribution these individuals have made.

InspirationIf you are looking to volunteer in town, send us an email. We would be happy to help you find the right organizations to match your personal interests. The Holidays are a great time to volunteer. You never know where it will lead you.

Finally, if you are looking to move into Los Altos, or simply move across town, we are confident that we can help you with that too. Call us today at 650-823-1434. We would love the opportunity to earn your business.


A Successful Los Altos Real Estate Partnership

This week, the Los Altos Town Crier profiled this web site, and our partnership with Tony Campitelli of C4 Marketing. Below is the news story written by Ya-an Chan …

Homebuyers from Germany or South Africa may know nothing about Los Altos and are not always in a position to visit before making a real estate decision.

Tony Campitelli & Carol CasasLos Altos resident Tony Campitelli, former vice president of marketing at Laszlo Systems in Silicon Valley, saw this as a gap in real estate marketing. Most realtors do not have the time to explore new ways of real estate marketing because they are occupied with the day-to-day tasks of getting a new listing, finding a hopeful buyer or finishing the paperwork, according to Campitelli.

“So I came to this conclusion,” he said. “I’m going to help them.”

Campitelli founded C4 Marketing LLC, a new approach to real estate marketing that allows buyers to discover the community beyond the standard online descriptions of the property. He said C4 Marketing provides an online marketing system with professional corporate branding that assists real estate agents who “want to take the business to another level.” It presents realtors online as the experts of the areas on which they focus.

David and Carol Casas, of Intero Real Estate Services, tested the new concept. They built a Web site, Move Into Los Altos (www.moveintolosaltos.com), in collaboration with Campitelli and C4 Marketing. The site features property descriptions and detailed information on the area’s schools, business associations, cultural activities, parks and local government. It includes blogs with updated information about upcoming community events. As a result, prospective buyers not only are informed about the property, but also have a picture of the type of community they are considering.

David Casas, a Los Altos City Councilman, said Campitelli’s company, which integrates multiple media platforms, is an example of the Los Altos community’s entrepreneurship.

“In a time of economic turmoil, to know that we have residents creating opportunities, creating business and creating ideas is wonderful,” he said.

Since the launch of Move Into Los Altos, the Casas’ have worked with homebuyers from such countries as Taiwan, Japan, India and the United Kingdom.

Campitelli said he continued refining the initial system and officially founded C4 Marketing in January 2009. The “C4,” Campitelli said, refers to C-4 plastic explosives, as in explosive marketing.

The Casas’ said they are impressed with the results. A property at 190 Hillview Avenue they recently put on the market sold in 23 days. A New Jersey company found MoveIntoLosAltos.com by searching on Google, approached the husband-wife team to help relocate an employee’s family.

“As they found (David and Carol) online, they’re realizing that David and Carol are the knowledgeable experts in the community,” Campitelli said. “They know what’s going on, they write about the shows, the Farmers’ Market, the movie night – they’re telling a story about what it’s like to live here.”

Realtors can launch multiple Web sites, including community- and property-specific sites, write blogs and link videos, which they post on YouTube, to their Web sites.

A main benefit of his new advertising tool for real estate, Campitelli said, is the analytics provided by the system. The report shows the most-searched keywords and which sources generate the most traffic (i.e., direct traffic, referring sites and search engines).

The data, he said, give realtors direction on the types of content that are most effective.

Carol Casas said the analysis not only helps realtors to understand where their marketing dollars are most effective, but also allows home sellers to track how many people are viewing their property information.

For more information about C4 Marketing, call (650) 619-6678 or visit www.c4marketingllc.com.