What Defines Village Character?

Posted on December 17, 2014 by  
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There are as many descriptions of Los Altos, as there are resident.  Carol & I enjoy hearing about the characteristics residents use to define this community they love so much. The most common title used is that Los Altos is a Village.

There are a number of projects underway around the community.  During each planning phase, the community has had the opportunity to participate in framing what they would like to see improved, and/or retain.

So, what exactly defines Village character?  Well, the Town Crier dove into the subject, and below is a slightly edited version of their article.  Enjoy …

As construction moved toward completion on streetscape improvements in downtown Los Altos, the disruption to traffic – autos and otherwise – became a distant memory after the newly planted flowers began to bloom and pedestrians replaced detour placards.

After all, the impetus for infrastructure improvements was to boost business, draw developers and create a lively and vibrant village for visitors. But before the streetscape construction began, city officials adopted Downtown Design Guidelines, outlining architectural and design elements for the residential and commercial areas within the triangle bordered by Foothill Expressway, San Antonio Road and West Edith Avenue. Read more


Los Altos’ Annual Holiday Parade

Posted on November 22, 2014 by  
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Ferris WheelBehind every float at Los Altos’ Festival of Lights Parade, there’s a story of Boy Scouts, dust cloths, light design and elf scavenging.

Before dancers flit across Main Street among parade floats Nov. 30, a zealous cadre of volunteers will have spent the year fundraising, shellacking giant gumdrops with glitter sugar and mood lighting a tableau of tree-decorating bears.

In mid-October, volunteers remove the two-story plastic shrouds that entomb their floats, testing generators, lights and sound systems and repairing the petty deteriorations of time and age. But long before that, a process of creative design begins, according to Deborah Baker, who has served on the festival’s board for six years.

“This small town can do something that brings such joy to kids,” she said. “I haven’t missed a parade since I started coming 16 years ago.”

Baker’s story is typical of the local residents drafted into the parade’s cause. She started as a parent volunteer helping Boy Scouts who worked on the parade and over time was drawn deeper into the tradition. On parade night, Boy Scouts patrol the waiting floats and Baker cues the successive parade groups as they amass at the starting line.

Baker has also worked on six floats over the past few years with Troop 37 Scouts, her son Kyler among them. This year, a Girl Scout from Cupertino – Isabel La Plain – has joined the enterprise, building a “Nutcracker” tableau with giant clock, mouse king and nutcracker.

The parade includes three types of floats – those pushed by humans, those towed as a trailer and those driven under their own locomotion. Watch for four completely rebuilt floats at the parade this year – “Nature’s Christmas,” which sports festive bears, “Santa’s Workshop,” “Nutcracker” and “Gingerbread House.”

The parade association has been switching to LED lights over time, which are more efficient than standard bulbs – making generators last longer – and don’t take down half a string when one bulb blows.

The Festival of Lights was in many ways modeled on Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade, and the parade association continues to put a creative premium on the play of tiny lights across darkened downtown. Volunteers work to incorporate motion where possible – not just in the forward trajectory of floats, but also in the sword-clashing, wood-sawing, ornament-hanging actions of its cast of characters.

This year for the first time a dance class will swirl parts of “The Nutcracker” ballet around the new float as it proceeds along the parade route. A multitude of local groups march each year, but they seldom form an extension of the floats themselves.

The 38th annual Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade is slated to begin 6 p.m. Nov. 30. Admission is free. For more information, visit: losaltosparade.com


Le Boulanger Seeks Building Facelift

Posted on October 12, 2014 by  
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Proposed LeBoulangerA new look may be in store for downtown bakery and cafe Le Boulanger.

According to a staff report by Los Altos Senior Planner Zach Dahl, Le Boulanger owner Dan Brunello is planning an interior and exterior remodel at 301 Main St., which served as the original home of Los Altos Pharmacy.

The building, originally constructed circa 1941, is listed as a historic resource on the city’s Historic Resources Inventory. Los Altos resident Kent Nelson owns the building, designated a historic resource in 2011. It has been remodeled twice in the past 70 years – the latest in 1992.

In a letter to the Los Altos Historical Commission, Brunello noted that the remodel is part of a larger plan to expand his 32-year-old Los Altos business. The bakery plans to introduce dinner service, including the sale of beer and wine, in “a new contemporary dining space, with new interior finishes and furniture, new bathrooms and new service line and service area,” Brunello wrote.

As for the exterior, Brunello intends to replace the current storefront and entryway with a collapsible system to create a more open dining environment. Other proposed features include a gas fireplace and patio heaters for outdoor dining.

Brunello noted in his letter that while he preferred a contemporary look for the downtown structure, he was “willing to discuss and consider preserving elements that are important to the historical value of the building.”


Petting Zoo & Car Show Highlight Fall Festival

Posted on September 26, 2014 by  
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Fall FestivalThe 23rd annual Fall Festival is scheduled for 10 am to 5 pm, this Oct. 4th and 5th, in the South Parking Plaza in downtown Los Altos.

More than 150 arts and crafts booths will offer a variety of unique handmade items, many of them showcasing fall and holiday themes. Food selections will include Chef Chu’s, Armadillo Willy’s and a variety of vendors selling tamales, burritos, crepes, smoothies, kettle corn, frozen yogurt and gyros. Soft drinks, select wines and Gordon Biersch beers will be available.

The Children’s Alley will include rides, slides, bounce houses and the Little Explorer’s Petting Zoo, which provides opportunities for hands-on interaction with goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs, a pot belly pig, an alpaca and giant tortoises. Lisa the Facepainter will paint children’s faces.

The festival will feature a variety of activities and games hosted by local schools and organizations, including pumpkin painting, removable tattoos, fishing for prizes, beaded necklaces, a lollipop tree, toss games, crafts and more.

Several local musicians will perform on the KFC Main Stage, including The Mary Ellen Duo, featuring Mary Ellen Duell and Randy Cszaro; Fenny & Rossi, playing New Orleans blues; Ryan & Cece, contemporary country; Bluehouse, acoustic rock; Drive, contemporary rock; and Old School, classic ’60s rock.

A classic car show will feature more than 100 vintage cars, from a 1931 Franklin to a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle and Bus. British sports cars, including Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Triumphs, MGs and Morgans, will be showcased Sunday. Car show judges will include Los Altos Mayor Megan Satterlee, Los Altos Hills Mayor John Radford and Los Altos Police Chief Tuck Younis.

For more information, call 948-1455 or visit losaltoschamber.org.


Modern Art Exhibit Comes To Town

Posted on September 3, 2014 by  
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Christies 2014The Los Altos-based Passerelle Investment Co. is teaming up with Christie’s auction house to host a pop-up exhibition of post-war and contemporary art Sept. 10-18 at 359 and 242 State St. in downtown Los Altos.

The event will showcase major works by Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Richard Diebenkorn and Tracey Emin, as well as contemporary art. Displays will feature highlights from the coming auction season and works of art to be offered for private sale.

The exhibition includes an opening reception 6-10 p.m. Sept. 10.

The schedule will also feature a panel discussion, StART Up: Beginning (and Growing) Your Art Collection, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 13. Panelists will include Janet Bishop, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s curator of painting and sculpture and co-curator of “Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley;” Sabrina Buell, art adviser at Zlot Buell & Associates; Claudia Altman-Siegel, gallery founder and director at Altman Siegel; and art collector Ravin Agrawal.

Charlie Adamski, Christie’s specialist on Post-War and Contemporary Art based in San Francisco, noted that while it is well-known that the Bay Area is home to some of the “most impressive” collections in private hands, it has recently become evident that it is also one of the most robust emerging markets for art collecting with a growing group of young and new collectors.

“We are particularly excited to open a dialogue with the community and new collectors at StART Up: Beginning (and Growing) Your Art Collection,” she said.

For more information, visit: Christie’s


Draeger’s Looking To Expand

Posted on August 14, 2014 by  
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Draeger'sDraeger’s Market has its sights set on expanding its grocery store at 342 First St., according to city planning officials.

Los Altos Senior Planner Zach Dahl told the Town Crier that the family-owned grocer – which has additional locations in Menlo Park, San Mateo and Danville – submitted plans in early July to expand the rear portion of its existing 21,000-square-foot store. Draeger’s has called its First Street store home since December 1986, when the company purchased the former Whitecliff Market property and remodeled the building. A call to Draeger’s management was not returned by the Town Crier’s press deadline.

Los Altos Planning Services Manager David Kornfield added that initial plans call for expanded storage area and a new loading dock in the rear of the building. The expansion incorporates the former dry-cleaning property adjacent to Draeger’s. Plans call for a net increase of approximately 3,000 square feet.

“Essentially what they want to do is add to the back of the building and improve their loading activities by getting big trucks (unloading goods) off the street,” Kornfield said.

In addition, Dahl noted, plans include a new stone facade for the market and an improved seating area near the store’s front entrance.

Other features, he added, include new wood trellises and updated landscaping. The grocer also plans to reconfigure its parking lot in a bid to add 15 more parking spaces. The current lot holds 72 cars.

As part of the reconfiguration, Kornfield noted that Draeger’s plans to relocate its driveway closer to the midblock point of the parking lot. The current entry point is near the entrance of the store and a crosswalk. The grocer, he added, is also expected to make sidewalk improvements as part of the project.

Overall, Dahl said the project remains in the city staff review phase. A public hearing on the project at the commission level has yet to be scheduled.


Downtown Movie Nights Return

Posted on August 5, 2014 by  
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Movie NightLos Altos’ free outdoor movie nights light up starting Friday evening, and this year’s roster of films introduces young viewers to high-flying, witch-battling, sorcerous adventures spanning the last century. The lineup will also likely delight parents who’ve gone too long without remembering Falkor and Atreyu, Mr. Tumnus the Faun and, of course, Dorothy.

The Los Altos Village Association (LAVA) hoists a screen across Main Street for Friday Movie Nights as families spread out blankets, chairs and picnics at downtown’s core. Beginning at 6 p.m., bounce houses, a face painter and a balloon artist entertain children, and stores and restaurants remain open across downtown.

Friday evening, local merchants and other First Friday organizers are sponsoring a “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”-themed scavenger hunt to complement the first film of the season, “The Wizard of Oz.” LAVA plans to offer movie theater-type snacks on-site, and the curtain rises at 8:30 p.m.

In the weeks after “The Wizard of Oz,” LAVA has scheduled “The Indian in the Cupboard (Aug. 8), “The NeverEnding Story” (Aug. 15), the BBC adaptation of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (Aug. 22) and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Aug. 29).

Themed family activities precede each film – after the “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” scavenger hunt, LAVA has scheduled a craft night for “The Indian in the Cupboard,” a favorite stuffed animal show-and-tell for “The NeverEnding Story,” a mythical creature bingo game for “Narnia” and a costume night for “Harry Potter.”

LAVA has hosted the summer film series for more than a decade. The organization acquired its own audio/visual equipment in the early days of the event.

“I’ve had many calls over the years wanting to know how we do it,” LAVA Executive Director Nancy Dunaway said, noting that the movie-night phenomenon has spread through neighboring cities. “It’s just so much fun – it’s Americana. The moment 6 o’clock hits, people are running out with their blankets and chairs.”

The series attracts anywhere from 400 to 700 participants, as families return from holidays and the event crescendos in the waning days of summer.

For more information, visit downtownlosaltos.org.


Downtown Green Park Returns In August

Posted on July 24, 2014 by  
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Third Street GreenAnother temporary park is poised to pop up in downtown Los Altos this summer.

According to Brooke Ray Smith, community development director for Passerelle Investment Co., the Third Street Green is slated to open Aug. 3 and will remain in place through the end of the month. Located on Third Street between State Street and Plaza North, the pop-up park is the second of its kind to appear in the downtown triangle this summer.

A second rendition of the State Street Green, which debuted in the summer of 2013, popped up for three weeks in late May along the 300 block of State Street.

City officials agreed to open the park at that time while Safeway closed the State and First streets intersection to complete crosswalk construction work. In late March, the Los Altos City Council approved the placement of a temporary park on Third Street after the conclusion of the annual Arts & Wine Festival.

Smith said the upcoming Third Street Green – though similar in concept – would vary slightly from its predecessors on State Street.

“It’s much smaller – only about 2,500 square feet,” said Smith, who added that the park would feature seating areas with tables, among other amenities also available at the recent State Street Green. “It will make it more intimate, and it’s a lot more shaded.”

Smith added that she’s finalizing the park’s entertainment programming, which will be free and open to the public on a drop-in basis.

“There will be a range of activities for kids and adults during the day and evening,” said Smith, who is working on scheduling some Saturday night musical performances geared toward adults.

According to Smith, the Third Street Green will also feature a multicolored LED string-lighting display by Arup, a San Francisco-based lighting design company. The display will run nightly from sundown to midnight, depicting different sequences of lights fading in and out above the park. The Bay Lights art project in San Francisco inspired the concept, she noted.

“Basically, people will be able to come and watch light performances every night at the park,” said Smith, who hopes that the park feature will attract residents to the downtown area at night.

In addition, the park will feature a grand piano donated by the Sunset Piano Project in Half Moon Bay. It will remain at the park for three weeks, available to anyone interested in entertaining park visitors.

“Anyone can play – there’s no need to schedule anything,” Smith said.  For more information, visit thirdstreetgreen.com.


35th Annual Art & Wine Festival

Posted on July 10, 2014 by  
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Los Altos Art & Wine FestivalCome to downtown Los Altos this Saturday & Sunday, July 12 and 13 from 10am to 6pm.  The weather should be perfect as the downtown transforms into the largest two-day mid-summer event in the Bay Area.

The highly-rated Arts & Wine Festival showcases the distinctive works of artists and craftspeople from over a dozen states. The Festival also features select vintages by the glass from local wineries as well as a wide variety of foods including Thai, Chinese, Mexican, All American favorites like sausages, hot links and roasted corn, sweets of all kinds, and more.

Enjoy our day long free concerts from performers such as Sage, The Cocktail Monkeys, The House Rockers, Debbie Thacker, and Fred McCarty.

The Festival is a great event for the whole family with a large selection of rides, activities and entertainment for children all weekend in the Kidzone.

For more information, visit the Los Altos Village Association at: http://www.downtownlosaltos.org


Linden Tree Kicks Off Summer Series

Posted on June 26, 2014 by  
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Steve Chaney and his puppet Cornelius CrowSteve Chaney and his puppet Cornelius Crow launched the Linden Tree Books Summer 2014 Concert Series last week in downtown Los Altos. The pair performed for approximately 50 children and parents gathered in a reading room at the back of the store.

With the aid of “Corny Crow” and two other puppets, ventriloquist Chaney engaged the audience – primarily comprising 4- to 6-year-olds – with songs, animal noises, juggling and jokes for 30 minutes.

“I liked seeing the kids laugh a lot,” parent Ming Hui said.

The performance was the first of nine free weekly shows scheduled at Linden Tree, 265 State St. Performances are slated 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays through Aug. 13.

Event Manager Dee Ellman said Linden Tree is the “heart of Los Altos” and that the concert series is a way to connect with the community. Although admission is free, Ellman encourages attendees to donate a book to benefit Reading Partners, the local literacy organization that matches one-on-one tutors with students who have fallen behind in reading.

“Part of Linden Tree is its world of reading and developing imagination, and Reading Partners helps that mission,” Ellman said.

Ellman added that her favorite part of the concert series is “seeing all the kids that come and the big charge they get from the performers.”

The schedule:

• July 2: MaryLee Sunseri. The singer/guitarist performs popular and original songs and interacts with the audience.

• July 9: Mr. Horsefeathers. Steven Koehler, aka Mr. Horsefeathers, performs magic, juggling and comedy.

• July 16: Nancy Cassidy. She performs folk songs, some of them originals, aimed at audiences of all ages.

• July 23: Andy Z. The musician, storyteller and interactive entertainer is known for his high-energy shows.

• July 30: Jump for Joy with Wiley Rankin. He introduces rhythms through song and dance, encouraging children to participate in the show.

• Aug. 6: Snail People. The duo (Mindy Dillard and Eric McEuen) uses a variety of instruments and genres in its performances.

• Aug. 13: Lori & RJ/Cotton Candy Express. New to the series, the group caps the summer slate with a hands-on musical show.

For more information, call 949-3390 or visit lindentreebooks.com and click the “Events” tab.


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