- Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 01:00
- Written by Los Altos Town Crier
While another revised design plan for First and Main streets makes its way to the Los Altos Planning Commission, we think it’s due time for city councilmembers to step in and determine the future of this key downtown gateway property.
Planning commissioners Thursday are scheduled to review slight modifications to a project that remains two stories high with ho-hum design features. It’s OK, but let’s reiterate: Do we want to see “just OK” on that site for many decades to come?
The public has a stake in the high-profile gateway property – it should be as useful to us as it is to its developers and occupants. Clearly, the project should include additional plaza space, especially at the corner of First and Main. At two stories, however, more open space means forfeiting space meant for office and retail.
The answer is obvious to us – add a third story. Developer Jeffrey A. Morris has said the city isn’t allowing this opportunity. The city council, although opening up some downtown zoning to three stories, kept this property limited to 30 feet high and two stories.
City staff, charged with enforcing rules, is not the roadblock. It would take our rule makers and changers on the council to make it happen. These five members – Mayor Val Carpenter, Megan Satterlee, David Casas, Ron Packard and Jarrett Fishpaw – could clear the way for a three-story project at First and Main either through supporting a height variance, initiating a change in zoning or amending the current city-developer property agreement. After all, who’s in charge?
The developer will not be pushing for three stories. He has a plan in place that technically meets all city regulations. No, this is something councilmembers must buy into and propose. The chief criticisms of the current plan concern a lack of public meeting space – comfortable space at the intersection and along sidewalks that allows for a possible outdoor dining area, landscaping or public art. A gateway property should convey the message “Welcome to Los Altos,” not “Was that just an office building I passed by?”
We suggest that councilmembers waste no time in initiating dialogue.
It may be late in the process, but it’s not too late – that’s when the serious digging begins. Let’s not be shaking our heads in regret when that happens.