Mon10202014

News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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City releases internal memo on First and Main site


Photo By: Town Crier file photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

The city of Los Altos released a staff memo Friday detailing developer interest in the now-razed First and Main site.

The city of Los Altos Friday released an internal memo by a former city employee regarding developer interest in the city-owned property at First and Main streets.

In a statement, the city noted that it released the memo to eliminate “an unnecessary distraction for the newly elected Los Altos City Councilmembers,” sworn in Tuesday. A PDF copy of the memo and the city’s statement are available on the city’s website, www.losaltosca.gov/pr.html.

The city previously declined to release the memo following a public records request by downtown property owner Kim Cranston in July 2011. Cranston, in turn, filed a lawsuit against the city in May requesting its release.

The city declined on the grounds of deliberative process, according to the statement, “due to concerns that doing so would reflect poorly on a former employee, and would also have a chilling effect on robust City staff debate on internal, pre-decisional, strategic, legal and administrative issues, which increases the quality of City executive decisions.”

The Feb. 14, 2010, draft memo in question “was written by a junior staff member who is no longer employed by the City,” the city statement continued. “The draft memo, which is now posted on the City’s website … discusses the sale of the City-owned property located at the corner of First and Main Streets, and presents the junior staff member’s opinion that the City should entertain additional proposals. However, the junior staff member did not participate in Council closed sessions in which these issues were discussed with senior City staff members and the City Attorney, and the draft memo contains many factual omissions and inaccuracies.”

Reached by the Town Crier, Cranston said he was pleased with the decision to release the memo.

“I thought it was inevitable that the city had to release, it because they couldn’t meet the legal burden,” he said. “They had to show that the city’s interest in withholding it outweighed the public’s right to see the document.”

The memo

Then-Economic Development Manager Anne Stedler wrote the memo to Assistant City Manager James Walgren and then-City manager Doug Schmitz after the developer, the Jeffrey A. Morris Group, had already expressed interest in developing the property following an unsuccessful 2008 Request for Proposal (RFP) process, the city statement noted.

In the memo, Stedler suggested the need for an RFP after another unnamed developer showed interest in the property, as well as a potential process to conduct the RFP. She also noted that the unnamed developer – referred to in the memo as “ND” – expressed interest in purchasing and developing the property with the caveat that the project would involve “relocating Safeway to a better site.”

The Safeway property sits adjacent to the First and Main site. Safeway is currently slated to begin construction on a new building on that site in January. The memo identifies “ND” as a developer who at the time was in negotiations for the Cottage Green site on First Street, among other details.

The city’s statement noted that it only finalized an option agreement with Morris after a weeklong postponement “to allow the new, unnamed developer an opportunity to come forward.”

The unnamed developer, according to the city’s statement, failed to do so within that time period and during subsequent city council meetings that addressed the Morris proposal in February and September of 2010.

The council entered into a $3.1 million option agreement with Morris Sept. 14, 2010, and approved his proposal for the site earlier this year.

“At the September 14, 2010, regular Council meeting during which approval of the Morris option agreement was discussed, the ‘interested’ developer was apparently present but did not step forward to express any interest,” the city’s statement read. “Some of the public speakers on this item expressed support for initiating another RFP process, while others expressed appreciation that a proposal which could actually be completed had been submitted and urged the Council to move forward with the project.”

The city’s statement also addressed allegations that the sale of the property to Morris was illegal, noting that it engaged the services of an outside law firm to seek an unbiased opinion about the legality of the sale if a third RFP were not initiated.

“The total cost to obtain that opinion was $25,698,” the statement read. “Once the opinion was received, it was made public and … it found that the sale was legal and followed best practices.”

A PDF copy of the legal opinion is also available on the city’s website.

Still, Cranston said the memo “clearly evidences that other developers were interested in the property, and if given the opportunity, would have submitted proposals.”

He also called on the city council to commission an independent investigation into whether city staff may have prevented other developers from submitting proposals.

The city’s statement disputed previous published reports that it spent $30,000 in legal fees to prevent the memo’s release, noting that it actually spent $15,000.

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