Sun09142014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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