Wed03042015

News

Council considers freezing First St. development

Council considers freezing First St. development


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
A pedestrian walks along First Street in downtown Los Altos last week. Future construction on the street could soon be barred by an emergency moratorium on development.

Further construction along First Street could be t...

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Schools

Former NFL player huddles with Blach students about life choices

Former NFL player huddles with Blach students about life choices


Ellie Van HOutte/Town Crier
Former NFL tight end Eason Ramson visited with Blach Intermediate School students, Feb. 13 to share the perils of drug use. Now a motivational speaker, Ramson works with at-risk teens in San Francisco.

Although former ...

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Community

Music for Minors partners with Harvard to expand efforts

Music for Minors partners with Harvard to expand efforts


Palmer

When the thriving Music for Minors began to outgrow its capacity, the local nonprofit organization made new friends.

Beginning in late February, Music for Minors – a Town Crier Holiday Fund recipient – partnered with Harvard Business Sch...

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Comment

Dangerous streets: A Piece of My Mind

I’m driving along El Monte Avenue between Foothill Expressway and Springer Road at approximately 6 p.m. on a midwinter evening. In keeping with the “village feeling” of our town, there are no sidewalks and no streetlights.

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Special Sections

Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March

Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March


Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Oven fries, a slice of feta cheese and the bite of harissa mayonnaise make for a late-winter, early-spring dinner perfectly paired with Cabernet Franc.

I can’t help but wonder whether March will come in ...

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Business

Los Altos scientist named Inventor of the Year

Los Altos scientist named Inventor of the Year


Above Photo by Alicia Castro/Town Crier; Below Rendering Courtesy of SST inc.
Robert Showen, above, the Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Lawyers Association’s Inventor of the Year, began researching his ShotSpotter technology in his Los A...

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Books

French novel

French novel "Hunting and Gathering" offers character-driven suspense


Anna Gavalda is a well-known author in her native France, where she has published six books, most of which have met with considerable praise and commercial success. Her fourth novel, “Hunting and Gathering” (Riverhead Books, 2007), is filled ...

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People

HELEN KNOFLOCH

HELEN KNOFLOCH

Aug. 14, 1920 – Feb.12, 2015

Resident of Cupertino

Helen Knofloch, 94, loving wife and devoted mother passed away on Feb. 12th. She was born in Vienna, Austria and moved to Los Altos in 1949, where she met Andy, the love of her life. They resided...

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Travel

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new

Seoul of the city: Korean capital offers mix of old and new


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon public recreation space, above, features an elevated pedestrian bridge.

Seoul, South Korea, is a study in contrasts. Having grown quickly, the city is a mix of old and new.

Using...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks jumps into ‘Lake’

TheatreWorks jumps into ‘Lake’


Kevin Berne/Special to the Town Crier
Jason Bowen, from left, Adam Poss and Nilanjana Bose star in “The Lake Effect,” opening this weekend at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto and running through March 29.

The TheatreWorks production ...

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Spiritual Life

Is your thought life sabotaging your spiritual journey?

My computer started having problems – there seemed to be some sort of malware running in the background. At first it was just annoying, then it began to slow down my computer, interfering with its basic operations. What is it doing? Why can...

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Magazine

Local events serve up family fun

Local events serve up family fun


Courtesy of Peninsula Youth Theatre
Peninsula Youth Theatre’s production of “Pecos Bill: A Tall Tale” is slated to open March 20 in Mountain View.

For families seeking a break from the daily routine, events abound this month and next in Los Alto...

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Parking study remains a work in progress


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Parking continues to be a hot topic as the Los Altos City Council instructed city staff to further explore some short-term

Like a motorist trying to find a downtown parking spot during lunch, the Los Altos City Council last week went round and round discussing the merits and pitfalls of the city’s Downtown Parking Management Plan.

The plan – or at least portions of it – remains a work in progress although the council voted 3-2 in favor of accepting the report’s downtown parking data. In addition, the council directed city staff to further explore some of the parking management recommendations outlined in the report and requested a future study session. Councilwomen Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper voted against the motion, which passed after nearly two hours of debate among councilmembers May 28.

Some councilmembers questioned the short- and long-term parking demand forecasts and management practices listed in the report. Councilwoman Megan Satterlee said that while the $157,000 report contained “excellent data,” she was reluctant to accept its parking management ideas without further exploring their respective returns on investment. Accepting the report as a whole, she added, would leave the public with the wrong impression.

“The perception and the understanding is always, if you accept the plan, then you must have accepted all the embedded recommendations,” Satterlee said.

The report

The report, in part, examined the adequacy of the downtown triangle’s current public parking supply, which consists of 245 on-street and 1,204 off-street spaces.

It revealed that on-street parking occupancy reached a peak of 95 percent from noon to 1 p.m. midweek in December 2012 – exceeding the 85 percent practical capacity threshold used by parking consultants. In addition, off-street parking reached a high of 87 percent midweek from 1-2 p.m. during the same month.

An additional parking count in September 2012 showed slightly less demand, with a Saturday on-street peak of 92 percent from 1-2 p.m. and an off-street parking peak of 81 percent midweek during lunch.

Parking plazas 5, 6, 7 and 10 were deemed the most impacted off-street public parking areas during midweek counts in December and September. Overall occupancy in the parking district was calculated at 82 percent midweek in September and 87 percent midweek December.

Among its findings, the report noted that nearly 50 percent of downtown workers without city-issued employee parking permits (for white-dot spaces) re-parked their cars in an apparent effort to avoid tickets. Only 54 percent of observed downtown employees had white-dot permits.

The report also outlined future scenarios which showed parking occupancy levels increasing from 86 percent overall in the short term (0-2 years) and 90 percent midterm (5-10 years) to 93 percent long term (10-20 years). According to the report, the scenarios assumed a turnover in existing retail space to uses with higher parking demands, such as national retailers and restaurants.

Finally, the report listed a handful of short-term parking management recommendations, which include increasing the city’s supply of white-dot spaces, escalating parking fines for repeat offenders and the use of enhanced enforcement technologies. The recommendations could cost the city between $4,000 and $80,000 to implement.

Long term, the report noted that reconfiguring the parking plazas could gain as many as 134 additional spaces, but at a cost of more than $8 million. A second long-term recommendation called for the construction of a three-level parking garage, which would add 276 spaces for approximately $10.5 million.

Council reactions

While Councilwoman Val Carpenter noted she was “delighted” with the outcome of the report, her colleagues offered varying opinions on its forecasting scenarios and management ideas.

Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw said reconfiguring downtown plazas was “not a cost-effective way” to add to the city’s parking stock, while Satterlee said some of the recommendations lacked clearly defined outcomes – both qualitatively and quantitatively.

“What do I expect to get from these costs?” she said of the short- and long-term recommendations listed. “I don’t think that level of analysis was done in this study, and I think that’s very likely because that wasn’t asked of them. But to me, that’s what I have to understand. What am I buying with this money?”

Pepper called the report “a good start” in identifying which issues to solve in the downtown area and how to go about it. She noted that one issue related to parking might be a matter of perception.

“People think there is a parking problem because they can’t park right in front of the store that they want to go to,” she said, also citing concern about employees’ parking behaviors.

Bruins echoed some of Satterlee’s sentiments about the need “to be able to measure” the recommendations listed while also calling for greater input and involvement from the downtown business community regarding parking issues. She also said the onus – in terms of expectations versus execution of the report – was ultimately a “failure” on the part of the council.

“When we’re spending tax dollars to go off and do any study, we need to ensure that as an executive team, we’re giving goals that are actually measurable that we can do something with because otherwise we end up with circular discussions and such,” Bruins said. “So the failure is with us, not with the team that has done this (report).”

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