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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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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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