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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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Church schools’ enrollment increase rejected


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

The Los Altos City Council narrowly rejected a request from Union Presbyterian Church to amend its use permit to expand enrollment at the two schools on its site.

The Los Altos City Council last week narrowly voted against an enrollment increase request of 20 students by two private schools located at Union Presbyterian Church.

The council voted 3-2 against a combined enrollment bump from 100 to 120 students by Heritage Academy, a K-6 elementary school, and University Child Development Center (UCDC), a preschool. Heritage Academy sought an increase of 14 students, and UCDC wanted a six-student bump. Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw and Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins cast the two votes in favor of the request.

The request – which would have required an amendment to the church’s existing use permit – came after the council turned down a similar 2011 proposal by the schools, which resulted in an enrollment cap of 100 students.

Heritage Academy Principal Marilyn Davidson told the council the combined school expansion was necessary “for a successful business model.” She called the schools “a resource for families needing alternative education.”

“For viability and to pay our teachers a living wage in Silicon Valley, we are requesting that those 20 students be added,” said Davidson, adding that Heritage Academy’s enrollment of Los Altos students has increased from 20 to 29 percent since 2011.

Davidson said the schools, located at 858 University Ave., took steps to minimize traffic impacts since their last request. She pointed to staggered onsite drop-off and pickup times for students and noted that 38 percent of the schools’ families carpool to the site daily, as do one-third of faculty members.

“An increase of 20 students will not be 20 (more) cars because of carpooling and all of the families that are involved,” said Davidson, who added that several neighborhood children and adults use the church’s playground and other facilities.

“I don’t think that the neighborhood is going to be impacted by 20 additional kids,” said Union Presbyterian Church elder Ted Brown. “The church won’t be impacted by it – but 20 kids will. It’ll make a big difference to 20 kids and their families.”

Mixed public reaction

A handful of neighbors told the council they were wary of the schools’ request, citing the potential for increased traffic and noise.

“I like to see kids get educated in Los Altos, but I don’t want increased traffic, I don’t want increased noise and I don’t want increased pollution,” said Herbert Fong, a 40-year neighborhood resident.

Madonna Way resident Sangum Desai said the church was behaving “like a commercial enterprise” and that more students would negatively impact traffic. He noted that approval would be a “historically unprecedented burden on the neighborhood with really no benefit to our local community at all.”

Los Altos resident Richard Jackson, who has sons enrolled in both schools, countered that with more families calling Los Altos home, an increase was necessary to meet demand.

“For me, it’s a simple question of: How is the council going to respond to the growing needs of the community? There is a need for more education,” Jackson said.

Split council

Ultimately, the council’s vote appeared to echo the split opinions offered by neighborhood residents and school parents.

Bruins said the school had made “positive changes” since its 2011 request, with Fishpaw adding that the findings “strongly supported” the 20-student increase.

“I think the school has worked very hard with the parents to try and be good neighbors,” said Bruins, a Los Altos Planning Commissioner at the time of the church’s 2011 request. “I think they heard the feedback last time loud and clear. … I am inclined to support this. I do believe things have changed since this was before me as a planning commissioner.”

Councilwoman Val Carpenter, however, said that while she values diversity in education, she was equally “troubled by having the neighborhood negatively impacted by the traffic and noise created by nonresidents.”

At the time of the initial request in 2011, Carpenter unsuccessfully sought a cap at 90 students before voting for the 100-student limit. She noted that a traffic report for the church’s 2011 request was flawed, because existing conditions “understated the impact that the neighborhood already incurred.”

Carpenter added that the 6-acre church site might meet the “pressing need for a location for Bullis Charter School,” suggesting a potential land swap between the church and the Los Altos School District.

“For myself personally, I would much rather impact the neighbors for a local public school – and of course, 95 percent of current BCS students live within the Los Altos School District – rather than a private school whose students don’t really live in Los Altos,” she said.

Councilwoman Megan Satterlee, meanwhile, cited the schools’ staggered start times and efforts to mitigate its traffic impacts as a boon, calling the lack of opposition from neighbors not immediately near the school “a material change from two years ago.” Still, she noted that her decision came down to balancing competing interests and that her 2011 no vote hadn’t changed.

“I think the school has worked really hard to be a good neighbor, and I appreciate that, and I think that has had success in what we’re seeing today,” she said. “But it still on balance doesn’t change my mind.”

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