Tue09162014

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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Mora Drive neighbors fear dense development


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Developer Forrest Linebarger wants to build three homes on 1.6 acres on Mora Drive, a proposal that fails to conform with Los Altos Hills’ 1-acre minimum lot size.

Searching for a constructive critique, developer Forrest Linebarger invited his neighbors to an Aug. 6 meeting at Los Altos Hills Town Hall to review his proposed home designs for a site on Mora Drive.

Instead of accolades, Linebarger encountered a crowd of more than 20 residents frustrated by his obliviousness to the elephant in the room – an overall development proposal that violates town zoning laws for lot size and setbacks, as well as a sewer connection agreement that allows for only one connection on the property.

Linebarger wants to build three homes on 1.6 acres, a proposal that flies in the face of the town’s coveted 1-acre minimum lot size.

One resident even questioned whether Linebarger was using the meeting to “co-opt this group into some sort of sham.” Linebarger’s relationships with and his neighbors have remained tense after he was the only resident to resist the area’s annexation into the town last fall.

“We’re a really active group, and you don’t pull the wool over our eyes,” said Weegie Caughlan, a homeowner living near Mora Drive who shared her thoughts with the Town Crier after the meeting. “He’s not going to win.”

Root of the situation

Mora Drive is a quiet and bucolic street. The original tract of land, known as Jo Mora Ranch, was subdivided into 38 parcels in 1932. Despite some property-line shifts and lot expansion and division, the character of the area remains much like it was more than 90 years ago.

Linebarger purchased his property on Mora in 2006, as three lots with one assessor’s parcel number. Assessor’s parcel numbers are used to define property boundaries and identify lots. At the time, the 0.4-, 0.8- and 0.37-acre parcels were located in an unincorporated area of Santa Clara County, allowing Linebarger to secure certificates of compliance from the county to make them legal despite their substandard size.

When Linebarger’s property and 23 other parcels were annexed into Los Altos Hills last November, his parcels became nonconforming legal lots. Such lots are not uncommon. The town planning staff reports that there are 67 parcels smaller than 0.5 acres in Los Altos Hills – 31 of which remain undeveloped.

“There’s a real hodgepodge of them, and many of them will go away and become part of a conforming lot,” said Los Altos Hills Planning Commissioner Jim Abraham.

To Abraham’s recollection, efforts to develop substandard lots are “done with very little success.”

In an October 2012 staff report on the Mora Drive annexation, town staff noted that Linebarger would need to obtain Conditional Development Permits and setback variances for two of the three lots because of their size and width. In addition to facing possible conditions on the homes, staff added that “future development may require that the parcels are merged if they are contiguous and do not conform to standards for minimum parcel size.”

Securing town approval

The issue at hand for Linebarger is less about whether he is legally entitled to develop his property and more about whether developing three substandard lots side-by-side will meet the approval of the town.

“I love your homes,” said Rose Marie Nahm, another neighbor. “But this is a high-density project that doesn’t belong in our neighborhood.”

Most of Linebarger’s neighbors agree with Nahm’s assessment and note that the original subdivision plans for Jo Mora Ranch and subsequent property-line shifts were not intended to foster the type of housing that Linebarger is proposing.

But Linebarger dismisses the alternative of building one home on the site.

“I don’t really believe in megahousing,” he said. “We have lots of jobs and we need more housing.”

Neighbors began circulating a letter of protest last week, and 15 neighbors have already signed on.

Sewer-connection conundrum

Even if Linebarger submits his home designs to the town for approval, it is unclear whether he would be able to acquire three sewer connections for the three homes. At present, he’s only entitled to one, according to the terms of the San Antonio Hills Homeowners Association sewer agreement that the previous property owner signed in 2000.

“No additional permits to hook up to the Mora Drive sewer will be issued by Los Altos Hills under any circumstances … even if they involve the creation of any additional parcels,” said Los Altos Hills City Manager Carl Cahill in a 2006 letter to Linebarger.

Linebarger filed suit against the town earlier this year, arguing that by denying him sewer connections, he was unable to secure building permits from the county before annexation.

Enrique Klein, who lives just south of Linebarger, said there was good reason for the original sewer agreement.

“Let’s say the capacity of the sewer system is maxed out – people down the road might not have the right connection,” Klein said.

Amending the sewer agreement is not easy. It would require Linebarger to reach consensus with the owners of all 27 other properties signed onto the agreement.

Responding to community concerns, Linebarger noted that he would evaluate all of the input before submitting his plans to the town. Even with the controversy that foreshadows the process ahead, he said he remains optimistic that he can break ground in 2014.

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