Mon12222014

News

Council seeks more options for community center

Council seeks more options for community center


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos City Council approved an appropriation to examine options for a new community center to replace the aging Hillview facility.

The Los Altos City Council last week voted narrowly in favor of examining further opti...

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Schools

Local schools participate in  national Hour of Code activities

Local schools participate in national Hour of Code activities


Ellie Van HOutte/Town Crier
Himan Shu Raj, a volunteer from Microsoft, advises Los Altos High ninth-graders, from left, Serhat Suzer, Jamie Bennett and Chris Yang as they participate in the school’s Hour of Code Showcase.

Local schools participa...

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Community

Take a dive into the holiday archive

Take a dive into the holiday archive

Town Crier staff made a quick cruise back through the newspaper's archives to find some late-December reading as inspiration for eating, drinking, decorating and more:

Beloved holiday books build the spirit of the season and staff at Los Altos’ Li...

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Sports

Pinewood poised for another title run

Pinewood poised for another title run


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Pinewood’s girls basketball team is receiving contributions from several new players, including freshman Stella Kailahi, above.

Complacency shouldn’t be a problem for the defending Division V state champion Pinewood S...

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Comment

Letters to the Editor

Ticket motorists for U-turns on Main Street

As I was walking downtown on Main Street recently, something came to me out of the blue. The town of Los Altos is missing out on a huge revenue stream. I realized that if all the cars – there were th...

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Special Sections

Looking Ahead

Looking Ahead


s in line to be mayor of Mountain View in 2015.

Mountain View anticipates the following changes in 2015:

• Beginning Jan. 1, Mountain View City Councilmembers will receive a raise to $1,000 per month as a result of the passage of Measure A in...

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Business

Your 2015 stock market game plan

It’s been a maddening month because of oil and gas, especially in stocks and bonds. Then, consumer spending pushed stocks higher Thursday, easing investors’ jitters about the global economy and prompting them to consider how to invest in ...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

SANGEETA SACHDEVA

SANGEETA SACHDEVA

Sangeeta Sachdeva, 55, wife of Subhash Sachdeva and mother to Natasha and Tanya, died at 8:54pm, Sunday, December 7, 2014 from respiratory failure.

Sangeeta was born on October 18, 1959 in Delhi, India. She was born to Moti Sagar and Raj Kapoor an...

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Travel

South Tahoe renovations enhance off-mountain seasonal fun

As any enthusiast knows well, there is more to the enjoyment of winter sports than skiing or snowboarding.

While many winter resorts make minor upgrades each season, the off-mountain attractions and amenities can be as enticing as the activities on ...

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Stepping Out

Aurora Singers to emit 'Musical Glow' Friday

Aurora Singers to emit 'Musical Glow' Friday


courtesy of Aurora Singers
The Aurora Singers are scheduled to perform a seasonal concert Friday night in Palo Alto.

The Aurora Singers’ “Winter’s Musical Glow” holiday concert is set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pal...

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Spiritual Life

Enter the superhero: Finding the God who loves you

In my life-coaching practice, I see a lot of pain. Much of it stems from fear and guilt, often expressed as low self-esteem, anxiety, a lack of forgiveness both for oneself and others, anger – and so on.

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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Dialogue continues as decision on Westwind Barn management looms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The future of programs at Westwind Community Barn in Los Altos Hills remains uncertain as councilmembers consider their options.

It’s been an unsettling few months for equestrians and boarders at Westwind Community Barn, who anxiously await the Los Altos Hills City Council’s decision on the future of the barn’s management.

After the resignation of the barn’s Year-Round Riding Program director in June, the facility needs new leadership and a more sustainable operations plan. The council conducted a four-hour study session Oct. 24 and was scheduled to render a decision on the future direction of Westwind at Tuesday’s council meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

The council last summer issued a call for proposals from independent concessionaires interested in assuming control of the barn from the town. By the application deadline, only two concessionaires submitted proposals, both of which required subsidies to operate – $68,550 in the first year of operations from one applicant and $178,300 from the other.

The prospect of contracting with either concessionaire made some councilmembers uneasy and prompted town staff to recommend a model that would end horse-boarding operations but continue community programs via a vendor that would provide services and horses for the Year-Round Riding Program and the Pacific Ridge Pony Club.

“The town did a fabulous job with the restoration. However, they’ve done a fairly poor job managing the barn,” said Val Metcalfe, a member of the West- wind Barn Task Force.

For the 2012-2013 budget year, the town subsidized Westwind to the tune of $154,000, 54 percent more than the $100,000 budget cap recommended by the Finance and Investment Committee.

“We like the idea of parks and recreation programming, and nobody wants to see (Westwind Barn) go away, but nobody wants to spend $200,000 as well,” Mayor Gary Waldeck told the Town Crier after the study session.

Recommendations

So the challenge remains: How does Los Altos Hills maintain the Westwind Community Barn programs it deems important, such as 4-H Riding for the Handicapped and the Pacific Ridge Pony Club, while reducing public funds needed to meet operating expenses?

The council discussed three possible solutions during the study session: (1) a model that continues operations as is, (2) a community equestrian facility model that eliminates boarding or (3) a concessionaire model that requires a $100,000 to $200,000 subsidy.

Because of its lower short- and long-term financial risk, town staff recommended adopting option (2), the community equestrian facility model.

Metcalfe objected to the plan, claiming that no longer boarding horses at the barn would be “disastrous,” draining not only “synergy and good will,” but also hampering a viable pathway for eventual barn recovery.

Instead, Metcalfe encouraged councilmembers to reconsider option (3), the subsidized concessionaire model. With cost-cutting measures, she said, vendors might work cooperatively with the town to reduce subsidies.

Mixed opinions

Opinions remain mixed about the best approach for ensuring the barn’s future.

“This is a lot like a Rubik’s Cube, but with 10 sides,” Waldeck said. “By the time you get all these ‘buts’ in here, you don’t have a bucket, you have a tubful.”

A town ordinance requiring full-time supervision at any commercial stable in Los Altos Hills adds extra expense to options (1) and (3). Waldeck noted that the council would review the proposals on the table as well as others that could mitigate the town’s financial burden.

Rather than allocating approximately $140,000 annually for two paid attendants, for example, Waldeck said the town could install security cameras and other cost-cutting technology.

Metcalfe added that there are ways to slash expenses so that a concessionaire model is viable. Buying hay and feed in bulk during off-peak seasons and storing it in the barn’s attic, for example, could enable vendors to reduce subsidies.

Waldeck said the council is employing a “thorough” and “thoughtful” process in making a management decision for the barn. Even so, he allowed, some stakeholders may not be satisfied with the outcome.

“Not everybody agrees,” he said. “If everybody agrees, it’s probably not the right response.”

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