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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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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

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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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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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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