Tue09022014

Business & Real Estate

Looking for a seat at the table : Business organizations seek invitation to parking roundtable


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos Village Association and Chamber of Commerce last week asked the city council to include them in an upcoming roundtable discussion on downtown parking.

The Los Altos Village Association (LAVA) and the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce have asked for representation at an upcoming city-sponsored roundtable on a thorny issue for some merchants and shoppers – downtown parking.

The Los Altos City Council last week approved the one-off event, a discussion on developing a plan to address long-term parking downtown, by a 3-2 vote. Per a city staff report, the discussion calls for input from some downtown residents and property owners, as well as community groups like Los Altos Property Owners Downtown, GreenTown Los Altos and the Los Altos Neighborhood Network. They did not include the chamber or LAVA on the list. That prompted the excluded groups’ leaders to voice concerns and ask for appointed representatives at the table as well.

LAVA Executive Director Nancy Dunaway noted that her organization’s board of directors has an “intense desire to see the health of the downtown business environment improve and succeed.”

Chamber President Julie Rose added that her organization considers finding a downtown parking solution a “main priority” in 2014.

“The specific outcome in my personal opinion – and I think I can speak for the chamber – would be to quit talking about this and start doing something about it. … It’s time to take definitive action to move it ahead,” Rose said of the event, which will Councilwomen Val Carpenter and Jeannie Bruins will co-host.

Dunaway later told the Town Crier that including LAVA and the chamber in the discussion “only seems logical.”

“I’m disappointed that they couldn’t be all-inclusive,” she said. “They said they wanted a variety of voices at the table, so I don’t see a reason they can’t be all-inclusive and include a member of the board from the chamber or LAVA.”

Rose said she hopes the door remains open for her group’s participation, even though the council’s vote didn’t specifically outline it.

“My expectation is that they heard our rationale and that they agree with it,” said Rose, who added that a chamber subcommittee is already studying the issue, including possible funding mechanisms and costs related to building a parking structure.

A work in progress

Reached by the Town Crier, Bruins said planning for the event – including a date and a final list of participants – remains a work in progress. She added that while she was “open to (LAVA and the chamber) providing us with some recommendations,” the specific idea behind the roundtable is to hear a range of perceptions regarding downtown parking.

“What we’re striving for is diversity of opinion,” said Bruins, who expects the roundtable to be scheduled this summer. “We want polar opposites coming to the table. Like-minded people lead to predictable outcomes.”

Carpenter said the composition of participants was intended to keep the event, which she described as “fundamentally a brainstorming session,” to a manageable size. That may require some at the table to express the viewpoint of more than one interest group, she noted.

“There’s no specific intent to exclude LAVA or the chamber,” she said.

Bruins concurred, noting that there’s a “high probability” that some of the participants ultimately chosen for the roundtable could also happen to be members of the organizations.

Bruins added that hosting the event doesn’t mean that there won’t be additional conversations on the topic with other community groups and individuals in the future.

“This is just a frank and open conversation,” she said. “We’re just trying to see where people are on this.”

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