Los Altos Mayor Val Carpenter reported to the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors at its October meeting that the city is thriving and its financial position is sound.
“We have carefully managed expenditures during the years, increased reserves substantially and invested in infrastructure,” she told the local realtors. “Property taxes have continued to rise, so it puts us in a better position than most cities.”
Carpenter, who has been on the council since 2005 and served as mayor in 2007-2008, said the county assessor’s 2011-2012 report states that the city of Los Altos experienced solid growth at 3.59 percent during the year.
The Los Altos Village Association reports that the downtown store vacancy rate is 6 percent, “the envy of neighboring communities,” according to Carpenter. In the past six months, eight businesses have signed leases. She named a number of restaurants and shops that have opened in the city, including the Greek restaurant Opa!, Bumble and Skateworks.
Los Altos is investing millions of dollars in infrastructure in its effort to improve downtown landscaping, Carpenter said. Upgrades include providing space for outdoor seating, adding public art, widening sidewalks, improving crosswalks and rebuilding intersections.
She said that while construction has been an inconvenience to businesses, “it’s worth it – it tells businesses that Los Altos cares.”
Carpenter outlined what’s still to come: a plan to place a fence along the entrance to Plaza 3 to screen the backs of buildings and parked cars for a more inviting look for customers, new construction on the Packard Foundation headquarters, a proposal for a new mixed-use development, a boutique hotel at the entrance of downtown and new residential condo projects.
According to Carpenter, recent changes in zoning regulations have encouraged development and confirmed that the city is proactive in its support for downtown businesses.
As businesses thrive, she said, sales-tax revenues, property values and property-tax revenues increase.
Downtown parking remains an issue, Carpenter said. She noted that parking spaces are approximately 85 percent filled, especially during peak periods like the noon hour and on Fridays.
There are proposals to add parking and possibly lengthen free times from two to three hours.
Carpenter’s term on the council ends in 2014, but she said she has many goals to accomplish before then. A resident of Los Altos since 1991, she wants to maintain and foster Los Altos as a great place to live and raise a family. An important upcoming decision for the council is the selection of a new city manager to replace Doug Schmitz, who will retire effective March 31. She praised Schmitz and said that his retirement will be a loss to the city.
“Who runs the city is an important part of who we are,” she said.
In addition, Carpenter hopes to maintain the budget without cuts to services or staff, while increasing the city’s reserves and investments.
She also expects to oversee the funding, design and ground breaking of the first phase of the civic center overhaul. She said the city is considering a bond measure next year to help finance the project.