Fri10312014

Unanswered questions about Los Altos: Editor's Notebook

I believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Stupid answers, yes. Smart ones, too. Or no answers at all.

Curious people always have questions – even when it comes to a quiet, so-called bedroom community like Los Altos.

There are some who like to think that this is a place where nothing happens. Some “outsiders” call us “Mayberry.” One of our other local papers has used the term “well heeled.” You might picture fat and happy walruses warming themselves on a quiet, sunny beach. All right, I might picture them.

Los Altos, however, comprises people – nearly 30,000 of them. Many have stories that may be extremely interesting that will never see the light of day in our paper because we don’t know about them and/or residents don’t want to share them.

But there are stories I am aware of that prompt intriguing questions – questions that are yet to be answered even in this newspaper. Following are a few examples.

Just who is that guy in the red suit behind the beard riding in the Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade? Only the parade organizers are in on the secret, just like we’re all in on the “secret” that Clark Kent is Superman.

This is arguably a rhetorical question, but why is Loyola Corners still such a mess? Why has virtually nothing of significance been done to address the loony street configurations, despite years of talk and alleged funding for a new bridge that has yet to see the light of day? And whose idea was it that a parking lot full of weeds was better for Loyola Corners than the colorful, long-established Echo Restaurant, which was gutted a decade ago?

A daily newspaper north of us recently addressed the question of who the Wizard of Oz is behind Passerelle Investment Co. Since its emergence in 2009, Passerelle has become by far the largest property owner in downtown Los Altos.

The paper quoted a few locals who pointed to Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin – who apparently lived for a brief time in Los Altos Hills – as the man controlling the purse strings. That may be true, but we really don’t know for certain. The official answer is “no comment.”

There may never be an official answer, but Passerelle’s actions have been nothing but positive for downtown Los Altos. By sprucing up old buildings and bringing in unique businesses (also thanks to Mary Heffernan, purportedly a friend of Brin’s), downtown has entered the 21st century. It also has been the driving force behind the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos: Silicon Valley on the Go” and the recent barrage of indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Through idealistic and deep-pocketed Passerelle, downtown is the equivalent of the lucky guy who finds a suitcase full of cash on his doorstep. He may not know where it comes from, but he’s grateful it’s there.

Of course, the next question is how long Passerelle will be around. Is it here for another few years only to go poof with the changing whims of its investors? Or is the company in it for the long haul? I hope it’s the latter.

I’m sure you have good questions of your own. Write me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I might even offer a stupid answer.

Bruce Barton is editor-in-chief of the Town Crier.

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