It is a good thing that the Los Altos City Council wants to review the Civic Center Master Plan. When the people of our town are questioned, among their top priorities are schools, library and recreation. The master plan cannot address the schools, so let’s stick with what we must and can update. There is absolutely no doubt that our civic center needs to be brought up to date. Some suggestions come to mind.
The old Hillview School site must be replaced. It is antiquated and unsafe. The library needs to expand – it is running out of space for all the services it now provides and for future services. Both facilities serve every segment of our community.
For Phase 1, I would suggest we combine these two services at the Hillview site. Many of the patrons of one also use the other. And we can make it safer and easier for them with the inclusion of underground parking. The traffic flow would definitely improve.
Once the library has moved, city hall would have access to the library building and could renovate/expand it to suit its needs. It would certainly make it easier for those using the facility to enter from San Antonio Road, park, conduct their business and exit without having to fight library traffic. This would be Phase 2.
With city hall vacant, the Los Altos Police Department could use that site – again with renovations necessary for their needs. They can keep their eyes on the community, and, for those conducting business with the police, there they are. This would be Phase 3.
Now for traffic flow: People enter from San Antonio (from the new city hall side – one way only), conduct their business at city hall and exit going around the loop onto San Antonio again or continue past the Los Altos History Museum and exit onto Hillview Avenue (as is done now). Those using the Hillview site do not have to fight two-way traffic and cars parking and pulling out in a narrow space and can exit as above.
For Phase 4, perhaps the Bus Barn Theater could expand into the bumpout by the soccer field. As the performances are scheduled mostly at night when city hall is closed, parking would be available without taking away from the Hillview site. Bus Barn could use the Los Altos Youth Center or the old police station site.
Finally, in planning these changes, let us not try to imitate Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santana Row or Europe. We are a charming and much-needed restful community. Let us not change the reasons we moved to Los Altos.
Ida Cohen is a longtime Los Altos resident.