Fri09192014

Mystery remains over intent of First and Main site: Other Voices

Following is Part 2 in Cranston’s ongoing “Los Altos Mysteries Explored” series. Part 1 ran in the Jan. 29 issue.

Mystery 2: Did the city of Los Altos acquire the property at First and Main streets for parking?

When the Los Altos City Council was preparing to sell the city-owned site at First and Main to the Jeffrey A. Morris Group in 2012 for a development that would not include any public parking, some local residents reminded the city that it had acquired First and Main for parking. The city rejected the claim.

Recently obtained city documents clearly demonstrate that the city did acquire First and Main for public parking. The property comprises two parcels: 230 First St. (27,800 square feet – 81 percent of the property) and 400 Main St. (6,375 square feet – 19 percent of the property).

When the city council voted to acquire 230 First St. Sept. 5, 1995:

• A press release dated Aug. 23, 1995, stated: “City Announces Proposal to Acquire Land for Downtown Public Parking.” The release also declared: “This presents a unique one-time opportunity to expand surface-level parking. The additional parking facilities should be of significant immediate benefit in alleviating parking problems in downtown Los Altos.”

A staff report to the council dated Sept. 1 recommended that the city:

• “Approve the … purchase agreement.”

• “Authorize the staff to proceed with the repaving and restriping of the parking area immediately … with the goal of completing parking-lot improvements in advance of the 1995 holiday season.”

Less than three months later, Nov. 14, the same city council voted to acquire 400 Main St. The staff report dated Nov. 14 listed two possible development options for the site, both of which included parking. One cited a potential capacity of “101 stalls.”

Former councilmembers Marge Bruno and Dave Reeder, who voted for the city to acquire both parcels in 1995, state that “First and Main was absolutely acquired for public parking.”

The public records and statements by councilmembers who voted to acquire the First and Main site make it clear that the city purchased it for public parking.

Why did the council in 2012 not respect the purpose for which the property was acquired and instead sell it for substantially less than what it would cost to replace the parking lost? This suggests that the number of parking spaces the city should be considered to have eliminated when it sold First and Main is not 54 (the number cited in the City Downtown Public Parking Data sheet) or 96 (the figure claimed in the City Downtown Parking Management Plan), but 101 – the number the city stated was the potential capacity for the site when it originally acquired it for parking.

Read more “Los Altos Mysteries Explored” in upcoming weeks.

Kim Cranston is a Los Altos Hills resident and downtown Los Altos property owner.

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