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Ideas, but no decisions on First Street mailboxes


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council is debating whether to relocate the city’s drive-thru mailboxes.

A new home remains elusive for the five U.S. Postal Service drive-thru collection boxes currently housed on First Street.

The city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) last week opted against offering a recommendation on where to relocate four of the five mail-drop boxes after some members said they lacked adequate information to move forward.

“Fundamentally, I think we need more information,” said BPAC Chairwoman Suzanne Ambiel. “I don’t think we can make a recommendation tonight.”

The action, or lack thereof, comes after the Los Altos City Council directed BPAC in late June to recommend alternative downtown spots for the boxes, which receive nearly 2,000 pieces of outgoing mail daily at the drive-thru location on First Street. A city staff report recommended relocating the boxes to a pair of downtown locations: two boxes at the end of a driveway in Parking Plaza 2 near Second Street and two at the end of a driveway in Parking Plaza 3 behind Chase Bank.

At the time, Los Altos Public Works Director Jim Gustafson said the mail receptacles required relocation as a safety measure to avoid potential incidents among vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists on First Street.

While BPAC members came up short on a recommendation, they offered suggestions on possible locations for the mailboxes during the July 24 discussion.

Commissioner Jim Fenton noted that he “was not a fan” of the current recommendations for plazas 2 and 3.

Commissioner Karl Danz agreed that none of the suggested plaza locations “seem workable.”

Fenton said he was “intrigued” by the idea of placing the boxes near the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce building on University Avenue.

“It just seems like there’s room there that we don’t have in the downtown triangle,” he said.

Some members mentioned a cutout parking area on Edith Avenue, near its shared intersection with San Antonio Road, as a potential location.

Ambiel cautioned that locating drive-thru mailboxes there could increase the potential for conflicts between cars and cyclists – particularly students riding to school. Members discussed other locations, including the drive-thru bank lanes at Bank of the West on Main Street and alternate locations within Plaza 3, such as one near the exit to San Antonio Road.

Finally, the need to relocate the mailboxes at all was questioned. Planning and Transportation Commissioner Jon Baer, speaking on his own behalf, told BPAC commissioners that the First Street drop-off location has worked for decades and offers better visibility to motorists and nonmotorized traffic than other sites.

“Where they are right now is a pretty damn good place,” Baer said.

Danz concurred, telling his colleagues that the boxes’ current location may indeed be the most viable spot in the downtown triangle.

“I’m pretty disposed to leaving them where they are now,” he said.

Reached by the Town Crier, Los Altos Transportation and Project Manager Cedric Novenario said the impetus for relocating the boxes is to situate them closer to the downtown U.S. Postal Service at 221 Main St. He added that city staff will review some of the locations suggested by BPAC and report additional information to the commission in August.

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