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Deadline placed on civic center plan


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A family takes advantage of the unseasonably warm January weather to lunch outside at the Los Altos Civic Center on Hillview Avenue. The complex housing a community center, city hall and police station is the subject of renovation plans.

One of the Los Altos City Council’s priorities for 2014 now has a deadline.

Los Altos City Manager Marcia Somers told the Town Crier that the city’s process to update its Civic Center Master Plan – which would include updated plans to replace Hillview Community Center with a modern multiuse structure – will be complete in approximately 10 months. The city council established the timeline for the project at a Jan. 14 study session.

“This is a very aggressive schedule, but we think we can meet it. The short time frame will help us stay focused,” said Somers, who was slated to unveil a more detailed process schedule at the Jan. 28 council meeting, held after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

Somers noted that the effort isn’t necessarily meant to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the existing master plan for replacing the city’s aging civic center facilities – particularly Hillview. She said a large component to the update effort will be a comprehensive review and validation of information already contained in the original master plan, completed in June 2009. Somers added that she believes “the majority” of the information in the current master plan will remain valid.

“There’s a lot of good work already done on what are the (public’s) interests and needs,” said Somers, who retained the services of Anderson Brulé Architects to develop an updated master plan.

Still, Somers noted that the update will explore new aspects for consideration as part of the master plan. During the hour-plus study session, several councilmembers expressed a desire to examine the benefits, drawbacks and costs associated with underground parking as part of a new community center. Two councilwomen – Val Carpenter and Jan Pepper – also shared their desire for adding a community pool facility option to the master plan update.

“We’ll see during public engagement opportunities where that falls out,” Somers said of the idea to add underground parking to a community center design concept. “It is obviously a more costly option.”

According to Somers, another key aspect to the update includes gathering ample feedback from residents.

The 10-month schedule, she said, will include no less than eight opportunities for residents to offer feedback and suggestions on various elements – such as a community center design concepts and programming needs – from the beginning to the end of the update process. Those opportunities, she added, could ultimately come in the form of workshops, city council study sessions and other public events.

Somers said the city will also look at ways to engage residents online as part of the update process.

“Not everyone is going to be interested in every element we’re trying to validate,” she said. “There are going to be different groups of constituents interested in different things.”

Somers said she hopes that the update process will lead to its intended consequence – a new community center building all residents can enjoy for decades to come.

“I think the community will really benefit from having a comprehensive multigeneration, multipurpose community center,” she said. “We have one (currently), but obviously without the quality that the community desires.”

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