Tue09022014

News

Group reiterates requests for community center

A city-sponsored user-group meeting last week resulted in familiar feedback when it listed the public’s suggestions for inclusion in a new Los Altos community center.

Thursday’s meeting at Hillview Community Center, which the city aims to include in the update of its 2009 Civic Center Master Plan, featured a mix of Los Altos residents. Current users, nonusers and potential users of community-center services and facilities attended to contribute to the discussion. City officials have scheduled a public workshop on the community center Tuesday.

Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins noted that Thursday’s two-hour session produced needs similar to those expressed by residents and city commissioners at a pair of recent city meetings focused on the new community-center plan. The participants split into groups to prioritize the various needs for the different activities a new community center would accommodate.

Bruins said an estimated 20 residents voiced their particular desire to see a community center that incorporates ample outdoor space for a variety of social activities, including sports.

“The message is, we can’t give up the limited (outdoor) space that we have. … At the same time, we’d love to have more flexibility in our outdoor space to meet new demands,” said Bruins, who attended the meeting with fellow councilwomen Jan Pepper and Val Carpenter. “We have a population that has very diverse interests in how they spend their outdoor time.”

Bruins noted that the groups stressed the need for multifunctional and multigenerational space to accommodate varied programming such as senior activities and social events, in addition to art and fitness classes.

“That has come out loud and clear in all of these (meetings) – and ‘multigenerational’ means shared space, not segregated space,” she said. “(A new community center) is really is going to be about flexible space – and that’s what the residents are telling us, too.”

“People are definitely into that whole thing – multipurpose, multiple uses in the same space,” Pepper said. “It only makes sense.”

Pepper noted that several participants voiced another common theme, an inclusion she has publicly endorsed – a public pool facility.

“They want a pool integrated here, and they see that as a way of drawing people into the community center,” she said.

Tweaking for the future

Despite the repetitive feedback, Los Altos Community Foundation Executive Director Joe Eyre, who participated in the meeting, expressed concerns about site layout challenges related to the new community-center plan and cautioned that “we’re going to end up with a piecemeal end result.”

He added that some participants felt constrained in listing their priorities because of the city’s decision to rebuild a new community center in the same civic-center campus area where the aging Hillview facility exists.

“I think the thing is, we’re all struggling with how (a new community center) fits in with the overall civic center,” he said. “It’s really hard to design this in isolation of all the other cultural and physical activities in the civic center.”

Pepper echoed similar concerns about site layout constraints.

“There’s still more we can learn from this and tweak for the future,” she said, as the city continues its push for public feedback in updating community-center plans.

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