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Community center update hits halfway point


Rendering Courtesy of City of Los ALtos
City consultants plan to develop site scenarios for the northwest and southeast quadrants of the civic center.

The Los Altos City Council last week inched past the midpoint of updating the city’s plan to build a new community center.

During a nearly four-hour session June 10, the council approved items to advance the city’s bid to replace Hillview Community Center into a phase that includes exploring site planning and financing scenarios.

Last week’s session comes on the heels of an effort to gather public input as part of the 10-month timeline that began in January. The outreach effort included workshops and various stakeholder meetings to determine publicly desired elements for a Hillview replacement. The city plans to conduct a public survey later this summer to gauge voter support for a bond measure to fund the effort.

The council voted unanimously in favor of including indoor amenities and services for a proposed 55,600-square-foot community center space for large group activities – such as classes and camps – lounges for seniors and teens and gathering areas for the public. Approximately 7,000 square feet would be allocated for fitness facilities. Other elements, such as kitchen space and a pair of multipurpose rooms, were listed as well.

“I think the bottom line of what’s been proposed to us is flexibility,” said Los Altos Mayor Megan Satterlee, who cautioned that any programming approval by the council was tentatively approved to further the city’s planning process.

Like the city’s 2009 master plan, the council opted to forego providing space in the new center for any outside organizations now leasing space at Hillview.

“I don’t think we’re in the business of building purpose-built space for nonprofits,” Councilwoman Val Carpenter said.

The council voted 4-1 to approve a recommended list of outdoor programming services – including a public swimming pool, baseball and soccer fields, and bocce ball courts. There would also be space for large outdoor gatherings and a playground. Prior to casting its vote, the council included a provision for interactive art elements that could be used by skateboarders.

“There’s a population in our community that would appreciate somewhere that they could go grind on something and not be told to go away,” Councilman Jarrett Fishpaw said.

Satterlee cast the lone dissenting vote on the matter, noting her reluctance to include a public pool facility as the city moves forward with its public survey later this summer.

“I am not convinced that when we do a survey a pool is going to come back as having two-thirds support to fund,” she said.

Site scenarios, criteria

The council also approved a checklist of site criteria for city-hired consultant Anderson Brulé Architects (ABA) to use when mapping various financial scenarios and site layout possibilities in coming months. Criteria included connectivity to the downtown area and an emphasis on establishing a multigenerational facility. Other standards approved included safe bike, vehicle and pedestrian access to the site; maximizing shared use of program elements; a “viable, functioning” apricot orchard; and a 30-foot building height limit.

“The site criteria is (the council’s) direction to (ABA) so that as they’re making decisions on what to do or not do (in various site scenarios), this is what it is going to be testing. If I do this, does it meet one of these criteria or does it break one of these criteria?” Satterlee said.

Finally, the council directed ABA to return with a range of site layout scenarios for the community center and related facilities like the soccer field and a host of underground and grade-level parking considerations. The council requested a menu of options ranging from minimal and less costly options to moderate and more ambitious scenarios to consider at a future date.

Per the council’s direction, the scenarios will also examine facility placement in the southeast quadrant of the civic center campus – where Hillview currently sits – and the northwest quadrant that currently houses the police station, the Los Altos Youth Center and other existing civic facilities.

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