Sun09142014

News

LA residents chime in on plans for new civic center


Diego Abeloos/Town Crier
Los Altos residents take part in a site-planning exercise last week.

A workshop aimed at gathering public input on where to place a new community center produced a wide range of opinions from Los Altos residents.

The Aug. 19 workshop at the Los Altos Youth Center was a step in the city’s 10-month bid to update its 2009 Civic Center Master Plan to build a multigenerational facility to replace Hillview Community Center.

More than 60 residents divided into small discussion groups at last week’s workshop. They were directed to place a variety of community center amenities – such as a swim center and parking – within two defined areas of the 18-acre civic center site.

The participants drafted community center plans using the larger civic center’s southeast quadrant, where Hillview sits, and a northwest area that now houses the city’s police department and Youth Center building. They were also asked to plan based on other scenarios: a minimized cost option, a more balanced cost and distribution option and a “maximized experience” option.

Los Altos City Manager Marcia Somers said the exercise revealed common threads among participating residents. Some of the plans called for the relocation of the police department and the main library to other areas of the city in an effort to grant the community center more open space.

“I think there were common themes, like clustering (civic center) functions,” she said. “Another common theme seemed to be building up (with a two-story structure) and down (underground parking) to preserve open space.”

Somers said the three-hour public workshop came at a critical point in the city’s 10-month update. The city council was slated to hold a study session Tuesday – after the Town Crier’s press deadline – to review results of phone surveys that gauged support for a new community center, including views on public financing.

“We’re not going to design something we can’t afford to build,” she said. “Ultimately, we do want to end up with a park and community center that’s going to meet the needs of the community.”

Financing strategies

Somers said the city is scheduled to host a stakeholders meeting with the Los Altos Financial Commission Thursday to discuss potential financing strategies. Anderson Brulé Architects will present those options to the city council at its Sept. 23 meeting for approval. One of the options could be a bond measure.

“(A bond measure) is the base point and then you figure out some other financing strategies,” Somers said. “The bond measure is just one strategy. Ultimately, I think a combination of financing methods will be used.”

Somers noted that future steps call for conceptual design meetings in advance of a final report to the city council in late November. She said plans are being considered to host a “collaborative professional and community design workshop” in late October.

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins – who attended last week’s workshop along with Councilwoman Jan Pepper – said the city aims to “strike a balance” in considering the needs of residents and the associated costs to achieve them.

“We’re getting down to the homestretch to see how this all pulls together, and we have to balance a lot of different things,” Bruins said. “We don’t want an opulent community center. We want something we can have pride in, that’s functional and a great experience for our residents.”

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