City council OKs framework budget for new community center

Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council approved a preliminary budget of $60 million to $70 million to replace the aging Hillview Community Center.

The Los Altos City Council last week unanimously voted for a preliminary budget of $60 million to $70 million to replace the aging Hillview Community Center with a new 55,600-square-foot facility.

The decision is the latest step in the city’s bid to update its 2009 Civic Center Master Plan. The council also voted 5-0 in favor of a scheduling plan that calls for the potential placement of a bond measure on a 2015 mail-in ballot.


Los Altos hosts community center design event

Plans are in the works for Los Altos to host a design charrette addressing Hillview Community Center and Park, according to city officials.

The event is part of the city’s 10-month process to update its 2009 Civic Center Master Plan, according to Los Altos City Manager Marcia Somers. The effort includes a particular focus on replacing Hillview with a multigenerational facility. The process is slated to conclude with a Nov. 25 final report to the Los Altos City Council.


Box leaving Los Altos?

Los Altos-based Box Inc. recently agreed to a 12-year lease to occupy 334,000 square feet of office space in downtown Redwood City starting in 2015.

Kilroy Realty Corp. announced Sept. 16 that the storage and online file-sharing provider has agreed to lease 100 percent of its new two-building office project, Crossing/900, which is still under construction. The company’s offices are currently located at 4440 El Camino Real in Los Altos.


City council approves relocation of Walter Singer bust

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Walter Singer bust in Community Plaza is set for relocation to the Los Altos History Museum.

The Los Altos City Council last week voted 4-1 in favor of relocating the Walter Singer bust to a location near the Los Altos History Museum.

The bust of the late downtown business owner and Los Altos Rotarian – also known as “Mr. Los Altos” – is currently installed at Community Plaza, at the intersection of Main and State streets. The History Museum is located within the 18-acre civic center campus.


Council mulls enhanced transparency regulations

The Los Altos City Council last week split over pursuing a new law that would make some of the city’s activities and communications more transparent.

A draft ordinance proposed by Councilwomen Jan Pepper and Val Carpenter calls for “more accessibility in some areas” of the city’s activities and communications than is legally required under the Ralph M. Brown Act, according to a city staff report. The state law – enacted in 1953 and authored by its namesake assemblyman – outlines the public’s right to attend meetings of local government bodies.


Los Altos council mulls second downtown survey

A community survey on downtown Los Altos is in the works – but likely won’t be conducted until next year.

The council directed an ad hoc committee that includes Councilwomen Val Carpenter and Jan Pepper to further refine its objectives for a second telephone survey by consultant Godbe Research to gauge public opinion on the downtown triangle.


Public support at $20 million for community center rebuild

Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A recent survey shows that 67.6 percent of residents support a bond measure rate of $8 per $100,000 for a new community center to replace the Hillview Community Center, above.

A report during last week’s Los Altos City Council study session showed that city voters would support up to $20 million in public funding for a new community center.

City consultant Bryan Godbe of Godbe Research told the council that a recently completed survey revealed 67.6 percent support for a bond measure rate of $8 per $100,000 of assessed property value from likely November 2016 voters in Los Altos. The rate, he said, would equate to approximately $20 million in public funding to help replace the aging Hillview Community Center with a new multigenerational facility.

In addition, the survey showed 71.2 percent support from likely 2015 mail-in voters for the same rate. The results come from a telephone poll of Los Altos voters conducted between July 28 and Aug. 5. The survey results were derived from 400 likely November 2016 voters in the city – 275 of whom indicated they were also likely 2015 mail-in ballot voters. The survey was conducted as part of the city’s 10-month process to update its 2009 civic center master plan – with a particular focus on replacing Hillview, which is more than 70 years old.

Councilwoman Val Carpenter said she viewed the results as positive compared to 2012, when the city conducted a similar survey for a $65 million bond measure for a new community center, police station and city hall. The 2012 survey showed less than two-thirds the public support needed to pass it. “To have actually polled and received support at the required level is encouraging to me,” Carpenter said of the 2014 results. “It was the first time we’ve seen some support.”

Among other things, the new survey results showed less than two-thirds voter support for rate levels higher than $8, with 2015 and 2016 likely voters supporting a rate of $14 per $100,000 of assessed property value at 56.2 and 52.8 percent, respectively. Higher rates of $20 and $26 failed to crack 50 percent support. Still, the results also showed as much as 60.9 and 60.6 percent support for a public pool facility among 2015 and 2016 voters, respectively, as part of a new community center. In addition, overall support for a bond measure to replace Hillview topped out at 60.6 and 58.6 percent among likely 2015 and 2016 voters, respectively. Other potential community center features, such as underground parking, ranged as high as 57.1 percent among 2016 likely voters.

Councilwoman Jan Pepper termed this year’s results “generally positive” and added that $20 million in public funding would be one piece to a larger financing puzzle to build a new community center. “I think it’s a good start,” Pepper said of the $20 million estimate. “It depends on what we come up with in terms of our overall (community center) plan.”

During the hour-long study session, a representative of city consultant NHA Financial Advisors outlined other financing strategies available to the city, including issuing a certificate of participation – an internal borrowing mechanism used by some cities – as well as the potential use of some reserve funds. Overall, the consultant noted, the city currently has $7.1 million in facility replacement funds, $5.8 million in park in-lieu funds and slightly more than $10 million in real property funds on hand.

Looking ahead, Pepper said she’s interested in starting talks with Los Altos Hills to potentially form a joint powers authority – another option outlined by NHA – that could collectively pursue public funding options.

“We definitely need to put more emphasis on that and bring them into the conversation,” Pepper said of the Los Altos Hills Town Council.

Carpenter added that the city will likely need to pursue a public information campaign, among a series of next steps, in an attempt to “move the needle” further among city voters.

An email to Mayor Megan Satterlee about the survey results was not returned by the Town Crier’s press deadline.

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