Traffic study to investigate Hills intersection

Photos Courtesy of City Of Los Altos Hills
Two accidents, left and below, at Purissima and Robleda roads are among several collisions that have prompted the Los Altos Hills City Council to conduct a traffic study at the intersection.

The images are dramatic: a sedan flipped on its roof and rammed into the base of a light pole; another vehicle, a white SUV, propped up at a 45-degree angle on the same pole. None of the vehicles’ occupants suffered life-threatening injuries in the two accidents at Purissima and Robleda roads in Los Altos Hills, but neighbors near the intersection believe that’s simply a matter of luck.

“We need to do something before something horrible happens,” said Jill Jensen.


Council urged to speed up plans for downtown, civic center

A Los Altos group is putting pressure on elected officials to plan for the city’s civic center and downtown – and to begin doing so now.

The Los Altos Community Coalition, an advocacy group comprising organizations and individuals, is urging the city to revise its goals for the year and set aside funding to begin work on a comprehensive plan for the area.


LA Council Briefs

Council schedules office hours

Los Altos residents can connect personally with their city councilmembers during weekly open office hours, when one councilmember is available for two hours to answer questions, receive input and discuss topics of interest to local residents.

The next open office hours are scheduled 4-6 p.m. April 20 at State Farm Insurance, 4546 El Camino Real, Suite B4.


Failure to seek utility charges cost LAH lost funds

For years, Los Altos Hills officials wondered why the solar panels at town hall weren’t able to fully power the complex.

After a town committee investigation, consultants authored energy audits that identified the monopine – a 69-foot-tall faux tree cell tower on the property – as the reason. Not only that, but Los Altos Hills was paying for the electricity the energy hog consumed.

For more than a decade, the town mistakenly subsidized wireless communications companies’ utility consumption by failing to seek reimbursement for energy overuse.

“No one put together the fact that we should be charging them more,” said Allan Epstein, Los Altos Hills Finance & Investment Committee chairman.

Epstein estimated that lost funds could have totaled anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000 since 2006, but a subsequent investigation by town staff estimates that the amount was actually $12,660, said Mayor John Harpootlian.

“That differs from Allan’s estimate in that his assumption was that the final amount estimated was the same for the entire 10 years,” Harpootlian wrote in an email to the Town Crier.

Although other Los Altos Hills cell towers operate off PG&E meters the equipment’s owners manage, town and Cingular Wireless representatives agreed that the company would feed off the town’s energy meter when they signed the land lease for the town hall monopine in 2006. Town officials were convinced that the solar panels populating town hall’s roofs and adjacent field would generate ample power for the entire property. In addition to rent, Cingular agreed to pay an estimated utility charge of $250 per month, with town officials reserving the right to request calculation of and reimbursement for the actual energy use once a year, according to the lease.

But it wasn’t until March 2015 – nine years into the contract – that town officials made an official request, according to a five-page analysis Epstein presented to the city council last month. In January 2015, the town’s Environmental Initiatives Committee (EIC) notified City Manager Carl Cahill of an energy audit revealing that the cell tower consumed substantially more energy than expected. Rather than $250 per month, the utility use amounted to approximately $650 per month, meaning a shortfall of $400 per month and $4,800 per year.

“If it had not been for the EIC, it is likely the Town would have subsidized the wireless carrier for the entire twenty-five year term of the contract to an amount easily exceeding one hundred thousand dollars,” Epstein wrote in the analysis.

Administrative nightmare

Cahill has repeatedly said AT&T representatives were not responsive when communicating with town staff.

“The problem is, it was not a good idea to have them on our meter in the first place,” Cahill said. “We’re not set up like a utility. It just created an administrative nightmare for the town to recover costs.”

By early 2015, AT&T had acquired Cingular and AT&T had transferred the monopine lease to Crown Castle, a provider of shared wireless infrastructure. The town was able to wrangle $8,110.83 in undercharges from Crown Castle in fall 2015, but collecting from AT&T proved more difficult.

The town had leverage over Crown Castle because that company needed the city council’s approval in October to fasten additional antennas to the tower. But no such leverage exists over AT&T, Cahill said.

“There’s no way we’re going to recover that money – whatever it is – in the short term,” he said.

Harpootlian seemed slightly more optimistic. He indicated that town staff members are preparing an official letter to AT&T requesting reimbursement and confirmed that the town hall cell tower will soon be operating on its own energy meter, with Crown Castle directly footing the bill.

Proposal for senior representation advances to council

Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Seniors met in March to consider a proposal by Los Altos City Councilmembers Jean Mordo and Jan Pepper, center, to re-charter the Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Senior Commission.

Senior stakeholders have spent the past month revising the charter of the Los Altos/Los Altos Hills Senior Commission with hope that the Los Altos City Council will give the group another go.

The final proposal, which the council will consider Tuesday, was not available before the Town Crier’s press deadline.


Budget update: Council allocates to sewer, trees, recreation

Los Altos city finances are trending positively at the midyear point, according to Finance Director Kim Juran-Karageorgiou.

The General Fund expenditures budget for this fiscal year is $34.31 million; the city spent 45 percent as of Dec. 31. The revenue budget is $35.7 million; the city collected 39 percent by the fiscal midyear mark.


Top Los Altos official resigns

Marcia Somers

The city of Los Altos announced April 1 – no joke – the resignation of its top official, City Manager Marcia Somers.

Somers submitted her resignation a couple of days prior in a letter to the city council. Her final day with the city will be April 30.


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