By a 3-1 vote, the Los Altos City Council last week approved a downtown office project for the corner of First Street and San Antonio Road.
Councilwoman Jan Pepper cast the lone dissenting vote; Councilman Jarrett Fishpaw recused himself because he owns property within 500 feet of the project.
Pepper later said she wasn’t in favor of the city selling the approximately 1,500-square-feet of public alleyway – valued at $142,500 – needed for the project. She preferred a long-term lease with property owner Eric Corrigan for the alleyway – a deal she said he was open to making.
“Once it became clear (the project) was going to pass without me, I decided to make a statement,” Pepper said. “Since it wasn’t a deal-breaker for the project, I thought it was something we should consider. We should just stop selling off city property.”
The council’s endorsement of the three-story, 17,000-square-foot structure – at the sites of a former gas station, Burger Town and The Barking Lot – came after the Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) recommended its approval in January. The project passed, but with many conditions, some of them architectural, after Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins initially objected to the project’s “shoebox on top of the shoebox” look along San Antonio Road.
“I really think it’s uninviting and unwelcoming,” she said of the project, which met its 51-space parking requirement by including a handful of tandem (two-vehicle) underground spaces.
The council, however, approved the project after architect Ken Hayes offered to include a glass railing on the roof of the building, instead of a wooden one. In addition, he offered to raise a 9-foot-high wooden overhang facing San Antonio road by 6 inches to “increase the visibility into the building.”
Several Los Altos residents weighed in on the project, with mixed opinions on its size and potential impact on the downtown area.
Phoebe Bressack, an architect and PTC commissioner speaking on her own behalf, called the project “rational and handsome,” noting that it “will add great value to the town.”
“I believe that this is the kind of building which – with the Packard Foundation (building) – will provide a basis for future development in town in a very positive way,” she said.
Los Altos resident Louise Burton, however, lamented that the building doesn’t fit with the traditional “village” feel of the downtown area.
“We’ve ruined our town, in a way, and I’d like to say, ‘Stop. … If you start this, you’ve set a precedent and San Antonio will look like First Street – you won’t see the town,’” said Burton, a resident since 1968.
Louis Cogliani, who resides on Tyndall Street, said rush-hour traffic along San Antonio Road would only get worse once the building is completed.
“More and more businesses of this size may be just too much for Los Altos,” he said, calling the building’s size an “eyesore.”
Corrigan, who grew up in Los Altos, countered the criticism by noting that his project’s density is less than some office buildings in the downtown triangle.
“We believe that we’re good custodians of the downtown and have always strived to be so. … I don’t want something to appear in this town that is an eyesore, that doesn’t fit in,” he said.