Wed09172014

News

Los Altos officials mull merging of commissions

The Los Altos City Council approved the formation of an ad hoc committee tasked with exploring the creation of a new Planning and Transportation Commission.

The ad hoc committee of Mayor Ron Packard and Councilwoman Val Carpenter will meet with the current Planning and Traffic commissions as well as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to discuss a new combined structure, according to Carpenter.

“It’s an exploratory (effort) to see what the pluses and minuses could be,” Carpenter told the Town Crier.

Carpenter said the effort stems in part from concerns raised by various commissioners that their recommendations on land-use decisions aren’t being heard or carried forward.

In addition, Carpenter said the idea could allow increased efficiency, noting that several other cities have planning and transportation areas combined into one body.

“It’s a lot for us to manage from a staff resources standpoint,” Carpenter said of the city’s 10 commissions. “The idea is to streamline processes for applicants and for city management.”

Carpenter said the exploratory step, approved by the city council Nov. 8, would enable the ad hoc group to approach the commissions for inclusion on their agendas for further discussion before the end of the year.

How a newly formed commission might ultimately look is far too soon to tell, Packard said. Carpenter added that if the formation of a new combined commission were to occur, all in-term commissioners would likely have to reapply for appointments to the new group.

“There will be questions and concerns,” she said. “Reducing the number of people (serving on current commissions) could be one issue. Maintaining the expertise of these three separate bodies in a new commission would be another issue.”

During the council meeting, Councilwoman Megan Satterlee expressed concern that the idea could interfere with the recruitment of commissioner candidates, which typically occurs at the start of the year.

Packard said he doesn’t share those concerns, touting quality over speed.

“It’s more important that we do the right thing here than rush it,” he said.

Satterlee also floated the idea of creating a second separate commission dedicated to two-story, single-family-home projects within the city, in an effort to allow any newly formed Planning and Transportation Commission to focus on larger projects.

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