Sun10192014

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Los Altos rezones Lincoln Park

A petition circulating among Lincoln Park neighbors last week urged opposition to Los Altos officials’ plan to rezone the 2.5-acre strip along Foothill Expressway to a designation some feared could lead to development of a skate park.

But officials said the rezoning, which the Los Altos Planning Commission unanimously approved Sept. 15, merely fits the parcel better and could actually prevent development.

The park’s zoning switched from Single-Family Residential to Public Community Facilities. While commissioners and staff assured neighbors the move would not usher in a skate park, some remained skeptical.

“I don’t want a skate park or any other public building on that park,” said neighbor Victoria Parente, who started the petition. “I don’t think in the long run (the city) can guarantee it will stay a beautiful park as it is. This is the first step.”

But Planning Director David Kornfield said in an interview that regardless of zoning, a skate park – or a variety of other structures – could still be built there.

The key word being “could.” Kornfield emphasized that the city has no plans to develop the property. That would require multiple public hearings not only to implement a skate park, but also to change the city’s general plan, which lists Lincoln Park as “passive.”

“That changing this designation makes it easier to do a skate park is not true,” Kornfield said.

The city’s general plan lists acquiring parkland as a long-term objective. Lincoln Park, although under Los Altos’ jurisdiction, is owned by Santa Clara County and leased to Los Altos for $1 per year. While land in Los Altos zoned for single-family residences can cost $1 million per quarter acre, a Public Community Facilities parcel would be valued at a lesser amount, which would benefit the city if it decides to purchase the land.

City Manager Doug Schmitz wrote in an email that negotiations with the county for buying the land are ongoing.

Owning the park, Kornfield said, would also ensure that county officials don’t sell the land to developers for homes – which prior to rezoning was possible.

“It’s so we can do what we want there,” he said.

Funds to purchase the park swould come from the city’s parks in-lieu fund, currently approximately $1.2 million derived from subdivision and commercial development fees, according to City Finance Director Russ Morreale.

Julie Rose, president of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, located on a small site in Lincoln Park, spoke in favor of the rezoning. She said the Chamber of Commerce’s 50-year lease – currently $100 per year to the county – expires in three years and a new lease could increase its rent to a much higher market value.

“Our appraisal (under Single-Family Residential zoning) came in at around $670,000 for our parcel,” she told planning commissioners. “That’s not affordable.”

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