Despite claims that they’ve met nearly all of Los Altos’ development design guidelines, Ted and Jerry Sorensen have been mired for months in the city’s initial approval phase for their proposal to build a three-story retail/office building at 40 Main St.
The brothers’ project could be delayed a bit longer, if the most recent city staff report, which highlights a parking problem, is any indication.
“The reality is that this project would ... generate between 40 and 50 new employees. ... (W)here are they going to park?” reads the report from Planning Director David Kornfield, who recommends a third rejection.
The 17,603-square-foot project, roughly eight times the size of the Sorensens’ current building, doesn’t provide any additional parking spaces as required when square footage increases, but Ted, an attorney, argues that the city should accept the project based on current use of the nearby parking plaza, which he claims could be lower than the city’s projection.
The 38-foot-tall project’s aesthetics met with criticism from the Architectural & Site Review Committee, but Ted said the revision incorporated “some cosmetic changes that some of the (A&S) members recommended.”
The three-member A&S committee rejected the project in June and again in July, citing excessive height and variance requests and noting that it lacks “village character.”
The Sorensens’ project, which Ted said they’ve been designing for four years, would feature retail on the ground floor and Class-A office space on the second and third floors.
Because the project doesn’t include adding parking, city officials have indicated that could pose a problem when the Planning Commission reviews the proposal.
A&S reviews projects for design elements, and then the seven-member Planning Commission examines code and zoning compliance. Following that, the city council signs off on projects.
According to the staff report, parking should be addressed at the initial phase, because it is “significant” enough to override design debate.
Ted said the building’s 1,000-square-foot public paseo – which would grant pedestrians access from the parking plaza to Main Street – should allow for some leeway.
Mayor Ron Packard owns property adjacent to the Sorensens’ building. He has recused himself from publicly discussing the project due to a conflict of interest, but his brother, Von, said they aren’t opposed to the project overall – just its features.
“The building proposal is not consistent with the Los Altos village, it is too tall, does not have appropriate architectural features for the village,” Von wrote in an email to the Town Crier in July.
The Architectural & Site Review committee meeting is scheduled 6:30 p.m. today at city hall, 1 N. San Antonio Road. The meeting is open to the public.