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Work halts on contentious LAH crosswalk

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Los Altos Hills residents balked at the installation of a crosswalk near Hidden Villa, above, marked by four poles.

An under-construction crosswalk near Hidden Villa that Los Altos Hills officials claim would improve safety for people traversing the curvy thoroughfare came to a halt last week after Moody Road residents objected.

The development is scheduled for review at a Pathways Committee meeting Monday and could go before the city council Sept. 22, according to City Manager Carl Cahill.

The crosswalk, which conjoins the Byrne Preserve-bound Artemas Ginzton Pathway with a trail along the other side of Moody, would comprise pavement striping and four 15-foot poles with solar-powered lights on top that flash at the push of a button. Four fluorescent yellow signs marking the crosswalk would be mounted on the poles, according to Public Works Director Richard Chiu.

Residents living near the site contend that the low volume of traffic and adequate sight distance don’t warrant the project.

“I don’t understand why we need to spoil our rural atmosphere with flashing lights and a cross-hatched crosswalk,” nearby resident Betty Kerns wrote in an email to councilmembers.

“The neighbors (and others affected), at the very least, should have been given an opportunity to comment – and their comments should have been given much weight,” wrote Shari Emling, another neighbor.

But councilmembers said projects like this don’t need public notification.

“We’re not required to notify or get consensus and a vote from neighbors,” said Mayor Ginger Summit. “It would have been nice if (residents) were notified. … It didn’t even occur to me that it would arouse a stink.”

Added Chiu, “Typically for signage and crossings, we haven’t in the past had a big public notification. That may change, but it hasn’t been past practice. … Based on concerns from neighbors, (the crosswalk is) going to be re-discussed.”

Town staff issues notification of some developments, which tend to be residential in Los Altos Hills, via postcards mailed to nearby residents.

According to minutes, the Pathways Committee, with monthly meetings open to the public, began discussing the crosswalk in February last year when residents Linda Swan and Deborah Gold recommended locations where pedestrian- and equestrian-crossing signs should be installed.

Records show that in August 2010 at a public hearing, the committee recommended the project to the council, which unanimously approved it at its April 21 meeting this year.

Some councilmembers considered the project routine enough that they don’t recall signing off on it.

“First I heard of this!” Councilman Jean Mordo wrote in an email to a resident.

Councilman John Radford said in an interview, “I certainly don’t remember this particular thing,” but added that it’s “fair” to give residents who have opposed the project a voice in the matter.

The crosswalk is within Santa Clara County jurisdiction, which mandates public review of signage on roads designated “scenic routes.” According to county records, Moody Road is on that list.

Chiu said town officials received an encroachment permit from the county so that they could work within county land.

Councilman Gary Waldeck said that when it comes to safety – which the town has declared one of its goals this year – projects’ appearances aren’t necessarily as important.

“It’s bringing something that’s basically downtown and putting it in the middle of a garden pathway,” he said. “I can see (neighbors’) objections. On the other hand, safety trumps visual.”

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