The Los Altos City Council June 14 denied day-care provider Irina Mamochina a use permit to expand her services on Heritage Court.
Under the city’s general plan, a small family day care – up to eight children, depending on their ages – is permitted on the site. A large day care – up to 14 children – would require a conditional-use permit.
After complaints about traffic from neighbors last fall, city officials investigated and discovered that while properly licensed by Santa Clara County, the day care was operating with more than eight children without a conditional-use permit. It was determined to be an honest oversight, and city staff allowed the day care to continue operations, said Zachary Dahl, Los Altos senior planner.
The Los Altos Planning Commission voted 4-2 March 17 to recommend approval of the use permit with the condition that they review it after a year.
On March 29, representatives from the California Department of Social Services’ Community Care Licensing observed 19 children in Mamochina’s home during an unannounced visit, issued a citation and held a meeting on April 21 with her to apprise her of the violation, according to Dahl.
According to Mamochina’s son, Greg Vaisberg, his mother established the day care in 2004. He wrote in a letter to councilmembers that the day care is an important part of the community and contributes to the prosperity of Los Altos by providing a safe, educational environment in a convenient location for parents and children.
“There has been no unpleasant incident or accident,” Vaisberg said.
His mother depends on the business to make a living, he said, and reducing the number of children to eight would be “a significant drop in income.”
In limited English and with help from Vaisberg, Russian native Mamochina said she had undertaken steps to mitigate traffic concerns and would work with any conditions the council proposed.
Several people spoke of the high-quality care their children receive from Mamochina in her home and urged councilmembers to grant the use permit.
“This day care provides exceptional care and is run at the highest professional level,” said Val Lazarev, Los Altos resident and father of three.
Neighbors said that while they liked Mamochina personally and didn’t want to shut down her business, they opposed granting the use permit on the grounds that a large day care was not appropriate for the location – a cul-de-sac off of Payne Drive with only one outlet. They also raised concerns about traffic volume and speed, pedestrian safety and parked cars blocking adjacent driveways.
Longtime neighborhood residents Jack and Kim Boniface said the day care has evolved and grown over the past few years, exacerbating problems with traffic and safety.
“Personally, no day care should be allowed in a cul-de-sac,” Jack said. “Let’s leave it as a small day care.”
“I don’t see that it’s an asset to the street,” Kim added.
Neighbor Mary Ellen Holden said she has observed a “high volume of traffic,” and believed a small day care is appropriate for the location.