2009 was an anxious year for some members our community. The effects of the poor economy became evident even in this affluent area as residents lost jobs and discretionary spending nearly came to a halt. Still, the year had positive developments as well. Here’s our take on the five most impactful stories of the year.
• Local economy: Residents felt the pinch and local businesses closed – most visibly evident by vacant storefronts downtown. The year brought crisis, but with it came collaboration and change. People met and worked on solutions: downtown revitalization plans that include higher-density structures and office space in the parking plazas; improved streetscape plans for First Street and Loyola Corners; and plans to rebuild the civic center. Work also is under way on a new office building on San Antonio Road, developer John Vidovich’s three-story, mixed-use building, with construction set to begin in the spring.
• Education: The state budget’s ripple effect had local school officials fretting over teacher layoffs and direct impacts on the classroom. But leaders rose to the challenge, succeeding in making necessary cuts with little impact on the classroom experience. Los Altos School District officials, in particular, came away with a much improved short- and long-term budget plan that had them re-evaluating their funding priorities.
• The green effort: We seemed to see only one color and it was green – green as in everyone doing his or her part to preserve and improve the environment. We saw the rise of GreenTown Los Altos, a grassroots group that provided stunning visual examples of how charming a downtown could look with three- and four-story buildings. The city of Los Altos evaluated its carbon footprint; Earth Day took on significance, with organized trash pickups; and even Westwind Barn in Los Altos Hills was targeted for LEED certification.
• El Camino Hospital: “Out with the old, in with the new” was the community hospital’s clarion call in 2009. The hospital opened its new 299-bed, 450,000-square-foot main hospital, maximizing today’s technologies. Officials also acquired a struggling hospital in Los Gatos, broadening their patient base. They even changed their logo, branded themselves “The Hospital of Silicon Valley” and adopted a new slogan, “Whatever It Takes.”
• Pilgrim Haven: The Los Altos City Council approved plans to essentially double the size of the retirement community on Pine Lane. Opponents formed their own group, raising loud objections to the project and its three-year construction timeline. Pilgrim Haven officials pledged to continue discussions with neighbors as the project moves forward.
The promise of good things to come finished off the year of 2009. We’re hopeful 2010 brings fulfillment of those promises. Happy New Year to you all.