Photo By: Town Crier file photo
The new Packard Foundation headquarters at 343 Second St. is an example of the type of development the new Planning and Transportation Commission will review beginning June 22.
A pair of new city commissions will go from concept to reality June 22.
The Los Altos City Council approved ordinance amendments May 22 that formalize the creation of the Design Review Commission (DRC) and the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC). The council also elevated the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to commission status.
The new ordinances take effect 30 days after the council’s vote.
“It’s nice to be where we’re at,” said Mayor Val Carpenter, who added that discussions of possible commission changes began last November. “We’ve been talking about this for six or seven months now, and by the time it’s enacted, it’ll certainly be seven or eight months.”
The two commissions will essentially assume the responsibilities held by four city bodies – the Planning and Traffic commissions, as well as the Architecture and Site Review (A&S) Committee and the Board of Adjustments.
The council’s actions came on the heels of an initial vote Feb. 28 to merge the Planning and Traffic commissions into the PTC, with responsibilities to review larger development projects – such as multifamily residential and commercial projects – as well as related variance requests. Additionally, the new commission will serve in an advisory role to the council on traffic-related issues.
At the time, the council also opted to replace the A&S Committee with the five-member DRC, charged with reviewing all single-family residential projects and related variance requests. Those changes also led to the elimination of the Board of Adjustments, which previously reviewed variance requests for both larger and smaller development projects in the city.
Carpenter said the new commissions should streamline the approval process for those seeking to develop properties in Los Altos.
“We’ve really clarified roles that will make it easier for developers and homeowners to move their projects forward while at the same time (ensuring) that there’s really quality community oversight,” she said. “It’s a balance.”
In addition to the formal creation of the commissions, the council appointed seven commissioners to the PTC: Jon Baer, Ronit Bodner, Phoebe Bressack, Jim Chiang, Malika Junaid, Michael McTighe and Jerry Moison.
The new commission comprises four soon-to-be former planning commissioners (Baer, Bodner, Junaid and Moison) and one traffic commissioner (Chiang). Among the notable applicants not appointed were Planning Commissioners Jeannie Bruins and Kenneth Lorell.
“It’s always hard when we have more well-qualified applicants than seats, but I think we have a very strong new body to lead us forward,” Carpenter said. “I think it’s a nice mix, and I think (the commission) will serve the community well.”
Carpenter noted that the city has re-advertised the application period for residents interested in serving on the DRC in order to attract a larger pool of applicants from which to choose. The application deadline is Thursday, with applicant interviews slated Tuesday.
Carpenter said she anticipates that the council will appoint five new commissioners to the DRC before the ordinance goes into effect June 22.