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It’s option No. 1 for First Street project


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/town crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

The Los Altos City Council opted to scale down the next phase for First Street construction.

The Los Altos City Council voted 4-1 Sept. 11 for a scaled-down second phase of the First Street streetscape project that includes sidewalk improvements from the State Street intersection to Shasta Street.

The vote comes on the heels of a council study session Aug. 28 in which city staff presented three project alternatives – including the plan ultimately adopted by the council last week. All of the plans, including the one adopted, are smaller in scale than the original $2.1 million, 34-week project approved in February 2010. Each plan includes street repaving from State Street to Edith Avenue, as well as replacing streetlights.

Councilwoman Megan Satterlee cast the lone dissenting vote, favoring instead an alternate plan at a cost of $1.05 million with a 20-week construction period. That plan called for sidewalk improvements to end short of Shasta Street, terminating just beyond Parking Plaza 7 at 151 Main St.

Councilman David Casas, however, said the slightly longer $1.35 million project’s sidewalk improvements (to the corner of Shasta Street) would provide a more uniform look to the entire block. The adopted plan includes additional landscaping with centralized irrigation lines, utility undergrounding and sidewalk widening from State Street to Plaza 7.

“I think it’s going to look half-baked, personally,” Casas said of the plan favored by Satterlee. “Whereas today it may not have a lot of lookers into the stores, the intent of capital improvements and a public asset is not to look at today, but to look at tomorrow.”

In addition to approving the Phase 1B plan, the council also directed city staff to work with the Los Altos Village Association (LAVA) and affected business and property owners on potentially moving up the plan’s construction timeline.

“I think projects slip, that’s my experience, that’s been the city’s experience,” Mayor Val Carpenter said in questioning whether the project could begin sooner. “I’m concerned about having this project also slip into the holiday season, which to me, begins the day after Halloween.”

The timeline calls for sidewalk construction to begin mid-May 2013 and be completed prior to the Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival in July. A second stage that includes the closure of the State and First streets intersection would begin after the festival and finish Sept. 30, 2013.

Road repaving along First Street, extending from State Street to Edith Avenue, will likely begin in 2014 and is contingent on the completed construction of the new Safeway and the multiunit housing development at 100 First St.

Assistant City Manager James Walgren told the Town Crier that the overall project could possibly begin sometime in April instead.

“They did ask us to move it up, so that’s our goal,” he said.

During public comments, LAVA Executive Director Nancy Dunaway asked the council to consider delaying streetscape improvements until 2014, after the completion of the Safeway and 100 First St. developments.

“We support the improvements in some fashion,” she said. “We ask that you support doing them in 2014.”

Councilman Ron Packard countered that undergoing streetscape work in conjunction with the private developments decreases the overall time businesses could be impacted.

“Why not group it together and suffer the pain at one time instead of doubling the pain?” Packard asked.

Walgren concurred, noting that in his conversations with affected First Street merchants, “they would prefer not to have this be a multiyear project; that we kind of get this all done in conjunction with the private development and get it done as quickly as possible.”

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