Photo By: Courtesy of City of Los Altos
A mixed-use redevelopment proposal for 86 Third St. is headed to the Los Altos City Council for review.
The Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) last week voted 4-2 in favor of developer David Luedtke’s proposal, which calls for a four-story structure with approximately 5,500 square feet of ground-level office space and 20 condominiums – including two below-market-rate units – as well as one level of underground parking. Four of the residential units have two bedrooms, while the remaining 16 allow for three-bedroom dwellings.
The site, located between State Street and West Edith Avenue, is currently home to a pair of office buildings.
Several commissioners expressed support for the proposal in general, including Michael McTighe, who noted that the project would be a boost to the downtown area.
“It’s great to see mixed-use housing and retail space in downtown,” he said. “I think that’s a great thing to have.”
Commissioner Phoebe Bressack concurred, calling the mixed-use project a “very good use concept” that would result in more feet on downtown streets – without the need for driving.
“It will invigorate the town, I believe,” she said. “It’s a good step toward (having) more of that in town.”
Commissioner Jim Chiang, meanwhile, added that a November PTC study session on the project ultimately yielded a better overall result.
“I’m glad we had the review session two months ago,” he said. “I think this project is actually vastly improved from the last time we saw it and had a chance to review it.”
Trees the root of concern
One area of concern for some commissioners, however, was the proposed removal of 10 mature trees on the project site to accommodate the underground parking structure – including a 70-foot Canary Island Pine near Parking Plaza 8. An arborist’s report from Luedtke rated most of the trees in fair condition but noted that most have a continued life expectancy of 10-15 years. Luedtke’s project called for the planting of seven Chinese Pistache trees along Third Street to make up for the loss of the 10 trees.
McTighe noted that saving the Canary Island Pine was “worth the effort,” while Chiang called the arborist’s report “wholly lacking.”
“The removal of 10 mature trees is actually something that warrants far more extensive review,” said Chiang, who suggested a deeper examination of the trees’ conditions before final review by the city council.
As a condition of approval, commissioners called for the creation of an “earth vault” – originally slated to be a mechanical room in the underground parking structure – as a measure to spare the pine or, at worst, replace it in time with a new “big box” tree.
Trees aside, commissioners Ronit Bodner and Jon Baer cast dissenting votes for the project after expressing concerns about the project’s look and feel. Specifically, Baer noted that the building’s contrasting color scheme gave a “boxy” impression to the structure’s facade that faces the city’s public parking area.
Similarly, Bodner said she was struggling with the proposed building’s appearance, noting that she didn’t get a great sense of its aesthetics from the photoshopped renderings and examples of materials – like chiseled limestone – presented at the meeting.
A proposal by Baer to have Luedtke present alternative color schemes to the council was later rejected by Bressack and other commissioners who voted in favor of the project.
The project has yet to be scheduled for city council review.