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City discusses objective zoning standards

Packard Foundation
Marie Godderis/Town Crier Intern
The Packard Foundation building on Second Street was discussed as a structure that was universally liked by stakeholders in the community, as the city council looks to develop objective standards.

The Los Altos City Council heard an update on the city’s efforts to develop objective zoning standards during a joint study session with the Planning Commission June 30, and members expressed some concern over the direction of the project. 

The undertaking is intended to align Los Altos’ development code with Senate Bill 330, a state law signed last year that prevents municipalities from establishing design standards that are “non-objective standards” – in other words, subjective language describing architecture as “high quality” or “generous and inviting” would not be allowed as standards for development.

In March, the city approved a $300,000 budget for a consulting firm to primarily help translate the existing subjective standards in the city’s code to objective standards, with a timeline to complete the project by the end of October. During the meeting, the firm presented findings based on Los Altos’ neighborhood patterns and zoning and stakeholder interviews that related to developing objective standards. The Packard Foundation building on Second Street was brought up as a “good example of built form” after which the city might develop objective standards.

However, the council wasn’t satisfied with the findings presented last week, asking for more clarity on how the city could amend existing subjective design code into objective language that would meet the new requirements set by SB 330.

According to the projected timeline, the firm will return to the council at the end of July with a framework of the objective design standards. An online community workshop was slated for early August, but that will be pushed back to the end of the month so the council and Planning Commission can hold another study session before bringing findings to the public.

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