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Letters to the Editor: Street closures, mayor's bias, climate change

Group offers support for street closures

We fully support the Los Altos City Council’s June 9 decision regarding street closures to experiment with ways to support downtown restaurants and retail and personal service businesses and the community as a whole.

Los Altos Property Owners Downtown believes a key to having a successful downtown Los Altos has always been striving to increase “feet on the street,” which serves all the downtown businesses. Obviously, the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders have necessarily severely limited for public health reasons “feet on the street,” causing great damage to most if not all businesses in our community.

Now that shelter-in-place orders are being revised to allow businesses to increase activities, we believe this pilot project is a good first attempt to fairly balance the interests of various members of the community, including residents and restaurant and retail/personal service businesses.

We understand the city will be flexible in advancing this pilot project and encourage city leaders to seek input from and closely listen to all those involved to learn what works and what could work better so necessary adjustments can be rapidly made.

This pandemic is an existential threat to many people and businesses in our community, and to downtown Los Altos itself.

We fully support the council’s decision to quickly advance this pilot project and to guide it through necessary iterations to enable our residents and businesses to do the best they can to get through this crisis.

Kim Cranston

Chairman

Los Altos Property Owners Downtown

Pepper appears to have ‘strong bias’

My wife is a passionate cook, so we replaced the original electric stove with a gas range. Los Altos city staff and Mayor Jan Pepper are pushing reach-code revisions to ban natural gas ranges for new homes and likely for remodeled ones and barbecues, with zero public transparency. Purchasing a new home could cause us to lose our cooking joys, simply because three council members concluded natural-gas items would harmfully damage our environment, regardless of what citizens believe.

We live under enormous environmental damage otherwise, from cars, trucks, construction, garbage, etc., but local government leaves cures for such damage alone. Staff and the council’s attempts to rush reach code/natural gas ban change codes has arisen during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing huge negative impact for communicating among city staff and council members, and high cost increases; also, it’s frustrating for citizens.

Continuing to consider reach-code changes should be delayed for at least a year, hopefully after COVID-19.

We supported Mayor Pepper previously, and voted for her twice. She was elected to support us citizens. City surveys have shown that the vast majority of residents are opposed to the city mandating our energy use.

I’m surprised and disturbed that Mayor Pepper is not recusing herself from voting on reach codes that would ban new natural-gas installations. These codes were written by her employer, Peninsula Clean Energy. As the CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy, whose No. 1 goal is to “secure sufficient, low-cost, clean sources of electricity,” and a board member of CAL Community Choice Aggregation, a model that allows communities to join together to purchase electricity, Pepper seems to have a strong bias.

Thus, in the spirit of the Brown Act, and to avoid any appearance of prejudgment, I strongly encourage her to recuse herself from voting on these reach codes.

Al Rooney

Los Altos

Residents: Face reality of climate change

Just to be clear, the proposed reach codes only apply to new construction in Los Altos. That said, California has goals for carbon-neutral construction. No more gas appliances is on the horizon.

We live in an area and a state that overwhelmingly support action to combat climate change. And yet, when faced with the reality of how change actually translates to everyday life, some people will only go kicking and screaming into the future.

Change is not easy. But we as a human race got ourselves in this climate mess by doing what is convenient and self-serving at the expense of the environment.

The argument that gas ranges are more efficient is no longer true. But some people love cooking with gas. I get it. But some people like their wood stoves, too, and plastic bags from the grocery store. It took leadership to transition the public away from these negative environmental elements.

We, as citizens of the world, need to face the reality that if we are going to effect change, the change starts in each of us, in our own homes, and in our own town.

Tami Mulcahy

Los Altos

Financial challenge to LAH ‘disingenuous’

As a 30-year resident of Los Altos Hills (and a resident of Los Altos for six years before that), I was surprised and somewhat offended by your editorial in the June 3 edition (“They don’t care about small businesses”) in which you asserted that the Los Altos Town Council “showed its disdain and lack of concern for small business in Los Altos” by declining to match Los Altos’ $250,000 grant to the Los Altos Small Business Relief Fund, though the Hills council did approve a small grant.

Los Altos is to be commended for its generous grant to the relief fund, but its request that Los Altos Hills match that grant dollar-for-dollar makes no sense and, at worst, was simply disingenuous. To begin with, the population and revenue budget of Los Altos Hills are both roughly 25% of Los Altos’. So a matching grant would have effectively cost a Los Altos Hills resident four times as much as it cost a resident of Los Altos.

Secondly, as pointed out by one of the Hills council members, while many Los Altos Hills residents view Los Altos as their principal shopping district, many others do as much or more of their shopping in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale or Cupertino.

And, perhaps most significantly, sales-tax revenues from Los Altos’ small businesses (the prospective recipients of grants from the relief fund) benefit Los Altos – not Los Altos Hills.

In short, the Los Altos Hills City Council did not deserve your attack for failing to respond to Los Altos’ irrational financial challenge, one which a Hills council member referred to as just “too big an ask.”

Dennis Sullivan

Los Altos Hills

LAH council members: You can do better

I was saddened to read last week that the Los Altos Hills City Council had denied a request to match the Los Altos City Council’s donation of $250,000 into a new fund to support small businesses in the city of Los Altos.

Clearly many of these businesses have suffered greatly during the extended period they have been shut down for the greater good of our community, during this once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. Many are in desperate need of financial support. Many will not survive.

To then read the June 10 letter to the editor from the mayor of Los Altos Hills in which she defends the city council’s unanimous choice to not significantly contribute to the small-business support fund, saying “Los Altos Hills is a community of strong, successful individuals” and that they love dining out and buying things in the small businesses in Los Altos but the “gift” was “simply too large for them to consider,” well, that greatly disturbed me in its self-centeredness and lack of compassion toward those struggling during this period of economic freefall.

There are many kind and generous people in the town of Los Altos Hills, but I do not think their city council is representing them. I would ask Los Altos Hills residents to please stop and consider what your city council is saying in this time of great tragedy and great need. Is this who you want representing you?

Words matter; actions matter. Please, as a community, think hard about how you want to be viewed by your neighbors and insist that your representatives support that.

A $5,000 donation to assist struggling local businesses from the fifth-richest city in the United States is an embarrassment. You can do better, Los Altos Hills!

Julia Martino

Los Altos

 

Contrary to audit, fire district spends wisely

I was reading the recently published audit report on the Los Altos Hills County Fire District, and a few little things did not make sense to me.

All the members of the fire district board are appointed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and they serve at the county board’s pleasure. The fire district board submits a budget to the county board every year, which is reviewed and approved unanimously by the county. The checks for all the expenses are reflected in the budget and written by the county.

This is the picture of a tightly controlled fire district board, not the picture of an out-of-control board as pictured in the audit.

When I consider some of the ongoing expenses that were criticized in the audit, I wonder if the local history was considered. Take the Liddicoat Lane fire of 1985, where 10 Los Altos Hills homes were burned to the ground in just a few hours. The fuel reduction program has as a goal to never have another Liddicoat Lane.

Another example was the collapse of a 1-million-gallon water tank during the 1989 earthquake. The work with the water districts to update and upgrade the water facilities was to ensure that even in an emergency there would always be sufficient water to fight a fire.

The money spent by the fire district is our tax money, collected locally and spent locally. The Los Altos Hills Fire District with the review of the County Board of Supervisors is spending our tax dollars wisely for our district’s fire protection. Tax money collected here should be spent here, not elsewhere in the county.

John Harpootlian

Los Altos Hills

 

LA resident vouches for Sorensens, project

I am a 34-year resident of Los Altos. I’ve been active in this community that whole time, having raised three sons, been through the Los Altos School District school system, along with many extracurricular events and all it entails. In those years of experience, I have met Jerry Sorensen many times. Especially out on the Little League baseball fields, where he too was active as a parent and supporter.

I have always found Jerry Sorensen to be a positive person, usually with a smile on his face. And while I don’t know his brother, I am convinced they would not pursue their development at 40 Main St. if it were not for the benefit of this community.

Sure, it will potentially benefit them as the property owners, but the developer always must bear huge risks (seen and unseen) in pursuing any project. Most importantly, though, if not them, then it would be somebody else pursuing a similar development. No need to vilify these guys.

Development happens in every city. Every city in the nine-county Bay Area has evolved in the past number of years. It is inevitable that things will change.

Greater density is needed, and with greater density comes greater inclusivity. I support these guys and hope that their project will come to be accepted as a good and valuable addition to downtown Los Altos.

Roger Strom

Los Altos

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