Other Voices: Group, media mislead on preference for reach codes

Our local journalists failed to fact-check data, resulting in publishing misleading information about an important topic – reach codes. The Los Altos Town Crier and Daily Post relied solely on information promoted by Los Altos Residents (LAR), an organization that claims to represent the voice of the people but is anything but.

The July 1 Town Crier article was perhaps the most egregious, describing overwhelming public opposition to reach codes, which is blatantly false. This article further implies an existing cloud over Mayor Jan Pepper’s credibility to weigh in on the upcoming reach code vote, which is personally damaging to our mayor. Time and again, LAR pulls its influence and the Town Crier falls for it.

The fact is, buildings complying with reach codes are better for one’s health, offer better air quality and are less expensive to build, less expensive to maintain, faster to build and less catastrophe prone. I’m not sure why this no-brainer of a choice is being opposed by a select few leaders of LAR. But LAR’s leadership certainly does not speak for the population of Los Altos they claim to represent, nor are all their stats published accurate and unbiased. Just take a few of the recently published claims.

LAR claims strong community opposition to reach codes and urges the city council to be a “representative democracy” and vote against reach codes. The city took an initial survey and got people’s perception of the issue, which trended negative. Then, the city conducted a webinar about what reach codes were and posted more information and a Q&A to further educate the public. The post-outreach survey shows a clear preference for some sort of reach code. Only 27.3% of responses call for “No Reach Codes,” not the 73% that LAR is pushing from old data that the Town Crier published in a June 3 letter to the editor and July 1 article. In fact, a significant number of responses favor implementing all-electric reach codes in new construction and major remodels.

Members of LAR have targeted Mayor Pepper to urge her to recuse herself from the reach-code vote by citing a conflict of interest. After twice being cleared, once by the city attorney and a second time by the state of California Fair Political Practices Commission, LAR leaders continue to discredit Mayor Pepper about her alleged conflict.

Finally, LAR claims there has not been enough public outreach on the subject compared to neighboring cities and asks for a delay of the vote until commensurate outreach is done. Diane Bailey, with the Campaign for Fossil Free Buildings in Silicon Valley, follows the reach-code efforts in every city in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. According to Bailey, “Los Altos has had much more outreach than most cities, by a lot!”

Los Altos started its public outreach last November or earlier. Many residents from November through June have spoken. Outreach to our community from both sides of the issue has included multiple articles in online forums, newsletters, a webinar followed by YouTube posting and multiple e-blasts. This subject has been covered and outreach has occurred, period.

Representatives of LAR will continue to try to delay a decision on reach codes while dozens of communities, 15 or so in the Bay Area, have adopted them. This stalling of progress in our city by spreading misinformation under the guise of a representative organization is immoral at best.

Connie Miller is a Los Altos resident.

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