Questions over project delays and the amount of funding to give nonprofits highlighted a Los Altos City Council study session last week that focused primarily on a deep dive into fiscal year 2021-2022 capital improvement project items.
Council members reviewed each project in the draft budget for the coming year, asking clarifying questions on items ranging from street resurfacing to sewer system repairs.
Considerable discussion at the June 1 meeting centered on a staff recommendation to defund and defer a sidewalk gap closure project on Carmel Terrace pending completion of a Complete Streets Master Plan. The council is scheduled in August to discuss the plan, which proposes improvements for pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Vice Mayor Anita Enander expressed frustration over a project she felt was being unnecessarily delayed and at risk of being excessively studied.
“We’ve had a considerable amount of public outreach (on the project),” she said. “It seems like a real disconnect between (what staff requests) and what the community is interested in.”
Traffic engineer Jaime Rodriguez said the project needs $100,000 in design work to determine construction costs. Interim City Manager Brad Kilger suggested that deferred projects, such as Carmel Terrace often need an updated review rather than relying on dated information.
Councilmember Lynette Lee Eng also wondered about the project delays, in addition to citing a lack of closure on discussions of other traffic improvements behind the Blach Intermediate School campus, where Carmel Terrace and Altamead Drive are located.
In addition to the sidewalk gap project, follow-up is needed on a 2009 pilot project imposing restrictions on parking.
Lee Eng said the council in 2019 was promised that the items would come back to the council, but they did not. The sidewalk gap project was funded in the 2018-2019 fiscal year but was deferred until 2020-2021 “due to staff resource limitations,” according to a 2019 staff report.
“This sends a message about (lack of) public trust,” she said. “We’re not keeping our promise to the residents.”
Lee Eng vowed to follow up and meet with the city’s traffic personnel to review the projects and determine progress.
The council also spent a good portion of last week’s meeting discussing proposed funding for local nonprofit groups.
Under “Other Financial Considerations” for 2021-2022, city staff had received a $40,000 funding request from Los Altos-based WomenSV, which serves domestic abuse victims; $109,000 (and an additional $165,000 in one-time funding) from the Community Health Awareness Council, which provides mental health services; and $100,000 from the Los Altos History Museum.
Councilmember Sally Meadows said the CHAC funding request appeared out of proportion to the number of local residents served. She also noted that the museum focuses solely on Los Altos, while CHAC and WomenSV serve the broader community.
Enander said “the stock market had a very good year,” indicating there already was strong support for the museum. She pointed to CHAC and WomenSV helping people “in deep trouble.”
Lee Eng recommended funding for Community Services Agency, which provides food and shelter for underserved residents.
In the end, the council supported $40,000 for WomenSV and $75,000 for the museum. They agreed to reach out to CHAC about the proportional funding question while committing to at least $49,000.
Lee Eng also asked that the city consider using a portion of its expected $5.6 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to donate to CSA.
The council is slated to finalize the city budget for the coming year at its June 22 meeting.