The Los Altos City Council established a subcommittee Nov. 30 to look into the construction of a new police station.

The City Council Police Facility Subcommittee, which comprises councilmembers Jonathan Weinberg and Sally Meadows, is tasked with investigating the need for such a facility, its potential location, estimated costs and options for funding it. Paying for it could involve a bond that would go before voters.

Officers said the current police station, 55 years old and located at the civic center, is too small for department needs and is prone to regular flooding in its basement, where its 911 communications equipment is located.

“At a minimum, what does Los Altos need from its police facility?” the subcommittee is asking.

The subcommittee plans to identify features and amenities of a new police facility and review examples of new or recent police facilities other communities have built.

“There’s a lot of information that the council needs in order to proceed,” said Weinberg, who proposed the idea of a police station subcommittee at the Oct. 26 council meeting.

Harry Guy, a ham radio operator and member of Los Altos Amateur Radio Emergency Services, said local hams supported the subcommittee formation, noting the old police station is not up to state construction standards for an essential service building and “could suffer substantial damage and be unusable following a significant earthquake.”

Councilmember Lynette Lee Eng, who seconded the motion for the subcommittee formation, has lobbied in the past for a new police station, a fact not lost on Vice Mayor Anita Enander, who noted the “irony” of Lee Eng not serving on the subcommittee. The state’s Brown Act limits subcommittee participation to two members. Lee Eng said she could apply her expertise to the discussion when the subcommittee reports back to the council.

Modified Packard plan approved

The council agreed last week to a new landscaping plan from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation after Weinberg requested reconsideration of an approved application for a parking lot expansion at its downtown headquarters.

“I don’t think that the facts put in front of this council warranted an affirmative finding” for the project’s landscaping, Weinberg said.

He noted there were 18 trees deemed “protected” in the existing parking lot, 15 of them to be removed and not replaced – information he was not aware of when granting initial project approval Oct. 26.

Craig Neyman, vice president and chief financial officer of the foundation, proposed an amendment to the landscaping project, retaining eight protected trees on-site and removing and replacing another eight on the premises.

“We are now proposing a net reduction of zero trees,” he said.

Neyman counted 35 trees on the entire property, with intentions to remove and replace trees but not reduce the total number. The environmental nonprofit GreenTown Los Altos also is working with the foundation to plant an additional 27 trees downtown.

Lee Eng expressed concern that saplings would replace mature trees, reducing greenery. She wanted assurances that the trees would not be neglected.

The council approved the amended plan 4-0, with Lee Eng abstaining, subject to city staff approval and the commitment to plant mature trees where feasible.

SB 9 objective standards

The council Nov. 30 adopted objective design standards for single-family properties in preparation for the controversial State Senate Bill 9, set to take effect Jan. 1.

The law allows a lot split for two primary homes and two accessory dwelling units, among the scenarios. The council looks to finalize those standards at its meeting Tuesday.

The standards range from floor-area ratios, setbacks and parking to second-floor windows, balconies and choices of building materials.